GLF: Introductory retreat

This blog is part of a series on my participation in the Governor’s Leadership Foundation program. If you haven’t heard of it, my first post is here.

The retreat was insane. If there’s one way to describe how intense the start of the Governor’s Leadership Foundation program was, it’s that we were told not to make ANY big decisions directly following our first retreat.

Good advice, because you come away feeling inspired to act, to take on all the world’s problems and shake everything up. We were told, “just let it sit”. Asked to absorb, to reflect, to notice how we felt.

Here’s the best bits, the most surprising and the most challenging -plus my favourites from the pre-reading material.

The best bits

Feeling really, genuinely challenged.

I’m putting that under ‘best bits’, but it was also the biggest challenge of the retreat. In every session, they stirred something that broke down a barrier in your mind, slowly chipping away at the walls you put up and the professional version of yourself that you hide behind.

We were walked through a method of identifying our ‘one big thing’; the one fear that seems to pop up all the time, the fear that we’ve learnt to avoid with our bad habits. When it came down to it, my ‘one big thing’ was a fear that I’m not capable, that people will see I can’t do it and that I’ll fail. We then had to write this on a sticky note. I walked around with the world failure stuck on me for an afternoon. It was full on.

Excellent facilitation advice for group work

One of the facilitators gave us the same instructions whenever we broke into small groups discussions – Don’t therapise, don’t psycho-analyse and don’t “me-too”. Super spot on and something I’ll use in future.

The world cafe

Full from dinner with a glass of wine in hand, we sat around candlelit tables in small groups and were asked “what questions do you have?”. We were given the freedom to ask and explore whatever questions we could dream up.

Intelligent, funny, thought-provoking conversation. It was seriously cool. I LOVED using my brain that way.


Most surprising

How open and honest everyone was when sharing their ‘My Story’.

It’s a daunting thing baring your soul and to do that in a room full of strangers, it’s something pretty special. Everyone had 10 minutes to share who they were – ‘My Story’. Things got deep and very emotional. My heart is still very full from the trust and connection shared in the group.

The challenges

I’m definitely feeling the challenge of being ‘at their level’.

While I can say I know I’m part of the group for a reason and that I also have value to offer, I’m definitely feeling the disconnect between a statement and belief. The magnitude of experience in the group is intimidating. Coming from roles were I was often the token ‘young leader’, my challenge will be to step away from that comfortable positioning and identify and behave as a leader and a peer.

The reading list.

So excellent, but so very, very big. My self-discipline is getting a shake up. It’s great to have a great list to work through – and resources to go back to.

My favourite resources

Thanks to Leaders Institute for curating such an interesting, engaging and challenging reading list. Here are the four that resonated most strongly with me.



Governor’s Leadership Foundation program is run by the Leaders Institute of South Australia. You can find out more about the institute and the program here.

Part of my participation in the program is generously funded by the Community Business Bureau through their Keith Fulton memorial scholarship. You can find out more about them (including  theirBoardMatch service and salary packaging) here.


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Author: Alana James

Passionate about social justice, communications, politics, news, leadership & finding the beauty in everyday moments.

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