Monday, 5 December 2011

Exploring success: the essence of great leadership

This is my third post on what it takes to achieve your dreams and the focus around building your own tribe Seth Godin style.  This week I want to tell the story of Sadler Heath, an organisation which is phenomenally successful.  This is largely down to the vision and dedication of two people, Jeremy Keeley and Gail Zolkwer who then got the support if many others.  As I share more about Sadler Heath and what it means to me I think what you will see is that real success can take many years to come to fruition and involves a number of factors.

I am moved to write about Sadler Heath this week because we met together last Friday to celebrate the All Saints Pastoral Centre which has been a home to Sadler Heath since 2002 and as of yesterday is closed to the public.  Sadler Heath started in 1999 and it took three years before it became what is known for today.  In 2011 there are over 300 people associated with the organisation and we had at least 60 members there on Friday.

So what is Sadler Heath?  It is a social enterprise for L&D professionals.  It provides a safe space for people to come together to work on their personal development and all who participate are encouraged to be at their learning edge, something that was definitely achieved on Friday.  We had some very creative and edgy performances at the end of the day that came out of the seed of celebrating someone who meant a great deal to each member of the group.  There is a whole section about the vision of the organisation on the website but the essence of the organisation is captured in what was defined as the need for the organisationour community members are facing a future of increasing:
  • turnover of roles, jobs and organisations themselves
  • adult to adult relationships at work
  • rapidity of change and therefore awareness and acceptance of impermanence, ambiguity, uncertainty and the possibilities that these bring requirement for self-sustainability, personal resilience, self-challenge and self-supervision and for building one’s own centres of support and nurturing in shifting sands
  • enablement of individual power through technology"
Sadler Heath is a magical place and at its heart is Jeremy who has excellent facilitation skills but that in a way is a given for OD specialists.  What sets him apart is the code which he actively lives by, also known as the five As.  Top of the list for me is acceptance of self.  The more we can accept ourselves and our limitations, the more time we have for others.  It is clear that he has done a lot of work on that part of himself.  He also talks about attitude, a belief in abundance and actively giving gratitude for the opportunities he gets in his life.  There was one other but I forget it now.  If one had to summarise it, he lives out what he asks his clients to do and through his gentle loving nature he draws other people to him.  They help him spread the vision for Sadler Heath and there are now satellite groups in London, Lewes and Devon.  To give you an idea of what I mean, he spent a great deal of time this year looking at ways to save the Centre from closing.  This involved convincing investors and developers about his dreams, which he did on top of generating new work and running a consulting/ coaching business.

What are the key themes here?  The ability to enthuse people with a vision which comes from listening to others and meeting them where they are at.  In other words at the heart of leadership is followship or in NLP terms it would be described as pace, pace, lead.  The qualities I most associate with Jeremy is a sense of modesty and great presence - vital in terms of getting noticed and creating a following.

I leave you with three questions and I am very curious to hear your responses to them.  How does my thinking resonate with yours?  What thoughts do you have about what you can do to create a greater following?  What will it take for you to be the leader of your own tribe?