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Emma Grennell: Not all leaders wear suits – and other lessons I learnt at Next GenGP

 
 
Emma GrenellLeaders, in my opinion, have always been easy to spot- even as a child. They shot their hands up in lessons, they were the ones out on the dancefloor first, the team captains, the debate queens…They were loud, confident and always popular.
 
As a child, I was happy, and still am happiest, surrounded by like-minded people, dissecting the world and trying to find our place in it. I read incessantly, have lots of friends, and have always over-filled my days with too much stuff. I’m enthusiastic, passionate, and curious. Fabulous qualities- if I was interviewing for a place as a ‘BFF’. But not worthy of leadership status, surely?
 
I didn’t fit my pre-conceived mould of a leader. I couldn’t see myself in those roles, so I never went for them.
 
So, what the heck was I doing on a leadership programme?
 
If you, like me, have been left feeling like leadership is a sky rocket dream, BUT still have this unwavering little voice inside of you willing better things into the world, then please read on.
What does it mean to be a leader? Who are the great leaders of the world? What do they look like? Is that me? These were the questions I was hoping to answer by joining Next Gen GP.
 
Listening to all shapes and sizes of leaders at Next Gen GP helped me to challenge my own assumptions on what it means to be a leader.
 
One particular session struck a chord with me- the session delivered by Hannah Miller, based on the Clifton StrengthsFinder tool. Developed after 40 years of research, this is a much more in-depth personality quiz that the ones you used to find in the back of Seventeen magazine.
 
Clifton StrengthsFinder provides an assessment to identify your top 5 strengths among 34 common talents. When I completed my questionnaire, I thought “yeah, yeah… I’ve taken one of these personality tests before, every doctor I know is going to have these top 5 qualities”. How wrong was I? Check these figures out; There’s 1 in 340,000 chance that somebody else has the same top 5 strengths as you. And there’s 1 in 33 million chance that someone has the same top 5 strengths as you in the same order!
 
The theory is not to pigeon hole you into a personality type, but rather to encourage you to own your strengths and recognise them as your special power. To give you a taster, here are my top 5 strengths and paraphrased definitions of what they mean to me.
 
1. Input: I love information; books, podcasts, documentaries. I enjoy sharing this info with friends and colleagues who come to me for advice.
 
2. Connectedness: I believe that we are tied together somehow. I can help people see the bigger picture.
 
3. Restorative: Give me a problem and I’ll help you fix it. Friends often come to me for advice and my bookshelf is full of self-improvement books.
 
4. Individualisation: I appreciate the uniqueness of people and how they fit together.
 
5. Empathy: If you’re happy...I’m happy, if you’re sad…pass me the Kleenex. We’re in this together.
 
All interesting stuff, but the real work only begins here. Enamoured by the whole experience, I rushed home after the session and signed up to an even more in-depth analysis. It may sound dramatic to declare that this session was life-changing, but that’s exactly how I felt.
 
It completely opened my mind to what my drivers were in life. I’m now working hard on developing and being proud of my strengths, whilst being aware of my weaknesses.
 
So, if you’re reading this and still thinking: ‘I’m not sure I’m cut out for this whole leadership malarkey’…. please look in the mirror, and realise that you are completely and utterly unique. No one has thoughts, perceptions, or experiences like you. Your passions and your story are yours, and yours alone. Your story is your strength. And you can use that to make a difference- which is, after all, what leadership is really about.
 
In the words of Dr. Clifton himself “What will happen when we think about what is right with people, rather than fixating on what is wrong with them?”.
 
If you don’t believe me, have a look at the Strengthsfinder tool, and dip your toe into Next Gen GP!
 
You’ll never know what it might change for you. I never expected that it would change me like it has.