Growing Leaders

Who is a leader? Who is not a leader? What qualities do nurturing leaders hold?

Feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible — the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family. Virginia Satir

I don’t think leaders are people who tell other people what to do. I think they are much more nurturing than that. To me, a great leader is someone who maximizes the abilities and actions of those around them. They aren’t focused on problems or on overcoming problems. They focus on bringing out the absolute best in the people around them, so that the whole team can use their talents to achieve something wonderful together.

Leaders ask: “What is this person’s best qualities, and how can that best serve this effort?”

Extraordinary leaders ask great questions that assume the competency of their team. They are not fault-finders. Leaders give attention to what works and strive to create more of it. That is not to say that great leaders deny difficulties. It takes a certain degree of accepting what is and flexibility to adapt to the environment.

Leaders ask: “What is working here, and how can we model that to achieve success in other areas?”

They seek evidence of progress in small and large ways. While hurdles may arise, a leader offers positive feedback to what is going well. They believe in their team’s ability to be successful to the extent that they assume success is imminent. As if it is already arriving not as possibility but as destiny. For example, they think in the following form: “We are going to put a man on the moon, how are we going to do that?”

Leaders ask: “If we step into the future and achieved our goals, what did we need to do now for things to turn out successfully?”

That doesn’t mean denying that there is hard work to do and complexity to relationships. Great leaders create safe spaces for real heartfelt teamwork and personal discussion. They model connected and genuine conversation showing their care and compassion for their teammates.

Leaders ask: “What can we do here to honor the whole beings with complex lives who are driving this work forward?”

Real leaders, in my mind, don’t strive to be seen as heroes. They give time and opportunity for feedback. They don’t expect themselves or others to be flawless, and they have real curiosity about where there might be room for improvement.

Leaders ask: “What could I be doing better to serve and nurture my team?”

Leaders show they feel accountable to their team and their goals. And when successes, large and small, are achieved, extraordinary leaders share the glory.

Leaders ask: “How can I celebrate the contributions of the team members?”

A debt of gratitude for training received and research done by Tim Hallbom in noticing and developing these key attributes in leaders.