After an inspirational night hearing from our three dynamic speakers about their personal leadership journeys—leading themselves, and creating remarkable projects and breakthroughs in their lives and those around them—Dwellers gathered for the Fireside session at The Coffee Connoisseur at PoMo, splitting into our usual smaller groups for closer discussion.
Taking a different approach this time, we kicked off the session, gathering the group’s thoughts and feelings towards leadership and the questions we each have about leadership such as, “What are the differences between good and bad leadership?”, “What kind of strengths cultivate leadership skills?” and “How do I know if I’m ready for leadership?” With all these in the melting pot, we asked, “Can someone who has never been a leader advise someone on how to be a leader?” We felt that a leader can only be created and mentored by someone who has been a leader himself, otherwise he can only support or champion a leader at best.
Both groups delved into asking why we should be leaders, or why not, which brought up interesting responses. Some of us shared about having barriers towards the leadership journey, such as fear and stress, and we learned that once these barriers or limits are cleared, we can then look at leadership in a more empowering way and begin to expand ourselves and live life fully. Some others realized that their comfort zones would shrink if they do not consciously expand themselves and take on roles that challenge themselves.
With most in follower positions at work, we looked into two aspects of leadership: one was by position or role, and the other by who the person is regardless of role. Among experiences shared were witnessing senior managers being ranked low on the leadership scale by their peers and subordinates, and working around incompetent leadership at work and playing the game well in the workplace—leading us to conclude that there must be something other than position that makes one a leader. We had our own ideas of what a leader should be like: being powerful and commanding, or being approachable and having good EQ, or being situational and being able to use different ways to bring out different people according to their personalities. However, we found that there are no fixed rules. Julia shared about how as a leader she had to learn to develop the foresight to work with any given situation, including when to divide and conquer if a group was not cohesive. Some of us wondered about whether the front that a leader presents is really who he is, or whether he is trying to be something he is not. We also asked ourselves how attracted we would really be to a leader who talks about their weaknesses. We concluded that there are some things that leaders talk to other leaders about, but keep hidden from their people in order to lead powerfully. Leaders also know how to use their masks as inspiration, to rise above their own limitations and to be someone bigger especially in crises.
We also saw the other side of leadership; of how being a leader can be difficult, of how it feels bad to fail and even more so, to see the group you have led fail too. For many, this can become a deterrent towards continuing on the leadership journey. Hence, Wei Ping highlighted that a person would need to look at his/her relationship with failure at this point and look into what happened in the past that paralyzed him/her from moving forward in spite of failure. For leaders to be effective, they must know their capacity to lead how many followers at any one time. Surprisingly, all that was needed was a simple reference to how many people we usually had around us throughout our lives and the positions we took, such as in our playgroups, study groups, community groups, and cliques. Though not a permanent limit, this number does not really change until something very traumatic happens in our lives.
We moved on to learn that leaders are both born and made. Julia mentioned two important components that must be present for a leader to be trainable: the willingness and capability to step up and be trained. With that in mind, we were also curious to find out what each of us would do if we had to assemble our own team and take the lead, what roles we would assign our members, and where we would place them relative to ourselves. However, with the cafe’s closing time approaching, we decided to leave that as food for thought and a later discussion on another day.
With Dwelling being a special place for everyone to talk about deeper issues in life, some of our Dwellers felt that it was heart-warming to have finally found a group of people to listen and discuss about life. And that leads us to invite everyone to join us again on 12 August for our first Movie Night, a new spin on our usual Philosophy Sessions where we will explore leadership themes through characters, plots, and principles that can be found in our movie. So quick! Click here to vote for your choice of movie and contact Ziqi at 96940841 to reserve your seat!