Peer Support Core Values and Leadership
Hope and Wholeness for All
This is the overarching value of peer support.
|Core Value||Moving towards hope and wholeness for all:|
|Acknowledgement||All human beings long to know and be known – to be seen for who we are, and deeply heard, without someone trying to fix or save for us.|
|Mutuality||The peer relationship is mutual and reciprocal. Peer support breaks down hierarchies. The peer support worker and the peer equally co-create the relationship, and both participate in boundary creation.|
|Strength-Based||It is more motivating to move towards something rather than away from a problem. We intentionally build on already existing strengths. We thoughtfully and purposefully move in the direction of flourishing, rather than only responding to pain and oppression.|
|Self-Determination||Self-determination is the right to make one’s own decisions, and the freedom from coercion. We support the facilitation and creation of an environment where people can feel free to tap into their inner motivation.
Peer support workers don’t fix or save. We acknowledge and hold space for resilience and inner wisdom.
|Respect, Dignity and Equity||All human beings have intrinsic value. Peer support workers acknowledge that deep worth by:
Peer support is about meeting people where they are at and serving others with a knowledge of equity.
|Belonging and Community||Peer support acknowledges that all human beings need to belong and be a part of a community. Peer support recognizes that many people have barriers that keep them from developing community. We actively work towards deconstructing those social blockades that prevent inclusion and acceptance. Peer support workers serve with a social justice mindset, and intentionally practice empathy, compassion & self-compassion.|
|Curiosity||We are always intentional about how curiosity and inquiry support connection, growth, learning and engagement.
This curiosity isn’t fueled by personal pain but by a genuine interest in connection. We encourage curiosity while respecting the boundaries and protecting the privacy of the people we support.
We are continually curious, but not invasive, while challenging assumptions and narratives. We ask powerful questions. We offer generosity of assumption to those who think differently than we do. We know that listening and asking questions are more important than providing answers.
Building relationships and connection through harnessing our common lived experience is the core of peer support. Everything we do – the very heart of this work – is about building that connection with the people we serve.
Cultivating connection and building relationships is also a significant component of leadership and facilitation.. The core values have application within your peer support leadership and facilitation work, and you will also be able to take many of these concepts and apply them to future experiences.
Now, let’s examine each of the peer support core values with the lens of leadership.
Definition from the Core Values: All human beings long to know and be known–to be seen for who we are, and deeply heard, without someone trying to fix or save us.
Feeling seen is such an important aspect of well-being. When someone takes the time to listen and acknowledge us, we tend to feel a sense of connection.
When we are a part of a team and we feel that sense of acknowledgement from our leaders and fellow team members, it fosters connection. When we feel a sense of belonging, we are more likely to feel inspired and connected to the vision and purpose of the team.
It’s so important when we are in a leadership position that we pay attention and notice the people we work with, and that we practice offering encouragement to them. In the Creating an Ecology of Self-Determination module, under the section Encouragement and Self-Determination there are 5 points discussed regarding offering encouragement. We’ve listed the points below but do go back to that section and read it again. Consider how you will offer encouragement when you are in a leadership position and list some ideas below.
- The small steps matter a lot.
- Be specific.
- Be genuine.
The Harvard Business Review article Good Leaders Acknowledge Their Employees Often (Mook, 2021) looks at how leaders supported their employees to deal with the atmosphere of anxiety and uncertainty that came with COVID-19. Within that context, the article says this about acknowledgement:
Good leaders quickly learned that acknowledgement is one of the greatest positive motivators, and an important tool to help team members overcome uncertainty. We also learned that recognition need not be elaborate or expensive, but merely authentic and deserved. It serves as a great learning tool for others and a way to move beyond mental exhaustion to a sense of inspiration.
“A leader, first and foremost, is human. Only when we have the strength to show our vulnerability can we truly lead.” ~Simon Sinek (Start With Why)
Definition from the Core Values: The peer relationship is mutual and reciprocal. Peer support breaks down hierarchies. The peer support worker and the peer equally co-create the relationship, and both participate in boundary creation.
Of all the peer support core values, mutuality might feel the most challenging to apply within a leadership context. This is especially true because most leadership paradigms are so hierarchical by nature.
When we think of mutuality in peer support, it’s helpful to go back to why this is a core value, and from there we can figure out how to apply it in a leadership setting.
- In your words, why do you think mutuality is such an important aspect of peer support?
- Why is a reciprocal relationship needed in peer support?
Mutuality in peer support means that support is a co-learning process. Each participant in the relationship is contributing, learning and growing. When you work under the umbrella of peer support, you do not have to be “the expert.” There is room for your own growth and learning as you support others, which creates space for humility, transparency, and vulnerability. You do not have to pretend you are something you are not. You get to bring your full self to the work. This of course doesn’t mean that we let go of policies and guidelines; we are still called to be professional and to uphold all of our campus directed policies and procedures.
From what we have touched on about mutuality so far, what can we take from that and apply to a leadership role?
Mutuality and Safety
Let’s reflect back on some of the key principles of trauma-informed care–safety, transparency, and choice. When a leader takes a humble approach to leading, while intentionally breaking down hierarchies, it supports a trauma-informed culture.
- Have you ever worked or volunteered with a business or organization where you didn’t feel safe? Why didn’t you feel safe?
- If you did feel safe, what made you feel safe? What about the leadership/management style made you feel safe?
- What does transparency mean for a leader? When should a leader be transparent about something, and when should they hold back?
- What does choice look like when embedded in a management style? What kinds of choices should be offered to team members and staff?
Dr. Brené Brown is a leadership expert known worldwide for her work exploring shame and vulnerability. Consider reading her book Dare to Lead if you plan to move into any kind of leadership role.
In the Forbes article, Could A Little Vulnerability Be The Key To Better Leadership? (Sime, 2019), the author refers to Brown’s teachings on courage, vulnerability, and leadership:
Brené defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. If you replaced vulnerability at the beginning of that sentence with the word leadership it would define that quite well too. That is one of Brené’s points, vulnerability and leadership go hand in hand. Both require us to take the risk of stepping forward and showing up in a forum that exposes us. When we’re vulnerable and when we lead there aren’t any guarantees that we will succeed. Risk and uncertainty are things leaders weather every day. Being vulnerable and leading while owning this vulnerable is brave work and you can’t be courageous without being vulnerable. Perhaps it’s fair to say that courage, vulnerability and leadership all go hand in hand in hand. If that’s the case then vulnerable leaders are by far the most courageous.
Spend a few minutes reflecting on the importance of mutuality and vulnerability in leadership. How do you want to approach this in your work? How will you choose to show up and be real with your colleagues?
Definition from the Core Values: It is more motivating to move towards something rather than away from a problem. We intentionally build on already existing strengths. We thoughtfully and purposefully move in the direction of flourishing, rather than only responding to pain and oppression.
Language has power. The words we choose are forming the reality in which we live. The first step in creating the life we want is to become intentional about the language we choose. Words create worlds.
Social Constructionism is a term used in sociology. Thought Co defines it this way,
Social constructionism is the theory that people develop knowledge of the world in a social context, and that much of what we perceive as reality depends on shared assumptions. From a social constructionist perspective, many things we take for granted and believe are objective reality are actually socially constructed, and thus, can change as society changes. (Vinney, 2019)
Basically social constructionism means that humans collectively – whether in a family, a community, a campus or a workplace – create knowledge together based on the meaning we give to our experiences. So when we ponder the question, “How do we know what we know?” the simplest answer using social constructionism is that together we create our knowledge and the “worlds” we live in by the language we use.
Language itself is a key example of social constructionism. Words are made up; on their own, they are just a bunch of sounds. But they mean something because collectively we have decided that certain combinations of sounds have particular meanings. This is the same for the value of money, etc. Art and culture are socially constructed as well; we explored this in depth in the cultural humility module.
What this means for groups and organizational cultures is that we have the opportunity to create our own meanings and realities. The Core Values of peer support, for example, only have meaning if collectively we give them meaning, otherwise they are just a bunch of words. Now, what does all of this have to do with leadership and being strength-based? As leaders, what we choose to focus on shapes the culture of the group or organization. If we are nit picky, negative, and we micromanage, then that will shape the culture of the whole organization.
If we are intentional with our words, if we choose to honour the core values, and if we focus on the strengths of the people that make up the organization, then that will shape the culture. In this way, leaders have tremendous power and responsibility in shaping organizational culture.
As you can see, a strength-based approach is essential both when we work with individuals and when we work with groups, businesses, and organizations.
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a systems change management tool. It is used in organizations, focusing on strengths and leveraging the best of what already exists, rather than focussing on problems. It essentially applies a lot of what we have already talked about within this training, but focuses on groups. David Cooperrider developed Appreciative Inquiry in the 1980s. In his book he calls leaders “positive change catalysts” with leaders “participating equally as one of the many essential voices at the table.”
Cooperrider was tired of the focus on deficits and problem-solving that was so dominant in organizations. He decided to change the questions that were being asked. He took a more positive approach, digging into what was working within the organization and building on those strengths. That’s not to say that with this approach we overlook issues that need addressing. Addressing weak spots is important for us as individuals and for organizations. A strength-based approach like AI simply reframes the question to focus on what we can do rather than on what we can’t do.
The book, A Positive Revolution in Change: Appreciative Inquiry (Cooperrider, Whitney, 2005), defines Appreciative Inquiry this way,
Appreciative Inquiry is the cooperative, coevolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the world around them. It involves systematic discovery of what gives life to an organization or a community when it is most effective and capable in economic, ecological, and human terms. In AI intervention gives way to inquiry, imagination, and innovation. Instead of negation, criticism, and spiraling diagnosis, there is discovery, dream, and design. AI involves the art and practice of asking unconditionally positive questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten potential. (2005)
Let’s look back at the questions you answered in the “Applying These Leadership Principles” section of this module.
We’re going to consider this AI approach in terms of goal setting. If we create goals centered on problems, we’re trying to solve rather than on moving towards a bigger hope and dream, we can often stay tied to the problem. This is because when we are focused on something, that’s where we put most of our attention; in this case, it would mean giving more attention to the problem and less attention to where we want to go. When we are very focused on the problem, we might even feel the body tighten up and constrict. (Next time you are thinking about a problem, pay attention to how your body feels.)
When we focus on strengths and on moving towards where we want to go, we feel more inspired and less limited. We are no longer only thinking of the problem, but engaging creative, divergent thinking, harnessing creativity, and fueling intrinsic motivation.
A Strength-Based, Moving-Towards Approach Opens up a World of Possibility.
Here’s an example of this approach for a personal problem/goal:
Problem-focused goal: I currently spend too much time alone playing video games, and it makes me feel lonely. I will limit my video game time to 2 hours maximum a day.
Strength-based “Moving-towards” goal: I want to find a community and a place where I belong. I want to develop some good friendships and feel connected. I also want to exercise my creativity and love for music. I will join the music group that meets at the clubhouse on Wednesdays.
Let’s do this again with a peer support campus goal:
Problem-focused goal: Identify the problems in a particular peer delivered workshop and address them to encourage greater attendance.
The issue is that people aren’t attending a certain workshop that is being offered under the peer program. With a problem-focused lens, the goal is to figure out what people don’t like about the program and the team works to fix those issues, and in the process hopefully more people will attend.
Strength-based “Moving-towards” goal: Discover what draws students to attend a workshop. Is there something we are doing in the workshop that students like and regularly attend? How can we expand those things and build more of it into the program?
Instead of just focusing on what isn’t working with the workshop, ask about what is working? Ask participants questions about what they value about the services and offerings of the program. Ask if there is anything they enjoyed in the workshop that they want to spend more time on? Is there a way the focus can be shifted to better meet the needs of the group?
- What is the goal you identified for your campus or peer program?
- How will you organize a team? What strengths will you be looking for in the people you gather?
- How will you identify strengths of your team members?
- What are some simple practices you can do with your team to build a positive culture?
- How will you address problems or issues with a strength-based approach?
- How will you make sure that in the process of moving towards where your team wants to go, you don’t sweep problems under the proverbial rug, and instead deal with issues in a kind, respectful, and firm way?
Definition from the Core Values: Self-determination is the right to make one’s own decisions, and the freedom from coercion. We support the facilitation and creation of an ecology where people can feel free to tap into their inner motivation. Peer support workers don’t fix or save. We acknowledge and hold space for resilience and inner wisdom.
Before continuing with this section, please make sure you have read the whole Self-Determination module. This section builds upon that knowledge; we will be taking the concepts covered there and you will apply them to the development of your leadership, and facilitation skills.
As a leader, motivation is a tricky thing. Many organizations offer their team members incentives or rewards for high performance, but these are short-term and they end the moment the rewards run out. The reality is that while we can incentivize behaviour, we can’t actually motivate others. What we can do, however, is create conditions for people to become intrinsically motivated. We experience intrinsic motivation when we feel a sense of enjoyment or purpose in the work itself. This is another reason for an organization/community to build a strong connection to a set of core values.
It can be challenging to support individuals to tap into their intrinsic motivation. As leaders, the invitation and challenge of self-determination is to respect and trust the people we work with, believing that there is a natural desire within everyone that wants to be motivated and engaged. In order to tap into that, we can start by asking people to share their thoughts and perspectives openly, and support them to discover what motivates them.
When we are managing or leading a team, it is up to us to create conditions and opportunities that support the growth of intrinsic motivation. Otherwise people will struggle with incentive, commitment, and follow-through. When we’re used to a top-down approach, it can feel a lot easier and much more comfortable for us to micromanage and try to control other people; it feels like there is less risk that things won’t get done that way, but it leads to loss of connection, trust and true motivation for your team.
Creating the conditions of self-determination means that we must lead with intention to create opportunities for growth, skill-building, autonomy, community-building, and connection.
In the Very Well Mind article What Is Motivation? (Cherry, 2022) motivation is defined this way,
Motivation is the process that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. It is what causes you to act, whether it is getting a glass of water to reduce thirst or reading a book to gain knowledge. Motivation involves the biological, emotional, social, and cognitive forces that activate behavior. In everyday usage, the term “motivation” is frequently used to describe why a person does something. It is the driving force behind human actions.
Developed by Richard Ryan and Edward Deci, self-determination theory is a broad look at human motivation and wellness that has a lot of both basic and applied research. The theory says that motivation, life-satisfaction, and well-being are highly correlated.
Self-determination theory has application across all cultures, genders and ages. It is applicable in education, business, healthcare, coaching, counselling–basically anywhere human beings gather.
Intrinsic motivation is motivation born out of purpose, meaning, and/or pure enjoyment. People can be intrinsically motivated by the simple pleasure of learning. It can be fueled by interests, or a desire to make an impact on the world. When we are intrinsically motivated we do things willingly.
Extrinsic motivation is motivation that is fueled by something outside of oneself. (Example: money, rewards, approval, punishment, embarrassment, public scorn.)
The success of an organization is dependent on the motivation of those involved. There are many things we can do to create a positive organizational culture filled with engaged, innovative, and motivated staff/volunteers.
When creating the conditions that support intrinsic motivation, we must consider competency, autonomy, and relatedness.
As human beings, we all need to feel effective, competent, and well-trained. We must have regular opportunities to continue our growth and learning.
- Growth–consistently learning new skills
- Increases our capacity for risk-taking, and dealing with uncertainty
- It is essential that we have a sense of control within our own lives
- Fuels our sense of purpose
- Encourages curiosity
Within teams, valuing autonomy means that employees/volunteers must have some agency and decision making power over how they fulfill their tasks and duties. Micromanaging erodes autonomy and breaks down trust. When we create conditions that allow for a measure of autonomy, we encourage intrinsic motivation. We must create clear boundaries so that all team members have clarity of expectations.
- Human beings NEED to have choice
- Personal-responsibility is essential to our well-being
- We can easily get stuck in auto-pilot when we don’t have choice
- Mindfulness about what choices are life-giving, supportive, and what is detrimental to our well-being
When people feel a sense of belonging they are more apt to feel engaged and motivated. As leaders, we are responsible for creating a culture that fosters the development of relationships and connections within our team. Celebrating wins and victories, and mourning losses together supports the cultivation of a strong, connected culture.
- Self-determination isn’t an individualistic thing. Hyper-individualism doesn’t actually support true self-determination. We need connection. We need belonging. We need community. We need support.
- We need to be cared for, and we need to care for others.
- Support systems are necessary.
What are some small practices you can do as a leader to support self-determination?
In the article, How to apply Self-determination theory to boost workplace motivation (Wedgwood, 2020) the author shares what his organization does to encourage motivation in their organization:
To boost staff competence, we encourage peer-to-peer mentoring to ensure people of varying levels of seniority can coach each other. This reinforces skills, encourages knowledge-sharing, and creates empowered workers. We also have lunch-time learning sessions, where anyone can run sessions to help the rest of the team learn a new skill. This encourages competence and relatedness, as it promotes team cohesion and unity too. We also promote relatedness by having team night outs, lunches, quizzes and employee of the month awards. Finally, we demonstrate autonomy by letting our people work remotely and benefit from flexible working schedules. This ensures a healthy work-life balance and demonstrates trust.
- When have you felt the most motivated in a job or at school?
- What is it about that experience that increased your intrinsic motivation?
- Have you ever noticed a difference in your motivation level when you are truly interested in something, vs doing it for an extrinsic reward?
“The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.”
~Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
Respect, Dignity, and Equity
Definition from the Core Values: All human beings have intrinsic value. Peer support workers acknowledge that deep worth by:
- practicing cultural humility and sensitivity
- serving with a trauma-informed approach
- offering generosity of assumption in communication and conflict
- mindfully addressing personal biases
Peer support is about meeting people where they are at and serving others with a knowledge of equity.
Before continuing with this section, please make sure you have read all of the following modules:
- Cultural Humility
- Principles in Trauma-Informed Care
- Connection and Communication
- Creating an Ecology of Self-Determination
As we talked about at the beginning of this module, leadership requires us to think deeply about power, and the potential misuse of power. Many people have had difficult, even traumatic, experiences because of the misuse of power by someone in a leadership role.
The Core Value of “respect, dignity, and equity” is very complex and layered. We cover many topics important for student leaders to consider in the modules mentioned above. In this section we will simply highlight a few aspects of the core values as they relate to and impact on leadership.
Practicing Cultural Humility and Sensitivity
The research article, Making a Case for Culturally Humble Leadership Practices through a Culturally Responsive Leadership Framework (Campos-Moreira et al. 2020) addresses the issue of cultural humility and leadership in the quote below.
Three concepts aid in equity and inclusion: (1) leadership humility, (2) cultural humility, and (3) cultural competence. Leadership humility encompasses: (a) a manifested willingness to view oneself accurately, (b) a displayed appreciation of others’ strengths and contributions, and (c) “teachability” or a willingness to learn from all people (Owens, Johnson, & Mitchell, 2013, p. 1518). Cultural humility, along with cultural competence, suggests a way of knowing and behaving to enact culturally responsive leadership practices. Both cultural competence and cultural humility are fluid processes. Cultural competence nestled within cultural humility serves as a lens to explore self-awareness and engage in critical self-reflection. Cultural humility involves an open and fluid process of self-reflection, consideration for diverse experiences, and shared power; it is a lifelong learning process that must be exercised daily with “kindness, civility, and respect” for all (Foronda, Baptiste, Ousman, & Reinholdt, 2016, p. 214). Scholars generally agree that cultural competence is a process of becoming more culturally aware, skillful, knowledgeable, and inclusive of others (Campinha-Bacote, 2002; Carrizales, Zahradnik, & Silverio, 2016). The practice of cultural competence is grounded in the values of equity, diversity, ethics, and effectiveness (Carrizales et al., 2016)…Thus, leaders who embrace cultural competency consider the cultural context in which they have to execute their leadership.
As leaders, we set the tone for our teams. In order to foster an environment that is equitable and inclusive, and one that invites full, safe participation by all members, we must do a few things: We must practice and model cultural humility and cultural competence, which includes maintaining a posture of humility and curiosity when we get it wrong. And we must keep open and clear communication with our team on these issues, fostering dialogue that is rooted in curiosity and responding quickly when something happens in the group that is harmful or that violates these principles.
- As a leader, what are the most important components of cultural humility that should impact your leadership style?
- It is important to create a culturally safe atmosphere on a team. How will you do that?
- What does equity mean within a team, made up of people from diverse backgrounds and cultures?
- How does a leader serve their team with a mindset of equity?
Serving with a Trauma-Informed Approach
Everything we covered in the Principles of Trauma-Informed Care module is deeply important in our approach to leadership. When we are trauma-informed, we recognize how pervasive trauma is. This means that many of the people on our teams will come to the table with trauma. It is important for every team member to be trauma-informed in their work; as leaders we must be especially aware of the impact our words and behaviours can have on those within our teams, and do everything we can to avoid retraumatizing people.
We must understand how the stress response works, and create a culture that fosters safety, transparency, and choice.
- As a leader, how will trauma-informed care principles impact communication with your team?
- What are three things you can do to create a sense of safety with your team?
- What will you do to ensure transparency with people on your team, while still having boundaries, and respecting confidentiality?
- How can we encourage and support psychological health and safety on our teams? What self-care practices can we encourage?
Offer Generosity of Assumption in Communication and Conflict
Conflict is something that will always come up when human beings gather. Even without a magic crystal ball, you can pretty much guarantee that conflict will come up on your team. Know that conflict is not a sign of failure or mismanagement! As leaders we must do our best to normalize conflict, and create an environment that is open and accepting of multiple perspectives in order to address and transform conflict for the good of our team.
Again, when we get rigid and stuck in a single perspective, we begin to assume things that are not likely accurate.
In times of conflict, a good leader:
- Gets curious about their own beliefs and assumptions
- Asks questions so they can understand each person’s perspective
- Understands that there is often not one absolute truth, that everything is nuanced and has multiple layers
- Knows that there is always more to the story–like an iceberg where 90% is underneath the water
- Knows that the brain craves certainty, and that means that we fill in the blanks and make assumptions, even if that facts aren’t there
- Understands that conflict can be an opportunity to see things differently, and that can equal innovation and new approaches
- Understands their own triggers, and has a plan on how they can support their own nervous system
- Responds rather than reacts
- Is aware of the power of language, and how words can hurt.
What are some ways you can become more comfortable with conflict?
What can you do to support yourself when you are triggered?
Who can you talk to when you are triggered or stressed out who can support and challenge you to see from a different perspective?
Mindfully Address Personal Biases
The most important thing we can do to address our biases, is to recognize we have them. Even the best leaders, professors, teachers and parents have biases. We are not exempt from this. When we recognize we have biases, we can then address them. If we think we are seeing objectively, then we are stuck in a single perspective. A good leader is able to recognize when they are wrong, and knows how important it is to seek out different opinions and perspectives.
- What are some things you can do to become more aware of your own biases?
- As a leader, how do you create a culture where others become more comfortable with noticing and addressing their own biases?
- As a leader how do you create the environment that encourages people to let go of defensiveness and the need to be right?
Belonging and Community
Definition from the Core Values: Peer support acknowledges that all human beings need to belong and be a part of a community. Peer support recognizes that many people have barriers that keep them from developing community. We actively work towards deconstructing those social blockades that prevent inclusion and acceptance. Peer support workers serve with a social justice mindset, and intentionally practice empathy, compassion & self-compassion.
Balancing the goals of accomplishing tasks or achieving goals while building and maintaining a strong team can be challenging. It is very easy to get caught up in a power over mindset when we are only focused on a narrow idea of success as accomplishing goals.
- Have you been in a situation where you have felt micromanaged by someone? This could be at school, perhaps working on a group project, within your family of origin, or even when you have worked in a part-time job? (Micromanaging is when someone takes control over someone else’s work. They require constant updates and discourage independent thinking.)
- If you have been in this situation, how did it make you feel? Did it make you feel connected to the team, or disconnected?
- What would you have appreciated instead of being micromanaged?
- When you lead, how will you challenge yourself to not micromanage others, yet keep them accountable?
When we are leading, we must challenge ourselves to hold multiple perspectives while we approach decision-making. We must be willing to let go of what we think is the “right thing” to do, and instead seek out the thoughts and ideas of others. As we have talked about in the Creating an Ecology of Self-Determination module, we can only see through our past experiences and our own worldview. In order to see differently we must intentionally seek out other perspectives. This means that we must create checks and balances on our teams that support everyone to challenge and let go of rigid mindsets. When we are rigid and singularly focused, we steamroll people and breakdown trust and connection.
Holding up this core value is not easy though, especially when we have to answer to people above us who may be working with a different leadership paradigm.
Going back to the core value of community is essential to ensure that we lead with a power to, power with, and power within approach.
*See more about this in the Power and Leadership section of this module.
A good leader,
- Is able to be humble, honest, and say “I don’t know”
- Surrounds themselves with people who are willing to speak up and share different perspectives
- Is willing to listen deeply to others, and to listen to understand
- Recognizes that everyone messes up, and is able to offer kindness and grace to themselves and others when mistakes happen
- Practices self-compassion and recognizes that those who practice self-compassion are more likely to take personal responsibility for their actions, because they don’t feel the need to be defensive
- Recognizes their privilege, and chooses to open their eyes to see injustices that they might be dealing with personally
- Creates an open and inclusive culture
- Views team members with compassion as people with full and meaningful lives
- Asks what happened, with a generosity of assumption, rather than placing blame on others
- Knows how to laugh and have fun
“Stopping gives you the chance of knowing less, of halting the perception-narrowing force of the cognitive biases that we are always trying to confirm, of taking the jerk out of knee-jerk and sitting with the meaninglessness of the stimuli, even if it doesn’t feel meaningless.”
~ Beau Lotto
Definition from the Core Values: We are always intentional about how curiosity and inquiry support connection, growth, learning and engagement.
This curiosity isn’t fueled by personal gain but by a genuine interest in connection. We encourage curiosity while respecting the boundaries and protecting the privacy of the people we support.
We are continually curious, but not invasive, while challenging assumptions and narratives. We ask powerful questions. We offer generosity of assumption to those who think differently than we do. We know that listening and asking questions are more important than providing answers.
Curiosity is one of the Core Values, and it’s so important to keep nurturing curiosity as you move into leadership and/or facilitation–both for yourself, and for participants. When we are curious, we foster a beginner’s mindset that is open to possibilities. Curiosity can also interrupt the stress response and keep us from reacting in anger to others around us. When things don’t go as planned, or we feel like we messed up, we can avoid getting stuck in a shame spiral when we get curious and choose to learn instead of ruminating on our mistakes.
Embracing curiosity is about choosing to step into uncertainty and possibility by asking good questions. We often get stuck on wanting to know the answers, but the question is often more important than the answer, because it opens the door to exploration. Question everything. Don’t get stuck in the status quo.
- As a leader, how can you practice curiosity on a daily basis?
- What can you get curious about?
- How can you remind yourself to let go of assumptions, realize that you can’t possibly see the whole picture, and get curious instead?
In the Forbes article, Curiosity: A Leadership Trait That Can Transform Your Business To Achieve Extraordinary Results (Malik, 2020), says,
Another benefit of modeling the behavior of curiosity is your actions will be viewed by many as permission to do the same. The most significant barriers to engagement and the root cause of toxic work culture is fear — fear of reprisal for offering their opinion, fear of rejection of their ideas and plain old fear. Identifying and removing sources of anxiety is the first step in credibly changing engagement and culture.
“Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty. It wasn’t always a choice; we were born curious. But over time, we learn that curiosity, like vulnerability, can lead to hurt. As a result, we turn to self-protecting—choosing certainty over curiosity, armor over vulnerability, and knowing over learning.”
~Brené Brown, (Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution.)
- Self-determination illustration by Drawing Change is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.
- Self-determination theory by Jeseye Tanner is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.
- Healing centered connection by Drawing Change is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.
- Note on the meaning of the term “generosity of assumption” from the glossary of terms: Assumptions happen when we don’t know the whole story and allow our brains to fill in the blanks. Often, we make negative assumptions about people or situations. Generosity of assumption means that we extend someone the most generous interpretation of their intent, actions, or words. ↵