Margaret Wheatley with Leadership Thunder Bay Class of 2012 participants Andrea Nadeau, Domenic Vita and Lynn Dyll

Written By: Sarah Jane Walker

Margaret Wheatley, world-renowned author and public speaker, descended upon the Superior shore to offer the keynote address for Leadership Thunder Bay’s first leadership conference, iLead: Innovation in Leadership.  Throughout the two-day event, Wheatley promoted a community-focused approach to leadership in a consumer-driven market.

Take note: Margaret Wheatley is not a politician.  She does not promote ‘hero’ leadership, the concept that one person can solve a problem, nor the idea that hierarchies and organizational charts actually work.  Instead, Wheatley explores the concept of ‘host’ leadership, where a shift in focus from what is ‘broken’ to what is ‘possible’ engages people in creative brainstorming and relationship building.

As an international audience of emerging and established leaders listened on, Wheatley evoked an image of the everyday person ‘walking out’ of cyclical and outdated ideas and ‘walking on’ to expand the conversation between peers and fellow community members.  She challenged fundamental thinking and promoted the idea of being curious in order to effectively eliminate the problems that are plaguing our organizations and communities.

Armed with the belief that leaders are made, not born, Wheatley used stories from across the globe to demonstrate that leaders are simply people who care about an issue.  Whether it’s a community in West Africa, India or British Columbia, every village has the ability to band together to help solve a problem.  ‘Host’ leadership focuses on a community’s issues, rather than an individual’s, and works to create an accepting environment and overall sense of belonging for all members.

Our community is desperately in need of a leadership makeover.  Wheatley challenged those in the audience to start thinking together; the old adage “two heads are better than one” came to mind… but it is so much more than a simple brainstorming session.  It is a deep-rooted belief that when people choose to dialogue rather than debate, the face of leadership will change.  And what a makeover that would be.