I recently facilitated a Conflict Resolution workshop for a U of M department’s annual retreat (post doc program). This was a very activity-based program, and one of the exercise outcomes literally left me speechless (if you know me at all, this does not happen very often!). Some of the learning elements from this exercise are trust, leadership, and the one I was working toward at this particular event – hierarchical perspective on conflict. Basically you lead/move your partner around the room…no talking, the other person is facing you and they cannot see where they are going. Typically participants prefer to lead rather than be blindly pushed around (of course, right?). I was perplexed because this group was split (this never happens!)…many of the students preferred to be led/pushed/moved around the room. I couldn’t understand it – why in the world would you want to be Person B?? The answer turned into a leadership “aha” for me – some of them really didn’t want to be responsible for the other person; for some it was just easier to be led than to lead; and for most, if they trusted the leader, they wanted to be led/told what to do. Wow! This was a big message to the faculty – these students are craving your leadership. I’ve also had to re-check my perspective – I’ve always been a I’d-rather-be-a-leader type, so how could I make sense of this? Was this a fluke, was it a generational thing, or was it academia vs. business? Maybe it’s just life and business experience/maturity that leads us to lead??! What’s your perspective?
p.s. the event was great – the faculty present (who preferred leading!) had amazing questioning skills, openness to change, and a desire to be better. Lucky students!!