Catalyst, Leadership, Partners

“All hat and no cattle”

Catalyst’s uniqueness seems to be in our strong focus on leadership development as the area in which we seek to invest both our granting efforts, and our time and energy. Feedback from charities we interact with regularly affirms our strategy as helpful. Whether through funding or (formal and informal) consulting, we are becoming known for having a perspective that is appreciated. Being able to give my attention to matters of nonprofit leadership on the whole allows me to sometimes connect the dots for leaders in ways they may not yet have recognised. Frankly, it is very gratifying to play a part in seeing Canadian NGOs becoming more effective through my interactions with their leaders. That said, there is a dangerous temptation to becoming both lazy and arrogant. As my friend from The Gathering, Fred Smith put it when describing leaders who look impressive but are actually far from it; “In Texas we say they’re all hat and no cattle”. Perfect! While I’ve continued to avail myself of many opportunities to grow in my own leadership, at times I have found it easier to just rely on what I’ve learned in the past and trust that my experience, combined with the influence that comes from representing a granting organization, would ensure my effectiveness. Sometimes that really is enough, but as we seek to become more fruitful I am deeply aware that the challenges down the road will require more of me than I currently have to give. I need to become a better leader. With that in mind I’m about to immerse myself in the most intensive personal development program I’ve ever done. Next month I’ll spend a week at a beautiful facility in British Columbia with 24 other people from 4 continents who are enrolled in the 31st class of the Arrow Leadership Program. Over the next 15 months we’ll undergo intensive assessments, three residential weeks, focused mentoring (professional, personal, and peer), and complete a challenging array of reading and assignments that will both expose and illuminate us. I’m eager to see what will happen. In addition to trying to give attention to my assignments, I’ve already spoken with my assigned leadership partner, discussed expectations with my employers and my wife, and I’m reaching out to a small network of people to accompany me through prayer and conversation during the process. I’m making an effort to come in as open-handed as I can, admitting my weaknesses and insecurities, and genuinely wanting to be fully engaged in the program. I won’t promise to share details of the experience along the way. I’m certain there will be some hard topics and difficult discussions. At the same time, I do expect that some of the outcomes of Arrow will be apparent both in the near future and for years to come. This represents a significant investment of time, money, and attention. It is costly both for Catalyst and for my family in terms of time away and the attention required between sessions. I am trying to ensure that I get as much as I can in return for the commitment. And if it doesn’t work out maybe Fred knows where I can get a really impressive cowboy hat…