How do you say leadership? Notes from Multi-Cultural Leadership Session 1
How do you say leadership in your first language? This question kicked off an interesting discussion in our first Multi-Cultural Leadership Project yesterday. Through this collaboration with the YMCA International Learning Center (ILC) in Woburn, I'll be training a dozen adult English language learners on leadership skills. The students will be using the training to coordinate a WorldFest multi-cultural event in the community next spring. They are very excited about the project, and the prospects of learning useful job skills while contributing to their new community.
Yesterday's group was representative of the diversity of the ILC, which serves students from 20 countries who speak 14 different languages. This brought a lot of different cultural perspectives to bear on our conversation about leadership!
As I suspected, many of the students said there wasn't a direct word for leadership in their native language. The closest words translated more directly to concepts like "power", "organizer", and "strength". My follow-up question about leaders they admired also elicited an interesting array of examples--I was a bit surprised to hear "Ben Franklin" as the first person suggested in the brainstorm!
One of the first points I hope to establish in any intro to leadership sessions I do is to move thinking away from the notion that leadership must be directly tied to positions of authority--the idea that "leadership is action, not position", in the words of Donald McGannon. This quote really resonated with the group yesterday. Though only a few raised their hands at the outset indicating they consider themselves leaders, I feel they are on their way to seeing that each of them has the potential to be a community leader.
Working with this group pushes me as a trainer to boil concepts such that they can be readily understood by a group of students at a variety of levels in terms of their English skills. Despite the extra cup of coffee I had right before starting the session, I think I managed to speak slow enough...most of the time! The group, and their teacher who joined, were very good about helping each other understand the concepts and instructions for activities. I adjusted my starting definition of leadership to this version, that seemed to be readily understood by all group members "Leadership is the ability to work with others to achieve goals."
Yesterday's session to a fun start to this journey with these diverse student eager to learn about leadership and to contribute to the community. Stay tuned for more reports from the program when we get started in full swing in the fall!