Writers in our Midst
WIL provincial co-chairs Heather Thomson (Alberta) and Keri Schwebius (Saskatchewan) launch a new book about leadership
We wrote Mind the Gap: Navigating Your Leadership Journey because we wanted to help people become confident, effective leaders.
When we started our first leadership positions, we were promoted into the roles because we had demonstrated strong technical skills. These technical skills were acquired and developed through university degrees—years of intense study. Then we put in time honing those skills with real-life work experience to become proficient and effective. We were confident because we had put a significant amount of time and effort into being great at what we did (Keri, a Communications expert and Heather, an educator).
This was rewarded with promotions. Leading other people is way different from being a technical expert. However, when we moved into management, we weren’t given any leadership training or direction. We had to figure out leadership on our own. We did that by reflecting on what we experienced from our own leaders, reading and seeking out mentors and professional development opportunities. As a result, we’ve learned a lot along the way.
Now, much later in our careers, we wanted to share the knowledge and insight we’ve gained over the years. Additionally, the Covid 19 pandemic has demonstrated to us that strong and empathetic leadership is increasingly important.
Along with our good friend and colleague, Doug Forsdick, we wrote Mind the Gap: Navigating Your Leadership Journey. In combination, we have spent decades learning to be leaders. Among the three of us, we have worked in a broad scope of organizations and industries, including law enforcement, education, healthcare, oil and gas, financial services, non-profit, publicly funded, private, and co-operative. We have led small teams in one location and large teams spanning several locations. We have also experienced how good leadership can positively affect people, teams and organizations just as poor leadership can have a negative, sometimes even devastating effect.
The book covers several leadership topics such as articulating your values, emotional intelligence and how to have difficult conversations. What we love about the book is that we’ve offered readers a straightforward explanation of each topic, our personal experiences, and reflection questions for each chapter. These reflection questions help the reader to discover their own leadership style. We also encourage our readers to continue their learning once they’ve finished the book.
This book is organized in four main areas of leadership:
Focus on you. Leadership starts with you. Before you can even begin to influence others as a leader, you need to understand who you are, what drives you, and how your behaviours impact others. Without the ability to look at yourself and reflect on your strengths and opportunities, you will never be fully equipped to lead others.
Leading others. The second section of the book focuses on leading other people. You must develop and nurture connections and relationships with the people you lead. Even though you have been given a position of authority, you must earn the privilege to lead others. In this section of the book, we look at integral leadership skills like building trust and effectively communicating.
Leading within your organization. You are part of an organization, an industry, and a community. The third section looks at what it takes to lead a team within this context.
Continuing your leadership journey. Learning how to be an effective leader never ends. The people we lead and the context within which we lead them is always changing. That’s why we describe leadership as a journey. As you move forward on your leadership journey, you will have opportunities to stop and reflect on your experience.
As women and as leaders, we have the power to create workplaces where people feel valued and where they believe they can contribute and make a difference. We wanted to empower others to be confident, effective leaders.
KERI SCHWEBIUS, a Certified Executive Coach, Consultant and Professional Speaker, holds a Master of Arts in Leadership. Learn more about Keri at www.ellevatecoaching.com
HEATHER THOMSON, a Certified Executive Coach, holds a Master of Educational Leadership and Administration, and a Master of Counselling Psychology. Learn more about Heather at www.boldandbravecoaching.com