Elizabeth Bellsey

Marketing & Business Development Coordinator

BAM Architecture Studio

  • Member, SMPS-NY
  • Leadership Committee

The Summer August 17 half day Leadership workshop “How do you show up, Leading by Being Present” included 3 presenters working seamlessly to provide a unified common thread as a platform to explore various thoughtful leadership techniques. We discussed empathic leadership, developing our inner capacities, and embodied leadership focused on leadership through change and transformation techniques. Through creative play we explored ways to openly communicate and understand others from a new perspective. We were given valuable easy to implement techniques that we can use right away, along with a physical form of our individual unique concepts as a takeaway and reminder.

Opening the workshop was speaker and facilitator David Rubin, ASLA, FAAR, Founding Principal of DAVID RUBIN Land Collective. David illustrated the importance of empathy in leadership by explaining his use of empathic leadership through his method of design. In arranging landscapes, environments with which we all must interact, David incorporates spaces for different people to engage in conversation. This allows for the exchange of varied ideas and experiences, broadening the perspective of all parties involved. When leaders facilitate positive dialogues, empathy will come through.

Expanding upon this idea, Carmela Bennett, EdD, MS, a certified executive leadership coach, organizational consultant, and faculty member at Columbia University described how David’s actions are an example of the Butterfly Effect. Small shifts, such as building spaces for conversation into the landscape, can have a large impact. In this case, bringing people together to converse and celebrate differences. We can use the Butterfly Effect to improve our leadership skills by making small adjustments in our behavior for a more positive outcome. Carmela taught us exercises to bring ourselves to a calm, relaxed center that allowed us to be present and more confident in our skills to successfully influence others. Following this activity, Carmela prompted us to discuss the qualities of the best and worst leaders we have experienced. She encouraged us to incorporate the positive attributes into our lives, and advised that what you practice every day is the type of leader you are going to be.

The discussion of positive and negative traits of leaders fostered a smooth transition to Yla Eason, an Instructor of Professional Practice at Rutgers University’s Business School. Yla introduced Lego Serious Play and provided each person with a package of Lego. Yla asked each person to use their Legos to describe the best and worst teams he or she had ever been a part of. The benefit of working with Legos is that the group thought differently about the experiences when the team was portrayed with physical objects. The Legos allow for people to go from objects to ideas, and opened the group up to a new set of vocabulary to describe the experiences. From “disconnected” for negative teams to “stable” for positive, each person used these words that relate to physical structures as a springboard to discuss strengths and weaknesses, and how the weaknesses could have been resolved. Each person’s Lego structure looked different but spoke to the issues at hand, which was Yla’s actionable leadership takeaway. Leaders should support creativity, as it allows teams to arrive at different solutions to the same assignment.