One Man's Inspiring Leadership Challenge Journey: Transforming the Personal into a Lasting Legacy

This is the story of Luis Guerrero, a passionate believer in The Leadership Challenge®, whose journey began seven years ago in California’s Pajaro Valley when he was selected by his employer, an international agriculture company, to participate in a year-long leadership development program. Using the Leadership Practices Inventory® (LPI®) as a starting point, the cornerstone of the program was The Leadership Challenge with a two-day workshop facilitated by Certified Master Dan Schwab. Development plans and activities emphasized behavior change, and I worked with participants—including Luis—throughout the year as a coach.
 
Taking the First Step into The Leadership Challenge

By any account (including his own), Luis was skeptical and reserved at first. But that all changed the day he got his LPI results which, for him, were a timely wake-up call. 
 
The LPI indicated low frequency in Encourage the Heart behaviors, which came as no surprise to Luis. After all, he grew up in a home where “being tough” was highly prized and as the oldest of five boys did not often hear praise and recognition. What did surprise him was learning how important and essential these behaviors were for leaders. Discovering this gave Luis a whole new outlook, one that would ultimately change the way he interacted with others—as a manager,  husband, and  father. While coming too late to prevent a divorce, Luis’ new approach would later lead to reconciliation with his wife and a remarriage when she saw the dramatic behavior changes he had made.   

For Luis, his first introduction to The Leadership Challenge was nothing less than an opportunity to find himself, to see things from a different perspective. “It has become a way to stop and show others a different person.”

Reaching into the community with The Student Leadership Challenge

Having experienced profound personal change through his own experience with The Leadership Challenge, Luis wished only that he’d been exposed to it earlier in life. 

He saw it this way: “Leadership could be defined for youth differently. But in reality, they can become leaders just by setting a good example for their friends and families. I think a good, effective leader is one who can move people. Being a good role model or someone people to want to be like … that’s being a leader. A leader is anyone who can have an impact on another person. And that could be a fifth grader.”

To give others an opportunity to see themselves as leaders early on, and to help them understand what it means to be a leader, Luis founded a small, nonprofit entity with a two-fold purpose: award college scholarships to children of migrant farm workers and also teach them leadership skills. He recruited volunteers, raised funds, and inspired high school students to join his leadership club where they experienced The Student Leadership Challenge® Workshop, completed The Student Leadership Practices Inventory® (SLPI®), and learned about The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®. They participated in coaching sessions and each had the opportunity to take on a variety of leadership roles in the community in order to put their new learning into practice. 


The first group of eight students to participate in Luis’ leadership club recently graduated from college. And he believes that introducing them early to The Leadership Challenge and the essential Practices needed to become an effective leader was extremely helpful in guiding them in that direction. “At the beginning, when we told them that participating in the leadership program was required to qualify for the scholarships, they didn’t really know what that meant…“What was leadership?”, and “Could I really become a leader?” In the end, the entire experience was an eye opener for a lot of students as they realized they could choose the behaviors that would impact their future. For me, too, this realization was profound. I’ve learned more from them than the other way around.” 

Taking the Youth Leadership Challenge to Middle School soccer clubs

Inspired and energized by both his personal experience and his work with high school students, Luis didn’t stop there. He decided to extend leadership learning to the Pajaro Valley Youth Soccer Club team he coaches. The girls on his team, now 13 years old, have been getting leadership lessons for three years and Luis has seen a real impact.  “With each different phase in life emotions change and I’ve seen it as critical to work with them on building a core foundation of values and team building that will carry them through all those changes. As in most sports and work settings, the most important contributor to success is our ability to engage with other people. And developing the skills of leadership at a young age can really help strengthen the interaction among players and, as a result, deepen the respect they have for one another's strengths and areas of opportunities. In fact, in the last couple of months I’ve been working with the girls more on leadership than on the sport.”  

Routinely, the girls work on leadership skills through experiential activities (see samples here). They talk about winning—on and off the soccer field—how to treat each other in school, how to handle bullies and other teen challenges, and how to engage in The Five Practices in all aspects of their lives. Recently Luis also was instrumental in getting a grant for the soccer club to bring leadership development opportunities to more teams. Coaches are now being trained and a program has been developed to give all youth soccer players age 11-15 access to this learning.

One man. One vision. 

Through The Leadership Challenge, Luis found himself. He found his way back to his family. And he found his vision: to bring leadership awareness and opportunities to youth in his community. He feels strongly that learning about leadership at a young age can be life changing. And he’s making a difference, leading by example and enlisting others in his cause. 

Luis believes there are a lot of forces out there working to prevent our youth from becoming better leaders. “Kids are asked to do a lot, to make a lot of decisions, and sometimes they have to make difficult ones. So, for me, I think the greatest opportunity here is to expose them to a different way of thinking, allowing them to become more open, to mature, and to make better decisions.” 

“In the end, I want to know, when I’m not around, that my kids are doing right, they’re doing good, that they have enough tools to be successful in life. And leadership is one of those essential tools. It’s so important in middle school and high school to have self-esteem, to have enough confidence to stand up when things are not going right and to appreciate when they are. Leadership training gives these young kids that confidence because they come to realize that it’s all about believing in yourself.”     

Deb Calvert, a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge®, is president of People First Productivity Solutions with expertise in constructing leadership development programs, conducting team effectiveness workshops, and boosting organizational performance through executive coaching, She can be reached at deb.calvert@peoplefirstps.com or follow her on LinkedIn

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