Strong leaders possess higher levels of three personality attributes: openness to experience, extraversion and conscientiousness and lower levels of agreeableness and neuroticism. In other words, leaders like to try new things, are out-going, and are careful to ensure that tasks get completed well and thoroughly. They tend to have less concern for social harmony, and are more emotionally even keeled.
Openness to experience, in particular, it an important personality dimension with respect to developing organizational vision. It’s necessary to be open to new ideas and experiences in order to develop a sense of possible futures, and to articulate those futures. While these personality dimensions tend to be relatively fixed, there is some evidence that it is possible to stretch yourself in order to develop your leadership aptitude.
So I decided to stretch. This year I have joined Ev’s Thick Fat Sound Choir. Now Ev’s is not your average choir. Ev’s is a “bar choir”. We get together every Wednesday night at a local bar for about 90 minutes to sing pop songs – ELO’s “Don’t Bring Me Down”, Mumford and Sons “I Will Wait for You”, Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way”, and Florence and the Machine, “Shake it Out”.
The great thing about a bar choir is that you just sing along. You don’t worry about singing “properly” or the rules or anything. Occasionally we stop for a sip of beer. You sing for the sheer fun of it. This is good, because I can’t carry a tune unless you give me a bucket. I’m there to have fun, explore new and old songs and to make friends. Every now and then the choir hits a lovely harmony, and it is sublime just to be part of that moment.
Bar choir is a bit of a revelation. I’m learning to relax, to let go of control to our choir director, Gina. I’m learning to enjoy something even if I’m not very good at it. I’m exploring ideas, concepts and experiences I’ve always avoided, because I judged myself for it. I’m now exploring how these ideas relate to leading and to vision.
Trying something that is out of our comfort zone is critical to ongoing learning, to developing vision and to leading. As leaders, we often get into a rut that leaves us blind to potential threats to our organization. As well, attempting new challenges that stretch our experiences also helps us relate to others within our organization.
What are you doing that scares you, just a bit? How are you stretching your experiences? What are you doing to expand your world? To experience it from another person’s perspective? To create an appreciation of beauty or art or ideas?