Dirk, what is your definition of leadership ?
Let me start answering your question by asking two counter-questions.
- Why do you think are most corporate leadership programs not as successful as they could be?
- What do you think comes first? A corporate leadership program OR the willingness to start your individual journey of personal development?
Leadership is the willingness to development yourself personally in all aspects of your life, incl. family/friends, work environment etc.
This journey starts with you in terms of asking yourself a couple of fundamental questions, like:
- What really matters to you
- What are your core values
- What are you really passionate about?
- What is it that you still want to achieve in your life?
…and then find your individual answers, meaning your own truth.
Once you start getting closer to your best self you prepare a solid foundation to act as a leader not only for yourself but also for others. Like a lighthouse that shines the guiding light. It needs a strong foundation and regular maintenance as well to stand the test of time.
Take the example of an oak tree seed. This seed has already all the potential to grow to a mighty, beautiful oak tree that can last for hundreds and hundreds of years. Assumption: This seed is planted in well prepared, fertile soil and there is someone who takes care to water it and making sure that the bad grass doesn’t take over.
Same for a talented, highly motivated colleagues in your team. As a leader you start leading other people based on a few basic principles like humility, compassion, vulnerability and clarity. This is the “fertile soil” that people need to develop their full capacity, the starting point to create a WE before ME environment.
In a nutshell and referring to a beautiful TED talk by Peter Anderton, leadership can be summarized with two rules:
- It’s not about you, AND
- It’s only about you!
How would you describe your own journey towards Leadership ?
I started to get a glimpse about leadership when I dared to start my own, very personal journey towards more awareness by finding my very own answers to above fundamental questions. I realized that it all starts with me being more open, more curious, listening more carefully to my needs and to the needs of others and being clear about what Dirk stands for: a person that is of service.
What is the most valuable lesson you learned ?
There is no such thing as a perfect leader. This is a journey that you want to start for yourself and for the people that surround you. Leadership is about applying the compound effect: do small but effective steps continuously over and over. It is not about the BIG bang, I-figured-it-all-out-moment. It’s about baby steps, understanding that it is a journey without an ultimate destination. Or to say it differently it is about declaring the journey to your new destination.
What would be your advice to lead the new generation of employees ?
Lead and let yourself be led by others. Leadership is not a story about the lonesome rider. It is a story about caring, sharing and serving. Or to say it with the words of the supporters of the Liverpool football club: “You never walk alone!”
Any leader who inspired you and why?
I am inspired by the little tasks of leadership I experience every day e.g. at work: someone who holds the door, a colleague who asks whether she can help, a little tab on the shoulder and the expression of gratefulness for a good job, the courage to ask for help, an honest and respectful discussion about what can be done better, the little discussion at the coffee corner about how you really feel….
This list goes on and on, the point is that we all have the potential to become great leaders, simply by listening to yourself and act as authentically as possible.
You can’t change others until you change yourself,