The best group leader I’ve ever gotten to personally experience was a big surprise to me.
He was not well-known. He was not unusually charming or memorable. And I don’t even remember his name. But one session with him transformed the way I feel about leadership and group learning.
It was about four years ago that I signed up for a one-day, sixty-person training on the emotion of Equanimity. I had invited friends to come with me, but no one was available that Saturday.
When I arrived at the large church campus where the event was being held, I felt awkward and shy. I had no idea what the day would hold, and no one there seemed particularly welcoming.
In came a man in his mid-seventies, a local professor of Psychiatry. He introduced himself very briefly, and then he spoke for about five minutes. I don’t remember exactly what he said.
He then asked a question, and he passed his microphone to someone in the group to answer. This was his leadership style. It invited us to ask ourselves questions. The mic would be passed to different participants to answer from their own truth.
There was no booklet or outline for our time together. But there were questions to explore, short meditations to practice, and small group explorations. Then he’d pass the mic around, so each group could share with the larger group.
As the day unfolded, there was this growing, contagious sense that we were all feeling each other’s wisdom, each other’s peace, each other’s kindness and discoveries.
Sometimes we’d practice with one partner, or six, or alone. These practices might be silent, or they’d involve sharing personal stories from our pasts. All sixty of us in that room were fully present and engaged. There was no time to drift off into a daydream while listening.
The day’s topic was Equanimity. And instead of talking about it, we all started to experience that sense of calm, impartiality, patience, and broadness of spirit. We noticed how it grew in us as we examined our past and how it grew when we heard one another sharing.
This leader had such a light touch. He was like an incredible conductor of an orchestra.
By the end of the day, everyone felt like a friend. Everyone felt like they belonged. And everyone felt like they had learned from each other. I was shocked at how amazing it felt to be in a group like that. And how the leader was not coming from his ego.
Before this experience, I had been in a lot of teaching environments that focused on a charismatic teacher, or a motivational speaker. This person was seen as more accomplished or wiser than the audience members.
The feeling was that you’d come to their events hoping to be more like them. They would come on stage, teach, and leave. After it was over, people were often left with a hungry feeling, like they needed more of that teacher. Like they needed to be different from who they were and more like the teacher.
What I learned on that day of training is that leading a group, and fostering growth within a group, is not about you.
It’s not about your charisma or your knowledge. It’s actually about letting your ego move over and make space for something a lot wiser, bigger, and more compassionate to step in.
It’s about showing up, knowing that together in a group we can create even more meaning. Together we can have an experience that gives us more insight about ourselves, more energy, more real acceptance, more ability to overcome and heal what is holding us back from being our most empowered self.
And what’s cool is that, as a leader, you don’t have to be perfect, or better than your audience. It’s not about the leader being a certain way. It doesn’t matter that you have personal challenges, because we all do. It’s about bringing people together, bringing out the best in each person, and encouraging non-judgemental listening so that the group’s resources are shared. It’s a skill, and an art.
That day of training, three years ago, completely changed the way I lead coaching courses.
I found new ways to get out of the way and to let something bigger and better than me show up. I would create exercises and processes, inspired by various disciplines, that would accomplish this for the group. I found new ways to include each participant and to create a more integrated group. I developed 50+ unique processes for Group Sessions. And the more processes I developed, the better it worked.
If something has ever held you back from stepping into your own leadership, I hope this story will help you.
Too many people are held back by the belief they have to have a certain appearance.
Too many people believe that they lack some magical accomplishment, and this is why they can’t lead. But that’s not how it really works.
Being a leader is really different from any other experience in life. For me, it has brought growth and a peaceful joy I would never have expected. I believe that all coaches should have that opportunity.
I’ve created the Group Coach Leader program to provide an opportunity and a structure for you to develop your ability to lead groups through incredible discovery processes. Of course, it’s also a very meaningful career that brings love and joy into the world.
This is part 3 of a 4 part series on Group Coaching.
Wishing you the very best,
Mark & Magali Peysha