For the last four summers, I’ve worked as a sailing instructor at KSSS. It is a challenging work in many ways, both physically and mentally, and demands constant reflection of one’s role as a leader and co-worker. Last weekend, I attended a two-day course KSSS hosted about leadership, mental health and self-realization.
Starting Saturday at 8:45, we met at Klubbarnas Klubb at Beckholmen. We talked about summer coming up, what weeks all of us will be working and the plans we had for Valborg. After mingling and a presentation by Stefan Rahm (Club Director at KSSS, board member of the Swedish Olympic Committee), we began talking about ourselves as leaders. What kind of leader am I? How do I actually want to be perceived by my subordinates? The presenter of the hour, Thomas Gross (rhetorician, leadership consultant and sailor), claimed that the answers to those questions are as many as there are leaders. Because each and every one of us is different, our roles as leaders are and should be unique. I, for one, prefer bosses with a great ability to listen and negotiate with its employees. Some of my peers may like more hierarchical and determined leaders. The thing that every leader should have in common though, according to Thomas Gross, is the skill to be personal without being private. Getting to know the way your colleagues want to operate, their preferences and personalities as well as mediating your own is the key to successful leadership. If you’re able to master this, you can provide exactly what your organization need both individually and as a group.
Later on, we had discussions about mental health. During my years with KSSS, I’ve worked with colleagues suffering and also met countless of children with special needs and mental health issues in different forms. It is a huge burden to carry when someone confides in you with personal information like that, and it is easy to take on too much responsibility for their sake. I’m not educated in any way about mental health, so I can’t and shouldn’t rely on my ability to heal or help someone suffering. That is something I will try to remember, and remind myself that the only thing I actually can do is to listen, comfort and encourage them to seek help. We also talked about things that improve one’s own mental health. Some of those things were already known to me, like exercising regularly and sleeping enough. One thing I will try to implement more in my everyday life though is to lower the expectations I set on myself. I need to prioritize my life better and accept that not everything can be done perfectly.
After a good night’s sleep, I returned on Sunday. This day was spent discussing improvements we could do to our organization and how certain situations need to be handled. The majority of the day though was spent discussing and planning exercises to do during summer to further improve our leadership skills. Like, what do I as a boss do when one of my subordinates is slacking? The right answer to that depends on what kind of leader you’re asking, but one of the suggestions was to improve your own presence around that person to nudge them into the right direction subconsciously.
This course taught be very much about myself, personally and professionally, and my fellow coworkers. It broadened my understanding of the meaning of being a leader and gave my a lot to think about. Reflecting about what kind of leader I want to be, and how exactly I become that person, is something I will do while preparing for this summer’s work.