Are you up for the challenge of a leadership crucible?
As leaders, we rarely get the time for self-reflection and development. When we do, we need to ensure the experiences we have can fundamentally alter our trajectories in a positive way. I’ve found that those types of experiences require immersion in a challenging environment because those situations teach us a great deal about ourselves in a very short period of time. Today I’d like to highlight one of those experiences.
The instructors I have the privilege of working with are practitioners of what they teach. They bring a healthy dose of the real world to the podium. Speaking of real-world, our instructor Jan Rutherford is leading the Self-Reliant Leadership Crucible expedition this summer. I had a chance to sit down with Jan and his partner for this expedition, Brad Billingsley, to ask the about their venture.
Mike: What’s a crucible and how does it define you as a leader?
Jan: A crucible is a difficult test or challenge; a place or situation that forces people to change or make difficult decisions. We all face adversity amidst physical, mental, and emotional challenges, and I wrote a book, The Littlest Green Beret, about the adversity I faced becoming a Green Beret at five feet four inches and 114 pounds. That adversity – crucible if you will – made a significant impression on my perspective about what makes a leader. The Self Reliant Leadership Crucible is about bringing the book to life through the practical application of self-awareness; relying on yourself for self-development; having the discipline and ability to endure hardship to strengthen one’s resolve; and achieving a balance between independence and the interdependence to accelerate your personal growth.
Mike: What were you hearing from business leaders that made you think people would want to spend seven days backpacking in the Wyoming wilderness?
Brad: Leaders are tired of their own status quo. They want to have clarity about purposefulness and their life’s work, but they can’t seem to find the time for solitude and reflection. These are driven, ambitious people who are inspirational, but they’re also people who feel constant time pressure. They’re looking for people who are similarly inspired and committed. The bottom line is we’re going to provide an adventure that will weigh up their lives, and challenge them to their core while enabling the highest potential in themselves and others.
Mike: That’s sound pretty aspirational! I assume you’re looking for leaders who are comfortable with being uncomfortable, because they know every life event thrown their way can be a tremendous learning experience…
Jan: Exactly! We have eight slots left, and one of our participants is a veteran of the Iraq War. The Self Reliant Leadership Crucible is a way to empower leaders to start a lifelong journey of observation, persistence, humility, and a disciplined approach to their personal growth. This Crucible is not a paint-by-numbers guide for leadership, but a year-long program for leaders to learn how they can help others become more self-reliant to create powerful futures. It’s designed to take their leadership abilities to new levels with other amazing people who are similarly inspired to make a difference in an intense, dynamic and unpredictable environment that maps to today’s challenging business environment.
Mike: Say more about the ideal participants. Is this just a rugged “mountain man” expedition?
Brad: No. It would be ideal if we’re 50-50 men and women. At its core, the program is selective. Each person has already achieved a great deal in life, and despite a track record of success, is ready to work with dynamic and inspiring peers to really face their edge and change the trajectory of their life, both personally and professionally. It starts with a seven day wilderness expedition designed for transforming leaders through adventure and adversity; one year of executive coaching, and three one day retreats that map to projects commenced following the expedition and ascribed to six core virtues.
Mike: Virtues? What do you mean?
Jan: Tom Morris, the author of The Stoic Art of Living, asked “What is the role of character, and virtue, in business achievement, and personal happiness? How should we deal with the difficulties and sufferings we inevitably face in life, and how can we prevail?” I think the most important component of leadership development is the desire to build one’s character to serve others – i.e., inner growth and outer service. The virtues of the ancients certainly help show us the way. Resilience comes from wisdom and knowledge; discipline from temperance; integrity is intertwined with courage; being gracious and optimistic are linked with transcendence.
Mike: So what should a participant expect to accomplish during this expedition?
Brad: The Crucible is designed to bring out true leadership abilities during times of duress and pressure. Hard times are uniquely suited for the display of strengths (a.k.a. character) for rugged individualism and a sense of individual responsibility. The heightened awareness and the skills developed will transfer directly into professional and personal pursuits. It will show how adversity impacts critical problem solving abilities while learning how to channel focus and resolve to provide great team outcomes. Lastly, it will deepen knowledge and skills for making mission-critical decisions with incomplete information while improving the ability to communicate more clearly and effectively.
Mike: It seems this program will provide a challenging experience to reinforce learning and foster the exchange of new ideas.
Brad: Simply put, leaders will not be the same on the other side as when they began. Buddha said, “Though he should conquer a thousand men in the battlefield a thousand times, yet he, indeed, who would conquer himself is the noblest victor.”
Jan: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi said it perfectly, “A person can make himself happy, or miserable, regardless of what is actually happening ‘outside,’ just by changing the contents of consciousness. We all know individuals who can transform hopeless situations into challenges to be overcome, just through the force of their personalities. This ability to persevere despite obstacles and setbacks is the quality people most admire in others, and justly so; it is probably the most important trait not only for succeeding in life, but for enjoying it as well. To develop this trait, one must find ways to order consciousness so as to be in control of feelings and thoughts. It is best not to expect shortcuts will do the trick.”
Mike: When is the program? How can folks learn more about it and how to apply?
Brad: The program starts July 20th, and we expect to be full by April 15th. For more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or Rutherford@thoughtleadersllc.com.
Mike: Thank you both for sharing this exciting venture. I look forward to hearing more and writing about those you select who are ready for the challenge. It’s great to see a thoughtLEADERS instructor walking the walk (literally). The Self Reliant Leadership Crucible is aptly named as it looks to be a situation in which different elements will interact to produce something new!
– Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC
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Photo: Glazing a new crucible by MAURO CATEB
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