Leading & Following


I’ve been taking an appreciative inquiry course for the last three weeks. The whole idea of “AI,” as it’s called, is to build on strengths rather than to look for the problems and try to fix them. Our two instructors, Jeanie Cockell and Joan McArthur-Blair have written an amazing and accessible book called Appreciative Inquiry in Higher Education, A Transformative Force. AI can be applied in strategic planning, facilitation processes, or even in your personal life. If you want to learn more about AI, check out the book or the AI Commons.

During the course we talked a lot about our best experiences as “highly effective change makers,” what it takes to be a good leader and a good follower, both of which at their best, chase each other’s tails. Joan and Jeanie modeled that good leadership and followship in a profound, yet fabulously fun and entertaining way. All 19 of us were transformed by this encounter with the poet and the storyteller.

Yesterday morning one of my Facebook friends sent around this quote from Nelson Mandela on the great leader’s 95th birthday. It seems an appropriate close to a wonderful three weeks.

“A leader is like a shepherd who stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.” – Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

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