Last weekend I was a co-facilitator on an MBA residential weekend on the subject of leadership. During the residential I got to know and like my group of nine people. Working in a small group over several days is an intense experience, particularly for the facilitator who needs to be highly attuned to the dynamics of the group. Dilemmas occur such as when to offer a comment that might change the course of the conversation, when not and allow the group to continue down a certain path, when to draw attention to the dynamics of the group that are being played out at the time. But that implies that the facilitator has control, and of course, whilst they have some, they don’t have all. There was one occasion early on the second day when a student said something highly critical (but not entirely unwarranted) to another. As I write this now I can still feel the intensity of that moment. Was that an act of leadership, possibly so? There was an intensity and anxiety in the group, a feeling that I too was sharing. But it felt important and we stuck with it. Conversations over dinner followed with people trying to make sense of what had happened. At the end of the last day important steps had been taken, both individually and as a group; it felt that there was a real shift of thought and practice. These experiences are unpredictable but something always happens and usually they are enormously worthwhile.
It makes me realise the importance of the person to person experience in any form of study, particularly when it is about leadership. E-learning has an enormous amount to offer, but for some things it really does have its limits.