LEADERSHIP IN THE LEANING REST #6: ALWAYS CHALLENGE YOUR MIND   Leave a comment

Tonight I had an incredible leadership development experience. I completed an introductory metal welding course through a local art college – Vesper College. It may seem counterintuitive that metal welding, especially artsy metal welding, can be something that supports the personal capacity for leadership development, but let me share a few highlights with you. Let me start by asserting that three critical competencies for leadership are creativity, problem-solving, and adaptive ability.

During the course we completed a “conceptualization phase” activity which called on us to utilize our impressions and associations in naming a creative direction for what we were to construct from welded iron bars and thick wire. It was difficult for me to jump out of the rational thinking box and into a wider space of possibilities. Our activity consisted of naming our impressions of welded pieces, adding random words to the mix, taking associative feedback from other classmates, and finally naming our prospective welding project and creative direction. To be honest, I would appreciate more practice at it, because I can see how this mode of thinking is absolutely critical for thinking of something that either hasn’t been though of before or hasn’t been accomplished before. That’s the maelstrom of leadership.

The process of learning how to weld metal is a non-stop series of problem-solving situations. You start with two pieces of cold metal that won’t stick to each other, a cylinder of inert gas, some electrical and gas lines, and a vision in your mind of what you want to construct. That’s where the problem-solving starts. The iron bars need to be cut, the seam weld needs to be hot enough to hold the iron together but not so hot that I burn a hole through the pieces, etc. Needless to say, I burned my hand within the first 10 minutes (freshly cut iron is hot), burned a few holes through my iron bars, and never finished strong spot welds. Even so, the process of setting a vision and problem-solving my way toward it was a a true learning experience. At one point, my spot welds simply were not taking, and I felt like quitting and heading home as it was the scheduled end of class. Instead, I took 5 minutes, walked around, decided to stay after class since the instructor was keeping the studio open. I took a run at it again, this time finishing a decent enough spot weld. The process involved both technical problem-solving and adaptive problem-solving from me.

I started this whole process with an initial vision and plan. As I completed my project, some things did not work out as I had planned, and required me to be creative again and adapt. My final product was developed through a process of adaptation and evolution.

I walked out of the building tonight having engaged in a challenging creative mental process that got me out of my comfort zone, challenged me to define a personal vision, and work my way towards it through problem-solving and adaptation. The series of problem-solving challenges required both technical and adaptive solutions from me. I am a better leader because of this experience.

Want to work on your leadership ability? I’ll say “Always challenge your mind!” Get out of your comfort zone, seek new information and experiences that will require you to create, problem-solve and adapt in new ways. If you have an art school near you…think about it! Me? I’m going back for another class next month! Train hard, never quit, live well! – Tom Delaney (that’s me in the photo)

If you or your team would like to more meaningfully engage and work on the leadership principles of creativity, problem-solving and adaptation, contact me – Tom Delaney – at greatriverfitness.org to select or custom design individual or team training professional development designs.

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