What can you learn about leadership from your elders?

Last Bank Holiday Monday, I was helping my eldest to raise funds for her expedition by running a cake stall at a Spring Picnic event. The aim of the event was to raise money to build a sand dam in Ghana. During the hours of 1130 and 1630 hours, in addition to having your picnic with 300 others, there were a number of attractions including a display of vintage and new exclusive cars, a fashion show, equitation, talk on the Bronte family, 17 piece big band, classical singers….and a best hat competition.

The event was the brainchild of James who organised it and provided the venue in association with the Rotary Club. Events such as these take a tremendous amount of planning, organising and influencing. All the people who ‘performed’ on the day gave their time for free and in good will.

You might say that is not unusual – but James is 84, a widower, lives alone and suffers from many of the ailments found in older people. In his earlier life, James ran his own business and is known for his persona, charm and in organising events to help local and international charities. I have known James for 25 years and over that time have marvelled at his social activities and his ability to host big events and get people on board to transform his projects from vision to reality.

Two essential ingredients of leadership are the ability to influence others and to make things happen – to ‘do’. Leadership is also a way of ‘being’. It’s embedded within you, an integral part of who you are.  You don’t leave the office or retire and leave your ‘leadership’ there. It’s an ongoing journey which continues to be practised. I was inspired to write this blog from some of the questions that surfaced for me:

  • What would my leadership look like in 25 years time?
  • What do I need to do or continue to do now to help me build my leadership?

This is what I learnt from James:

  1. Building a wide and broad network using your interests – for James this was through business (local and international), rugby, farming, singing, Rotary, involvement in the local community…
  2. Nurturing a strong network of friends, colleagues and supporters – investing the time and energy in building lasting relationships and in continuing to connect with people
  3. Giving something back – using contacts and influence to help local and international causes
  4. Having a generous attitude and giving –  in supporting and helping others and expecting nothing in return
  5. Doing – make things happen. Realising your vision and continuing to ‘do’. I am struck by the number, range and diversity of stories that James can tell. One can only tell stories (true ones) if you have lived through them. The stories you tell is the life you that you have lived.

In 25 years time, I wonder what stories I will be telling?

Will you still be using your leadership after you have retired? How are you building and practising your leadership? What have you learnt from your elders? Love to hear from you   



About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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4 Responses to What can you learn about leadership from your elders?

  1. Jamie says:

    What a beautiful thought, Vera! I wholeheartedly agree with you about how leadership stays with us. My mother is a perfect example. At the age of 88 she is a leader in her senior residence where she oversees an organization for their legal rights. And, I never really thought of it in this way, until reading your post.

  2. Jo Royle says:

    I loved reading the 5 things you learnt from James, especially about creating a diverse network. It made me think that James’s network included not just people who were useful to him, but also many people he could be useful to!

    Perhaps that’s how more of us should look at life, instead of collecting people to us who we think maybe useful to us now & in the future, instead conecting with those people who we think we can be useful to. AND really investing time in those people, connecting with them, giving of ourselves to them.

    Everytime I read one of your blogs it speaks to me so much. Looking forward to CoachesConnect on 29 June (assuming I can arrange childcare)… x

    • verawoodhead says:

      Thank you for those kind words Jo. I think you have hit the nail on the head there. One of the things that I learnt when I set up was an independent was to move away from ‘what’s in it for me’ to ‘how can I help?’ You might not get anything back in return from that particular person but someone else may offer you some help. The world would be a much better place if we shared and collaborated more!
      Hope to see you at Coaches Connect

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