The leadership hangover

Julie Thorson, Friendship Haven
Julie Thorson, Friendship Haven

As we circled in the air over Chicago on Wednesday to hear, “Sorry, folks, we have to go back to Indianapolis because the rain is too heavy for us to get into Chicago,” I thought to myself, “Great, this is where the hangover begins.”

(All this before I stayed up way too late to watch the Cubs win the World Series!)

This week's trip to the LeadingAge conference in Indianapolis can be described as a leadership hangover for me. Here's why:

As I sit on the plane now around midday Thursday, I hear that we now have maintenance issues and are delayed once again — after starting my delayed journey at 3:15 a.m.

Hangover! Frustration, and exhaustion are starting to set in.

Not hangover in the sense that I had a few too many last night, but hangover in the sense that there can be a weariness in the work we do.

For me personally, this conference was bittersweet. I look forward to it every year but this time it had an emotional twist I wasn't expecting.

Last year, I had the great fortune of graduating from the LeadingAge Leadership Academy. It was a life-changing experience for me and I may not have realized just how much so until a year later.

In our academy we have a support system that accepts you unconditionally and lifts you up! This can be hard to find elsewhere.

Seeing all of my “teammates” together for the first time in a year was energizing and sad all at the same time.

It's difficult, but not impossible to create that same sense of trust and camaraderie in our own communities back home. The work and the commitment are daunting.

Perhaps the fellowship in the LeadingAge Leadership Academy has a meaning I've discovered only a year later: Relationships top everything. 

I've always known relationships in leadership are important. But they might be the most important piece of leadership because without strong ties to one another as leaders in this great field, we have nothing.

As I sit on this plane waiting, I am reminded of the great fortune I have to connections across the country and back home. I'm a lucky lady. So in spite of these travel woes, I'm smiling.

Not only because the Cubs won but because I've built relationships in this field that are life-long, and for that I am grateful.

Oh, and the best thing about a hangover? It always goes away and we soon can prepare ourselves for the next party. 

Julie Thorson's “Living Leadership” blog has been named the 2016 “Best New Department” Bronze Award winner by the American Society of Health Publication Editors. The president and CEO of Friendship Haven, a continuing care retirement community in Fort Dodge, IA, that earned the Governor's Award for Quality in 2014, Thorson is a coach's daughter at heart. She is a former part-time nursing home social worker who quickly ascended the leadership ranks. Now a licensed nursing home administrator, she has been a participant in LeadingAge's Leadership Academy and LeadingAge Iowa's Mentor of the Year.