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LeaderQuest Retreat, 9-14 to 9-16, 2007

I think we all learned a lot from last weekend's retreat. I for one know that I took a lot away from many of the activities we did. We had a fantastic discussion around the question "What is Leadership?" that I hope we will continue the rest of the semester.

We began the discussion with leadership mad-libs. Leadership is like a __adjective__ ___noun___. Some answers were:

  • flushed toiled
  • loose leash
  • neverending journey
  • helping hand
  • tour guide

Using these mad-libs as a guide, small groups formed and performed leadership skits centered around these topics.

From there, we moved to a discussion of leaders, leadership quotes or issues involving leadership. Specifically, the ones we discussed were:

  • "Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it." - Dwight Eisenhower
  • "Consensus is the negation of leadership" - Margaret Thatcher
  • "The most important belief we acquire is the belief in ourselves and the most important belief we transfer is belief in others." - Given to LeaderQuest by John Speer
  • Bill Gates
  • Mother Teresa
  • The War in Iraq

Discussing these items led to a lot of questions:

  • Does a person have to be wealthy in order to be a leader? Do they need to be visible to be important?
  • If we do not like the idea of consensus (which most of the group did not)
  • What role ought the U.S. to play in Iraq? What role do we as individuals and as leaders have in shaping U.S. policy in Iraq? Is voting the end of our responsibility?
  • How do we resolve conflicts in which we hold two competing values, like the conflict between multiculturalism and feminism or secularism and the right to religious beliefs?

A favorite quote of mine in relation to this issue is "The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality" -- Max dePree, CEO. I think Mr. dePree makes a good point: How can we lead unless we can define the reality around us? If we cannot answer these difficult questions, it is very difficult to lead responsibly: What is good? What is evil? What is justice? What are our moral obligations? What is meaning? What is happiness? If we cannot answer these questions for ourselves, we will be left incapacitated in the face of difficult decisions we will eventually have to make.

We also questioned the perceptions we hold of others. Mother Teresa was a person that most of us hold in very high esteem. Yet, there have been a lot of questions about the "goodness" of the work that she actually did. One such questioner, Christopher Hitchens, actually wrote a book on the topic called The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice.

There are many other interesting resources in relation to leadership and making decisions. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, a book written by Malcom Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, is a book about the way in which we make decisions. The book Leading Through Conflict by Mark Gerzon discusses how to make effective decisions in a world full of conflict.

Anne Phillips helps us adopt a new look on the debate of multiculturalism versus feminism in the book Multiculturalism without Culture. She gives a great example of how we can step outside of our current paradigms and analyze conflict in a way that brings both sides together rather than divides them further apart.

Participants were also interested in learning how to do more to effect the world around them. Although I hope that LeaderQuest provides a venue in which to learn about this, there are other places that participants can look for this information such as the The November 5th Coalition and Public Achievement.

For inspiration this week, I look to a web site called Kiva.org which follows the principles of microfinancing created by Muhammed Yunus in order to provide micro-loans to entrepreneurs around the world in an effort to eradicate poverty.

Additionally, I came across a fantastic book called Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize Winning Economist. The book changes the paradigm from economic development to development that considers:

  • Development is the expansion of capabilities... having the freedom to choose between different ways of thinking.
  • Enrichment of humans lives.
  • Being able to choose how you want to live.
(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Development_as_Freedom)