Lessons in Leadership

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This past year I have had the privilege of co-facilitating, with fellow executive coach Ross Woodstock, the Leadership Lansing program. This new program of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce attracted 35 leaders to its inaugural class that began last October. The group represents a wide range of industries. The participants are at varying stages in their careers – some relatively early in their careers, several mid-level professionals and some seasoned leaders.

Most sessions included “field trips.” A few highlights included tours of the FRIB, the General Motors plant, The Runway, Lansing Community College and WKAR. We had panel discussions looking at different aspects of our community – legislative, education, health care, home-grown businesses, etc. One feature of each session was a “Lunch with a Leader” series. We asked each invited leader to answer a few questions, including, “What is the most important leadership characteristic?”

The resulting answers were fascinating. Darcy Kerr, Sr. Vice President of Human Resources at AF Group said it was curiosity. I talk to my coaching clients about the importance of this characteristic. If leaders can truly be curious, they stay open to hearing diverse opinions and multiple possible solutions to challenges. If leaders can ask questions from a place of curiosity, as opposed to judgement, they keep the conversation going. It creates more trust, a more positive work environment and more engaged employees.

Another great answer to the question of the important leadership characteristics came from Dr. June Youatt, Provost at Michigan State University. She said it was authenticity. This is another discussion topic I often will have with my coaching clients and we look at this characteristic, in part, as your leadership brand. Sometimes I will use a 360 tool with clients to get the perspectives of their bosses, peers and direct reports. Then we look to see the degree of match between those perspectives and what the client says is her leadership brand. Sometimes there is alignment and sometimes there is a gap. We talk about how different leadership attributes might show up – what does it look like to be seen as “strategic” or “innovative” or “empathetic?” The more consistently the client behaves, the stronger the brand.

So much wisdom exists right here in our community. It has been such an interesting year with the Leadership Lansing program. The participants took in a lot of information and were able to see the connections between the different systems. They looked at innovation in our community. They talked about how to promote all the tremendous positive attributes of our region. They really listened to the leaders in our community and thought about how to apply the lessons in leadership. I invite you to join the conversation and be part of next year’s Leadership Lansing program. Information can be found on the chamber’s website, lansingchamber.org.


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Susan Combs

Susan Combs, MBA and Professional Certified Coach, works with coaching clients to create fresh starts, enhance their leadership skills and increase their confidence. She is an authorized licensee of the Fit Leader's Program. Susan provides one-on-one coaching, DiSC team-building training and manages corporate mentor programs. She lives in Lansing with her son, Max, and their golden retriever puppy. Visit SusanCombsCoaching.com or MentorRoadmap.com for more information.