Towards the end of leadership class each year, my students make a visual representation of their personal leadership as a way to dig deeper into the qualities they learned about themselves over the course of the class. I find that mapping out your leadership can help you learn how much your personal traits, passions and goals can form a complete picture of your life now and serve as a roadmap for your future. The process of mapping your leadership can be poetic, creative and unexpected, bringing new insights to your relationship with yourself. Here's how to make your own leadership map.
Step 1: Reflection
This project serves as a creative journaling exercise that reflects your personal connection to leadership. To get started, consider the following characteristics that make up who you are.
List two or three of your primary personal strengths. What qualities do you possess that allow you to do some things more easily than other people? How do you use your strengths to act with confidence and help others?
To learn more, read How to Start With Your Strengths.
List two or three stretches or leadership skills that you are currently working to develop. Think about the reasons why these stretches are so challenging for you make a part of your life.
To learn more, read Grow Your Leadership By Practicing Stretches.
Brick Walls and Nourishment
What are the experiences or emotions that stop you in your tracks and prevent you from continuing to grow as a leader? What prevents you from being your best self? List two or three brick walls that drain your positive energy.
What activities do you do to recharge your energy? How do you like to unwind and feed your basic needs? List some of your favorite ways to give yourself nourishment.
To learn more, read Brick Walls and Nourishment.
Interests and Passions
As a leader, where do you want to place your focus? Do you love to express your creativity through art? Do you do work that fulfills your desire to help others in some way? Do you love to be active or have a green thumb? Write down your main hobbies and passions that you would like to incorporate into your personal leadership.
Write down one or two big goals that you are currently working on or would like to focus on more. These can be short-term goals that will be accomplished within a month or year, or longer-range reach goals that you plan to succeed at within five to ten years.
Step 2: Plan Your Map
Start to plan your leadership map by thinking about how to combined the traits you reflected on in a metaphorical manner. Choose a theme to ground your leadership qualities into a single multilayered image. Some themes that have worked well for others include: a sports field, quilt, dress, house, board game, island, zoo, or garden. The theme you choose for your map should be able to support at least six sub-elements to represent your strengths, stretches, brick walls, nourishment, passions and goals. Consider how the organization of your images will allow your theme to represent your leadership as an inclusive whole.
Step 3: Draw the Imagery
Once you have selected an overarching theme for your leadership map, start to plan out the elements within the theme that will symbolize each part of your leadership. Find a way for each image to develop the depth and meaning of the theme, so that your map becomes a stronger reflection of you. Each image you draw and where you draw it on your map should represent a symbol of your leadership.
For example, in a garden theme, you might choose to represent your strengths as trees because they are rooted in the ground and provide the framework for how the rest of the garden is arranged. Deer might represent your brick walls because they sneak into the garden to eat all the flowers and plants you worked so hard to grow.
Choose to work with whatever art materials you feel most comfortable using. Your map is a representation of you, so the art supplies can be just as personal. Your map can be graphic with inked black and white shapes, or it can be a soft watercolor illustration. Don’t hold back in how you choose to express yourself through your art.
Step 4: Artist Statement
When you have finished creating your map, reflect on your artwork through journaling. Write an artist statement about how your images collectively symbolize your leadership. You can consider using the following sample as a template to get yourself started, or free write your thoughts as they emerge.
Artist Statement Sample:
My leadership is like a garden because it changes each season while growing stronger with every year. I showed my strengths as trees because my strengths are rooted in my nature and have formed a framework for how I live my life. My stretches are shown as roses because they need regular care and attention to develop into something beautiful. My brick walls are represented by the deer that have walked into the garden to eat the flowers. Brick walls tend to sneak up on me and in the moment it feels like they have destroyed all my hard work. The stream represents my nourishment because it brings water to help the garden grow and enhances the sense of calm through its soft noise. My interests are represented by the garden tools because they help me to create things of beauty. My goals are shown as a trellis, providing the support on which seeds of ideas can grow.
Reflecting on your personal leadership in a visual and creative form can give insight into seeing your unique qualities in a way you may not have connected to before. By taking the time to go through this process, you'll begin to understand yourself and the potential you have to realize your goals and dreams. What insights have you gained from mapping your leadership?