Stop Ruining the Next Generation of Leaders

Let’s stop the insanity.

I speak with many young program directors that return from trainings or conferences with a myriad of formulaic tactics that will grow their programs, inspire innovation and launch their careers into the stratosphere.  In 3 easy steps.

OK, I’m exaggerating (heck, it’s my blog – poetic license), it’s lots of steps. Inane steps.  We’re ruining a brilliant generation of great leaders.

Sitting on a panel with other nonprofit leaders speaking to a group of college students, we were asked what we did to get into our current position.  I was last.  I followed some great stories:

What I always dreamed of doing.
Had a life plan and followed my plan.
Always knew I wanted to lead an organization.
As a camper I hoped to one day lead the organization.
I had been a board member.

I was blown away by some of the stories, there were some impressive journeys.  And then it was my turn.

“I have a confession to make: I have no clue how I got here.”

There were some chuckles, but I was serious.  I may not really not how I got to my current position but I am crystal clear on what I did before it.  I focused.  Not on where I was going in terms of my career, but what I was doing in each moment.  Which is what I explained to the group.  Don’t chase titles, let them call you whatever you want as long as you love what you’re doing.

The career path was something I never focused on and it kind of did its own thing while I was doing work that I loved.  I still struggle with plans — they’re simply templates of things that can go wrong.  Best laid plans can crash.  Badly.  There are paths and choices — some good, some bad and some great.  There may be some nifty formula to assess choices, but I’m sure if there was one that universally worked there would not be so many books on self-grandizing (oops, branding), career planning, etc.

My father once shared a quote with me, “bloom where you’re planted.”  Later in life (yesterday) I researched that it is attributed to Saint Francis de Sales.

To bloom, focus.  You’ll be amazed at what grows, including your title, but more importantly: you.