“It is not leadership from any one person that is required; it is an aspect of leadership each of us summons from within. In this respect, the same qualities we have sought in one person can be found distributed among many people who learn, in community, to exercise their leadership at appropriate moments. This occurs when people are vitally concerned about issues or when executing their responsibilities. Leadership thus becomes a rather fluid concept focusing on those behaviors which propel the work of the group forward”. ~J. Niremberg
This Niremberg quote sums up the model of leadership reinforced by GLADE staff and developed within participants. Let’s take a closer look.
1. “Each of us summons this style of leadership from within”
During initiative-based, hands-on, problem solving exercises, the facilitator must quickly access each individual in a social situation. Is he/she introverted or extroverted? Motivated by intellect or emotions? Dominated by visual or auditory stimuli? After this initial appraisal, the facilitator can assist the individual in developing and expressing his/her leadership style.
2. This style of leadership is “exercised at appropriate moments”.
The facilitator must communicate (non-verbally or whispering) with individual participants throughout the problem solving exercise not about the solution, but about the group interaction. He/she must convince extroverts to step back and actively listen to all members of the group, encourage introverts to step out of their comfort zone to express their ideas (often it is the quiet observer that possesses the key to solving the challenge), reinforce positive coalitions forming within the group, and provide opportunities for the group to solve authentic, real world challenges. When individuals personally recognize that their timely contributions strengthen the group, this recognition serves to increase the odds of real world success.
3. This style of leadership requires that the entire group is “vitally concerned about issues”.
Common interests bring people together. Since each of our students has already expressed an interest in nature and the environment, our common vision is to preserve and restore global ecosystems; however, GLADE focuses on a more local aspect of that vision.
4. This style of leadership focuses “on behaviors which propel the work of the group forward”.
During the week-long residential academy, participants restore two acres of critical habitat and participate in preliminary and follow-up activities that build confidence and character. Once the momentum accelerates, each individual becomes more likely to sense the power of his or her personal vision of conservation. Riding a wave of empowerment, the young leaders return to their home communities to develop their own community conservation action projects. Grant money, expertise, and support to get their projects off of the ground is provided.
We continue to ride the wave as far as it will take us, and we, the staff and participants alike, are excited about where it has taken us so far. Most of our original GLADE participants are still connected to our growing network of conservationists, and their ripples have created new concentric circles reaching outward to new groups and partnerships. These young leaders, working within a supportive network of community and conservation activists, have developed an incredible ability to profoundly and positively impact their communities.