Leadership development at Greystone Estate
What does it mean to leave a legacy?
Monday, May 18, 2015
The focus of this review is my personal experience at Greystone Estate in Northwest Arkansas. Nestled between Beaver Lake and the hills of Rogers, Arkansas, is an experiential and content-based executive leadership training program led by Soderquist Leadership.
At Greystone Estate, every aspect of the program cultivates the mind. Each speaker, facilitator, participant, and initiative is designed to make you think. As leaders, it is imperative to distinguish what forces drive our actions, what behaviors define our character and how our character aligns with our values.
In no way could all of the lessons learned during the course of the program be described in one review. However, a few significant highlights can be addressed. The following instances are “moments of impact,” as I like to call them. That moment of realization, the moment when light bulbs begin to burn bright in your head.
Self-Awareness and Underlying Weaknesses
Based upon personality assessments, required reading and the overall experience at Greystone, one common thread seemed to tie all aspects of the program together. Self-awareness was, without a doubt, the fundamental key for this experience. Both leadership development and personal growth depend greatly upon an individual’s ability to recognize his or her strengths and weaknesses.
In the learning center, at the beginning of the program, the other participants and I engaged in dialogue based upon the results of two personal assessments. The MBTI (2005) and the EQ (2012) appraisal were used to help individuals identify what characteristics of their personality were strengths and which ones were weaknesses. One compelling insight, discussed in these sessions is concept of shadows.
It is one thing to recognize a diminishing behavior, such as micromanaging, when you are aware that you have an overbearing personality. It is quite another to micro-manage for the sake of helping someone else out. For the former, micromanaging is a fault that is known. For the latter, micromanaging comes in the form of a gesture of offering assistance to someone in need. From the perspective of the individual being helped, this gesture may produce feelings of inadequacy, uselessness or a restriction of their own capabilities and ideas.
Although caring to help others could certainly be classified as a strong leadership quality, in this circumstance, it is overshadowed and viewed as an intrusive diminishing behavior. It is very important to recognize, not only apparent strengths and weaknesses, but also to pay attention to the shadows that lurk behind good intentions. By identifying hidden weaknesses or blind spots leaders can correct negative behaviors and consciously make an effort to redirect problems into opportunities of growth.
Experiential initiatives play a large role at Greystone. Participants gain an insight into their own minds as they interact in various activities and challenges. These physical challenges are set apart from obstacles that leaders face in everyday life. Yet, they give rise to emotions and actions that they face on a regular basis. Being aware of emotions, how emotions are provoked and how to manage them, can provide leaders with a valuable set of tools (Bradberry & Greaves, 2009).
Emotions can both stimulate and dissipate productivity. Good emotions tend to inspire people to do extraordinary things. Negative emotions, on the other hand, hinder the ability to perform. In my experience, facing a high ropes course when extremely fearful of falling, unleashed a wide variety of emotions.
Initially, the mere thought of a participating in a ropes course exercise was incomprehensible for me. I am far from a thrill seeker. The thought alone promoted feelings of inadequacy, embarrassment and even jealousy of others who were confident in their ability to perform the same task.
If I could have rationalized, for a minute, that my physical ability to climb the rope course was no less than that of other participants, I may have ascended with determination to concur. Unfortuantely, that was not the case. I ascended hesitantly and hopeful that the end result would not be so shameful that I would need to bury my head in the sand. Throughout the course, unexpected moments of triumph presented themselves. With mindfulness of the surroundings, the support of my peers and every inch of progress toward the finish line dispelling negative emotions, the final accomplishment was an astounding and positive feeling.
Conquering fear is an empowering thing. Realizing that some fears are irrational and detrimental to the fulfillment of great opportunities is priceless. Fear is only one of many emotions that prohibits productivity. Understanding emotion and reacting to it through the process of reason can boost a person’s ability to perform. As leaders, we must not let our emotions lead us. For if we do, we display diminishing behaviors. Instead, we should thoughtfully rationalize our actions so that others may be encouraged by the way we deal with obstacles (Wiseman & Mckeown, 2010) (Bradberry & Greaves, 2009).
Living a Legacy
What does it mean to live a legacy? Leadership classes often encourage students to establish, or maybe more accurately, determine their values. Values help to shape ‘who we are’ by acting as guidelines of how we imagine life should be.
A legacy, as defined at Dictionary.com (Collins English Dictionary, 2012), is anything handed down from the past. Typically, one might think of a deceased loved one and reflect on what that person stood for in life. Perhaps, the values he or she adhered to, their overall character or what they contributed to their family or community. In essence, their legacy is what they are remembered for.
So then, to actually “live” a legacy is best described in a film shown at the learning center and discussed by guest speaker, Carolyn Walton; “Your life is not defined by the day that you are born or the day that you die,” referencing the dates as they would appear on a memorial stone. Instead, “it is all about the dash,” the things you do in between being born and dying.
Throughout the course of the program, much time is allotted for each student to evaluate their values and principles, as well as their leadership strengths and weaknesses. Living a legacy means to put these thoughts and positive attributes into practice. It means finding a purpose bigger than oneself. In alignment with strong values, striving to fulfill that purpose will leave a wake so dynamic, that it can last for eternity. Instead of wondering what one's legacy will be, now is the time to create a legacy that is worth remembering.
In reflection of Greystone, and the few days that I spent there, I am inspired to become a positive influence that nurtures growth in others. As a description of instances that compel people to think differently, moments of impact, cause a change in the human heart. The personal stories, encouraging words and remarkable experiences that were shared with people from various walks of life will surely prove to be a milestone that has marked a new path in my life.
**This review first appeared on LinkedIn on April 9, 2015. Cara Comer holds an MS in Leadership and Higher Education and a BS in Organizational Management from John Brown University. She attended the Milestone executive training course as part of her master's degree at JBU (LDR7503).