Ever had a leadership course compared to a cocktail? That is, lots of different ingredients, shaken, stirred, frothed or layered and together resulting in a delicious mix that affects the drinker in a positive way. You can sip it or swallow it whole and thus determine the extent of the effect - but you can’t separate the individual bits to determine which affected you the most. The Queensland Department of Primary Industries’ (DPI) Building Rural Leaders Program is just such a cocktail.
I don’t normally like either leadership courses nor cocktails – the former because I’ve been to so many that were more or less useless and the latter because I’m a person of plain, straight tastes. Consequently I was more than skeptical when I started on the program, which is based on the action learning process and consists of six one-week modules, delivered over about eight months. The modules are a mix of technical subjects such as business planning, change management, meeting procedures or public speaking and an exploration of personality types, leadership attributes and communication styles. All delivered in a residential program where participants form teams to provide support to their members while challenging them to embark on a journey of development. This mix of exploring “self” while seeing this “self” in the context of business, community, relationships and change was a powerful experience to most, if not all, participants.
Having been in a leadership role for a number of years in my business and community and having attended the abovementioned management courses I found the technical subjects were a useful refresher of what I already knew. On the other hand, the exploration of me, myself and I in a supportive environment had a profound and lasting effect. Understanding what makes me tick helped me enormously in understanding what makes other people tick and how they are likely to react to a given situation. Add to that the blueprint for which team role is most suited to which personality type and the technicalities of planning or change management procedures and there you have that cocktail I was on about above.
I followed the foundation program with the advanced BRL course in the following year and gained even deeper insights but the initial modules had the more profound and almost life-changing effect. I have found a certain equanimity that allows me to be more effective in my roles because I no longer take things so personally. By understanding better why my colleagues or other people react in a certain way to certain situations I can now create an environment that avoids unnecessary conflict and pain. Much more is achieved more quickly by more people and the intoxication that comes with success in itself creates more positive energy.
Much of the success of BRL must be attributed to the highly skilled and dedicated people who deliver the modules. They combine deep knowledge of their various subjects with a genuine interest in the participants and great enthusiasm for their role in building leadership capacities. There was the pervading sense of positive energy being released, that together we could make a difference in our communities and that each one of us had found a new circle of friends where we could be ourselves and achieve our potential. This sounds all “new age” and “sleeping with our swords” type stuff – but it certainly wasn’t that. I retain my skepticism about a number of aspects, for instance the contribution of a Futurist in one module and I’ll never get the hang of visualising myself on my 75th birthday, but I have gained enormously from the confidence BRL has given me.
The designers of the BRL cocktail got it right – the mix is much better than each ingredient on its own and the positive effects last a long time.
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