I run a leadership program that helps young men and women figure out what they want to do with their lives, which is crazy on many levels including the ironic fact that the program leader, me, still is figuring out what he wants to do with his life.

That’s why I bring in the big guns, like the good people at the Center for Creative Leadership. I take the Fellows (that’s what we call them) to the Center’s campus once a month to learn how to create leadership or lead creatively or perhaps a mix of the two.

The last time we were there, the good people told us to pick out a card that depicted a “leadership challenge” that we had. There were all kinds of pictures to choose from, pictures like a guy on a bike or a flock of seagulls or the eye of a hurricane. I chose a picture of a rock climber.

We were then told to describe what we see in the card to the rest of the group. I said, “I chose this guy because I feel like I am climbing this mountain that never stops. As soon as I get through one year, my reward is to start all over again from the bottom. It’s pretty grueling, and as the director I often feel alone.”

Then, the group was asked to describe what they saw in the card.

“I see a radical leader.”

“I see someone who is willing to put himself on the line.”

“I see someone who is willing to tackle challenges.”

I looked at the picture differently. Wow! I suddenly realized. This job is actually helping me be the kind of man I want to be in my life.

I might not know exactly what I want to do with my life – but I do know a little about who I want to be.

“I see someone who needs a rope,” said one of the Fellows.

Yes! I suddenly realized another thing. It’s not the climb that is grueling to me; it’s the lack of support.

The truth is I actually like climbing the mountain. I could climb the mountain for years. All I need is a rope.

I need someone on belay.

We were asked to pick out another card that depicted a “potential leadership solution.”

I found this one: 

It kind of speaks for itself.

What is your leadership challenge?

Are you herding cats? Are you fighting waves? Are you in the middle of a hurricane?

Wherever you are, perhaps a good first step is to ask other people to share with you what they see. Getting a fresh perspective might make all the difference. Perhaps, like me, the challenges you face are actually helping you become the kind of person you want to become. Perhaps you will see a leadership solution – or, at least, find the courage to continue the climb.

Ned Erickson

Author Ned Erickson

Ned is the Founding Director of the Winston-Salem Fellows and the author of four books including the beloved novel, Clay. For more information go to www.nederickson.com.

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