Home Concepts Concepts of Leadership Community Engagement Senior Sage Leadership: Interview of Barbara Thomas

Senior Sage Leadership: Interview of Barbara Thomas

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14. How has your leadership style changed as you have progressed in life?

In a nutshell, the greatest change in my leadership style was the shift from being fearful and lacking dynamism to being able to get myself out in the world with knowledge and confidence. When we used to lead groups in our home I was terrified because I thought they knew more than I did, when in reality they didn’t. And even if they did, well, that’s part of the learning process. Now, with greater confidence in myself I am able to lead by contacting other people to see what they think and believe should be done, and then pull things together to get the best solutions.

15. What is the one mistake you see leaders making more frequently than others?

The greatest common mistake that leaders make is getting too self-absorbed. They love to hear themselves talk and come to believe that they are the be-all and end-all. I guess this is about hubris, excessive pride and ambition. That said, I try not to be too harsh in judging this kind of leader because “There but for the grace of god go I.” One of my greatest faults over the years has been a high need to try to fix situations or people. I’ve learned that if anything has changed about myself, it’s that I don’t do this any more.

16.     What are you doing to continue growing and developing as a leader?

One of the best ways that I continue to grow and develop as a leader is through reading. For example, I am now reading From Aging to Saging, a great source of affirmation and confirmation balanced by the fact that the book brings a new dimension to my thinking.

17. The three characteristics most often associated with sage leadership are unusual experience, sound judgment, and wisdom. What does having wisdom mean to you?

Wisdom is the ability to see a situation and be able to sit back and ask the question, “What do I know about this?” and “What don’t I know?” and “If I don’t know, where and how am I going to find out?” Wisdom also has to do with feeling good enough about oneself to be able to say, “I don’t know” rather than “I know everything.” There is no way of knowing everything on our own. We need to read and get out in the community and ask questions. If we stop learning, we wither away. Life experiences have enabled me to challenge myself to ask the hard question of myself: Do I really want to be in a situation? And if not why not? Wisdom is knowing when you need help, and where to go for it, and how to do that without feeling or being defensive. Finally, I have been fortunate to have known people along the way who had wisdom. This has empowered me to want to pass on what I have learned to others, when asked.

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