Terms and Transitions

When is leadership development not worthwhile? I spent some time recently with my old friends at Medeba Adventure Learning Centre. I’ll confess that I’m biased in their favour. Several years ago I was part of their second class in the leadership internship program they’ve developed. It was great to catch up with some old friends and see how things have changed on the site as well as in the lives of people I respect and care about. One of the things that stood out most to me was how they are now seeing the results of decisions they made nearly 15 years ago to focus their efforts on developing leaders. Seeing the maturity and quality of summer staff they have now compared to the team of relative inexperienced (but committed and sincere) teenagers I worked with in 1996, showed that it has been worthwhile. The program I participated in is hardly recognizable. It is 2 months shorter, includes more exotic excursions, involves three times the number of participants, and regularly attracts candidates from other parts of the world. It has evolved from being constantly innovative to more grounded and structured. The same can be said for many other aspects of Medeba. This development is predictable and crucial to seeing the program mature, but it is costly. Not only have 14 years of effort been invested by dozens of people, but the founding director of the program has found the increased formality difficult and ultimately has determined that his abilities are no longer suited to staying in the role. Next year’s class will be the first under new leadership. Leadership transitions are hard, they often involve deep emotion, and relationships are almost always strained. All of that is multiplied in smaller organizations, especially if the leaders have remained for a significant period of time. Leadership development is demanding and it takes a serious commitment to do it well. The results may take years to become fully apparent. It is not a quick fix in desperate times, but Medeba can attest to the value for those willing to pay the price.