Somehow or another I’m going to Harvard next month for a leadership conference at the Kennedy School of Government.
Apparently the Broadmoor Civic Improvement Association got a grant (from Shell, I think) to send some folks to this conference, and they decided to spread it around. So I’m going from Mid-City along with representatives from Broadmoor and the Lower Nine.
It seems like a pretty interesting opportunity, and I’m flattered to have been selected, but it’s all a little surprising to me.
I remember after graduating from high school I got a chance to see my “file.” There were a number of detailed write-ups in there. One teacher described me as neither a follower nor a leader. I thought she nailed it, and I still remember that description twenty years later. There’s no doubt that it influenced my self-conception, my very idea of what kind of person I am. I’ve never seen myself as a leader and, in fact, have actively tried to avoid the leadership positions.
Yet, after Katrina, many things have changed. I now find myself on the boards of several nonprofit corporations. There have been numerous occasions when someone had to step up and do something and I found myself in that role. I hasten to add that I have had many partners also stepping up at the same time.
I still don’t think of myself as a leader, though. To discover that others do is bizarre to say the least.
Honestly I’m not even sure what “leadership” means. I actually searched the web yesterday and started reading about leadership because I’m so unclear on the concept. I was happy to discover such concepts as “group leadership” and “thought leadership” and to see that leadership and authority are not the same thing.
I’m supposed to write a short essay about “one important leadership challenge that you are currently facing in your work.” I’m having a real block thinking about this. On the one hand there are so many challenges to every aspect of life in post-Katrina New Orleans, but on the other hand I’m so unaccustomed to thinking about leadership that I’m drawing a blank.