In my second of three posts about Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership, I examine the organization’s central tag: “Lead”. This amazing program touched the lives of over 9,500 young people last year across the world.
At this year’s Training Institute, I heard an approach to leadership that I hadn’t before. It came during a sort of train-the-trainer session on how to prepare adults to facilitate groups of young people. Don’t stop reading! You’d be surprised how applicable it is to the professional world.
“When you’re leading these groups, you’ve got to be part chaperone and part Sherpa.” Sherpa? What in the world is a Sherpa? That comes later, she says.
The first part I understand: whether you’ve got a group of 8-10 teenagers or 100 employees, a leader has to keep an eye on his or her charges. After all, someone has to enforce the rules and answer the policy questions. Somebody’s got to be the chaperone.
When it comes to being a good chaperone, you’ve got to LEAD: Listen to your team, Empathize to build relationships, Activate their strengths and passions, and Direct them toward proper and powerful outlets for their talents or frustrations.
But what was that other word? Sherpas are Himalayans renowned for their mountaineering. Often, these skillful locals will guide expeditions of even the most experienced climbers. They carry packs and equipment and know the safest paths to the summit.
Leaders act as chaperones, that’s true. But their most important title is Sherpa. It’s our job to guide these emerging leaders through the safe passages, warning them where the footing is unsure, and guiding them safely to the summit.
We can’t climb the mountain passes for these emerging leaders. We can only show them the way, making sure they take advantage of the lessons of the past and catch a vision for the future.