Leadership development is best done in context. We are formed as leaders through action and reflection, individually and in groups, with mentors and coaches who can guide us along the way and build into us capacities for strength and confidence in the midst of the incredible challenges that leaders face today. Internships provide leaders the opportunity to develop and refine their competence “in real time” with the supervision and guidance of skilled facilitators.
I spent the last several days with leaders from three different Christian organizations discussing and exploring the emerging “new monastic” expressions as a form of “contextual leadership formation” (my phrase). Ben Bohren and Patti Case from the National Benevolent Association met with Elaine Heath, Wes Magruder, Daryn DeZengotita, Justin Hancock and others from the Missional Wisdom Foundation and Jim Ellison with the Fund for Theological Education. At the lunch meeting Thursday this group led a conversation with more than a dozen Disciples of Christ leaders from the Christian Church in the Southwest, the North Texas and Trinity Brazos areas, Juliette Fowler Communities, South Hills Christian Church, Northway Christian Church, East Dallas Christian Church, and Ridgelea Christian Church, among others.
I have also been in conversation with business school leaders, including Paula Strasser from the SMU Cox School of Business and Brad Hancock from the TCU Neeley School of Business Entrepreneurship Center. I met with folks at Success North Dallas, an organization founded by Bill Wallace that seeks to deepen and strengthen leaders. And I got to have conversation with Candace Fitzpatrick, founder of Core Clarity, an organization that helps individuals and organizations thrive by understanding and focusing energy in the areas of greatest talent and strength.
One of the common threads in these conversations is the importance of quality contextual leadership formation that includes a coaching and mentoring components. Coaching and mentoring are different and complementary disciplines. Each have a place in leadership formation, at its initiation, and throughout our careers, regardless of our field – business, government, healthcare, academy, non-profit, faith based, congregational. Learning from books and lectures is immeasurably valuable, but limited. Much of the integration of this learning arises in the field, in context, and is facilitated by working with mentors and coaches. These experiences are often labeled as internships.
It is also most valuable to do this work in community, with a group of peers from the same or different disciplines, who can offer peer mentoring and coaching, support, encouragement, challenge and accountability. The best programs (like the ones mentioned above) combine these practices of individual and group mentoring and coaching.
When have you struggled for lack of this kind of support? What was that like, and what did you do about it?
Where have you experienced good mentoring and coaching, individually and as part of a group? How did those experiences help to make you a better leader?