Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in LEAD San Diego’s EMBARK program – a five-day leadership development program focused on improving the skills of San Diego’s emerging business leaders. A few minutes into the first session, I quickly realized this was more than just a professional development program – it was a personal development program. Sure, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test confirmed my love of list making – no surprise there for anyone who knows me. But the self-awareness exercises we participated in also taught me more about who I am, how the things I do affect others, and how I can improve my interpersonal communication and relationships. The rest of the personalized leadership assessment program was just as impactful as it included knowledgeable and interesting speakers, small group breakout sessions, and interactive team-building exercises.
Here are just a couple of my key takeaways from a phenomenal program:
Sometimes you have to follow to become a better leader.
Jeff Balesh of Jeff Balesh Consulting encouraged us to lead interdependently, “with intention despite uncertainty.” In other words, it’s ok to have a plan, but it’s important to be flexible and willing to let others help when necessary. Akshay Sateesh of Ziksana Consulting, through a number of quick-thinking exercises, re-emphasized this for us by forcing us to get outside of our comfort zones. His on-the-spot improvisation lessons taught us that good leaders “live in the moment and listen.” Doug Holman of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce stressed that it’s ok, and sometimes better, to refer colleagues to someone else competent when you’re crunched for time. You don’t always have to do everything yourself and you can position yourself as a resource in the process.
Small actions can have a big impact.
Throughout the EMBARK program, I was reminded great leaders always find ways to say, “thank you” and that those two words can go a long way in enlightening and inspiring someone. Small actions, even if you don’t remember them, can leave a lasting impact. It’s important to take the extra step, make a follow-up call or write a letter – you never know who could be watching or how you may meet again. First impressions are made all the time, whether you know it or not.
San Diego businesses are uniquely connected.
A benefit of the EMBARK program that will have a lasting impact on me is the people I met through the program. Many of San Diego’s largest and most impactful companies, business groups and nonprofit organizations were represented in my cohort, and interacting with such fun-loving, insightful and driven individuals was exciting and energizing for me. Hearing stories about clients and individuals my company has worked with throughout the program also made it clear for me San Diego is a big city that feels like a small town, led by a close-knit group of visionaries.
I truly hope I get to work with each of my fellow EMBARKers again one day and look forward to becoming part of the next generation of San Diego visionaries together.
Greg Kershaw (@gkersh) is a senior account executive at Nuffer, Smith, Tucker, a full-service public relations firm in San Diego focused on creating conversations and building relationships to help clients succeed.