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Leadership Development through Mediation?

Last week I had the privilege to help coach another amazing group of emerging ADRBC mediators in mastering their skills towards the all-important final assessment coming up in a few weeks. Reflecting on the learning and increased self-awareness from this dynamic and diverse group of students was inspiring. So many aha moments as students excitedly pointed out the importance of self-awareness, intensely practiced building listening skills, and actively engaged in learning exercises for topics like identifying the differences between judging, assuming, and describing. Maybe some were feeling a little overwhelmed however by the comments provided, I'm sure every participant left feeling they had discovered some very new and powerful communication skills.

What comes to mind for you when thinking about leadership development? Not likely the skills of a mediator. This was exactly what these participants were doing. They were developing critical and core leadership skills that automation can not replace.

I once had a mentor who was in a very senior role with a large organization ask me, "why are you taking courses in conflict resolution?" While I was thinking of an answer like, "because all the finance and marketing courses were full", I felt a more authentic answer was called for. Having had a short dose of experiential conflict resolution training a few years earlier, I was hooked on the core leadership skills development it provided beyond the more prominent frameworks involved. In reality, these skills were a deep dive into core communications abilities like active listening, being curious, and asking questions, amongst a host more.

Although I have earned a Master of Arts in Leadership from Royal Roads University, a highly respected institution, my leadership skills development largely didn't come from there! Before I hear from my RRU colleagues in angst, let me explain. This advanced leadership degree was an amazing learning experience and did provide wonderful insights into self as leader, teams, systems, and action research but the "soft skills" that are really the hard skills for most developing leaders, came more from extensive workplace experiences grounded in the practically applied tools and methodology of mediation and negotiation. And I'm thankful to my many managers over the years that often supported this non-standard learning journey. Little did they know at the time, in return, thousands of dollars and many hours of conflict costs were likely avoided, providing a direct benefit.

Your goal doesn't have to involve becoming a professional mediator, as is evidenced by the project managers, human resource managers, and consultants who are enrolled each spring and fall offering of this ADRBC program. You, like these learners will benefit from the powerful communication skills guaranteed to strengthen and expand what you already have that are so essential to your leadership development. Be innovative, step outside your comfort zone and explore your leadership development through professionally instructed conflict resolution programs, including mediation.

According to Kouzes and Posner in their widely read leadership book, The Leadership Challenge, the best leaders are great listeners who need to reflect back what they hear, engage in collective dialogue and inspire by communicating a shared vision. These are exactly some of the skills of mediation taught and developed through such programs.

As a Certified Business Coach, I utilize my professional mediation and coaching expertise every day to ensure clients I work with can successfully get the right leaders into the right seats doing the right things, as Jim Collins would say. By utilizing the 7 Attributes of Agile Growth®, I provide a proven, practicable and profitable path for companies, non-profits, and local governments who want to move beyond their current performance status quo.

Jerome Dickey, MA, ACC, CPHR, Q.Med


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