Picture Yourself a Leader

That's what Dr. Tim Elmore wants you to do. As a matter of fact, 'picture yourself a leader' is one of his catchphrases.
Elmore is the founder and president of Growing Leaders, a non-profit organization focused on youth leadership development, and has devoted his life to equipping students to become leaders who will one day transform society.  
Last month, K-State student-athletes and coaches were given the opportunity to meet, interact with and hear from Elmore during Growing Leaders' visit to Manhattan.
"I think leadership is a buzzword right now," Elmore said after speaking to a group of 100-plus K-State student-athletes. "There are a million books written on leadership, but this is about pictures, which is really unique."
Habitudes, originally a six-book series written specifically for students using visual images to teach leadership skills, has been transformed over the past few years into a four-book series that creates a unique leadership program specifically for athletes.
"It's a right brain rather than left brain approach," Elmore explained. "A picture's worth a thousand words, so it's just a little bit of a different way of engaging a person that might not even see himself as a leader, but once they engage themselves they might say, 'I think I am a leader,' and that's what we want."
For example, picture a thermometer. Now, picture a thermostat. One dictates the temperature while the other sets the temperature.
Elmore then took the images a step further, relating them with the athletes seated in the room.  In a team setting, a thermometer-type player just goes with the flow, does what everyone else is doing, while a thermostat-type player is one who sets the tempo of a practice or game.
Men's basketball junior Thomas Gipson said hearing from Elmore helped regenerate the importance of having good leadership on his team, and that Elmore's use of images to relay a message really hit home.
"I think the 'being a thermostat or being a thermometer' example really stuck out," Gipson said. "I think that I'm a thermostat, and I just want to help my team win and get another Big 12 Championship this year. I have to do certain things within myself to be a leader to everybody else on the team and (Dr. Elmore) helped me think about that."
With six new freshmen on its team, quality leadership for women's basketball's three seniors, Chantay Caron, Katya Leick and Ashlynn Knoll, is going to play a key role in helping the team succeed this upcoming season.
"I thought he had a lot of really great things to say about leadership and he really connected with people on a different level," Leick said. "I think it just helps me get a better perspective on how to reach different people and how to use his methods to lead. Everybody on a team isn't the same, so you have to use different methods to connect with everyone."
From a young age Elmore knew he enjoyed working with students; however, it wasn't until later, when he began working on staff with New York Times best selling author on leadership John Maxwell in 1983 that Elmore's two passions were intertwined.
"I knew I was trying to make a difference in the world, but I didn't think of myself as a leader," Elmore explained. "But then, as my love of students soon got married to my love of leadership, by the 90's I was thinking, 'Somebody needs to fill this niche equipping not just the corporate leaders who are 48 years old, but the ones that are 18 years old before they go make mistakes.'"
In 2003 Growing Leaders was officially recognized as a non-profit organization and it was then, 10 years ago, that it got its start.
"And it's been amazing," Elmore said with a smile.
The organization today works with over 7,000 schools and organizations from high schools, to colleges to professional sports teams, including the Kansas City Royals.
"Habitudes for Athletes is creating unity between our coaches, our players and our front office staff to develop championship-caliber players, capable of making good decisions both on and off the field," Dayton Moore, general manager of the Royals stated on the Habitudes for Athletes website.
But Elmore doesn't just stop with the students; he spoke with K-State head coaches, assistant coaches and department staff as well.
"They're already the coach, they've got the badge on, they've been here 20 years," Elmore said, "but they're a little bit at odds at to how to get through to these kids. "
In a world of continuous new technologies, Elmore's book Generation iY is there to help coaches and staff better understand the changing generations of athletes they are now coaching on their playing fields.
"In many ways, the Generation iY book is the diagnosis and Habitudes is a prescription," Elmore said. "It helps coaches use images, conversations and experiences to connect with a 1995 freshman. We try to help them understand and see that they need to have a conversation that they might have never needed to have before with today's student-athletes."
After two busy days in the Little Apple, Elmore and his crew with Growing Leaders were back on the road, on their way to Ohio State followed by a trip to the University of South Florida.
However, while he may travel the nation and speak to athletic departments nation-wide, Elmore said he enjoyed the family atmosphere at K-State, and that the Wildcat student-athletes and coaches were among his favorites.

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