Weaving a Tapestry of Leadership Excellence

Weaving a Tapestry of Leadership Excellence

Thoughts on the Model

One of the many gifts of my Certified Master-in-Training journey has been to facilitate a dozen sessions of The Leadership Challenge® Workshop here in the northwest corner of South Carolina that I call home. Most of those trainings brought together leaders from non-profit human service agencies, much like the one I work for, the Phoenix Center. And just as I have always felt drawn to the heart-centered approach of The Leadership Challenge so, too, have many of the participants who have echoed that sentiment in their workshop evaluations. The true impact of the Practices, however, really hit home when I requested testimonials from a select group of previous participants who headed their agencies as Executive Directors.

I was humbled by the responses—especially to read the words from my own Director, Becky Maddox, which she posted in our quarterly newsletter. She described how The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®, Ten Commitments, and 30 Behaviors are being woven into the tapestry of our organization. It was awesome to have played a role in helping to weave that tapestry and to see the power of The Leadership Challenge manifest in her words. In part, here is what she said:

I’ve participated in a lot of leadership trainings and assessments over the years. And recently, when asked to write a few paragraphs about how our participation in The Leadership Challenge has impacted our day-to-day work here at the Phoenix Center, I started thinking about the lasting impact of all of those trainings on my own daily behavior. Without hesitation I knew I could describe very specific ways The Leadership Challenge experience has affected my view of leadership and our culture.

The first thing that comes to mind is the action- oriented language of The Five Practices, telling us very clearly that leadership is about doing something. As leaders we model, inspire, challenge, enable, and encourage. I see this all the time at the Phoenix Center.
  • Staff Model the Way by being on time and fully participating in events. 

  • You Inspire a Shared Vision when you pull together to achieve something important related to our mission. An example of this is working together to collect food for our clients who are in need. This isn’t specifically stated in our mission but it certainly relates to meeting the needs of those who are negatively affected by a substance use disorder. 

  • You Challenge the Process by advocating for change when it is necessary. 

  • You Enable Others to Act by setting parameters and letting others make their own decisions within those parameters. 

  • Encourage the Heart is where I have seen the most impact. I read every single GEM (staff recognition) nomination and I am so encouraged by the dramatic increase in the number of submissions over the past several months. You are doing an awesome job encouraging one another! 
The second thing that’s so amazing about The Leadership Challenge and its impact on staff is the positive nature of The Five Practices. When we model, inspire, challenge, enable, and encourage one another, we feel better. But this is where language becomes really important. For example, Challenge the Process doesn’t mean that we create dissent or refuse to do things if we don’t agree with them. It means that we are open to finding ways to do things differently to achieve our goals. It is a reflection of our desire to talk to one another openly and learn from each other. The Five Practices are solution-focused rather than problem-oriented. We don’t just talk about what is wrong with our system; we talk about why our system is keeping us from meeting our shared goals and identify ways to address the deficiencies.

Lastly, The Leadership Challenge is strength-based. Many people often use this phrase to mean they focus on the strength and ignore the areas that need growth. The Five Practices encourage us to be well-rounded by celebrating our strengths and developing our skills in other areas as well. I love to see one person sharing their leadership practices with someone else who wants to improve in a particular area. Again, the area where I see the most growth at the Phoenix Center is in sharing ideas to Encourage the Heart. I see staff sharing ideas on how to make GEM nominations a priority, ways to celebrate birthdays, and many suggestions on showing concern and appreciation for one another.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to have gone through The Leadership Challenge process, with the LPI®360 evaluation feedback and follow-up coaching with Alan. I have learned a lot about my strengths and areas for growth. I see other leaders implementing things that they have learned as well. Most exciting to me is how much I see front-line staff using The Five Practices even though they are not in formal leadership positions. I have often heard Alan say that leadership is everyone’s business and I think that is so true. We are all in positions to model, inspire, challenge, enable, and encourage. I hope you will take a few minutes to think about someone who has demonstrated these skills and how it impacted your day-to-day work. I also hope you will think about ways you can demonstrate these leadership Practices with your coworkers every day.”—Becky Maddox, Executive Director, Phoenix Center, Greenville SC

Reading Becky’s open letter to all Phoenix Center employees reinforced my determination to continually hone my ability to facilitate The Leadership Challenge Workshop and to search for more opportunities to share this gift. In my world, lives depend on it!

Alan Lyme, LISW,
is a Certified Master-in-Training of The Leadership Challenge® and Director of Training for the Phoenix Center, a nonprofit drug and alcohol prevention and treatment facility in Greenville, South Carolina. He also is a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers and can be reached at alanlyme@gmail.com.



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