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As I write this post, I am on the beach in Pacifica, California. I am here to participate in my fourth California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) Transformative Leadership intensive (retreat). This program has been beneficial for my personal transformation. It has helped me to identify and articulate my personal philosophy for leading. Although I have been a “leader”, I now consider myself to be a co-leader. I will exercise my ability to lead when the context, situation, and people need me to lead. The following is a philosophy statement that helps to explain my insistence on shifting my ways of being to show up as a co-leader rather than a “leader” (as defined by the dominant culture).
- For everyone. There are no genuine leaders without willing followers. The true sign of a leader is their ability to create contexts wherein others are able to use their leadership abilities.
- Chaotic and complex. The world is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Leaders have a role to guide and lead people through chaos and complexity. To lead is to become comfortable acting without certainty. To lead is to embrace the creative possibilities of chaos.
- Contextual and provisional. Although positional authority is often necessary to organize human endeavors, it is always important to acknowledge that commanding people is not leadership it is dominance. Genuine leadership is granted by the people being lead or organized. Positional leadership is granted in order to accomplish shared goals, or in response to a shared vision (a context). When positional power is abused, people will replace their leaders, or they will refuse to be influenced by, or follow, those with power.
- Emergent and divergent. The ability to lead rises out of the passion and commitments of people. Leadership naturally emerges from within groups of people. Everyone has an innate ability to lead. When the context is ripe, when enough people are passionate about making a difference or changing something, leaders emerge to organize human efforts. If there is a vacuum in leadership, a leader will emerge. Leadership is also divergent. There is no right way or wrong way, no single style, no clearly defined traits or attributes of those who lead. Leaders can lead people towards destructive actions or positive constructive actions.
- Relational, dynamic, and perichoretic. One can be commanding and controlling without being in love with people, but one cannot be a genuine leader without knowing how to form and sustain dynamic relationships. To be perichoretic (borrowed from Christian Trinitarian theology) is to be engaged in dynamic relationships that allow the unique individuality of the persons to be maintained, while insisting that the group of people also share their lives (diversity in unity). That leading is perichoretic means a community of being is created through the act of leading. There is no separation and yet there is diversity.
- Mysterious and mythical. There is something in human nature that creates legends and myths. Leadership rises out of mythical ways of knowing. Leading is not always logical or sensible. It is important to acknowledge the limits of our conscious thoughts, and to welcome the wisdom of our subconscious. Growing as a leader is a process of many transformations in consciousness. In the higher levels of human development, we are less attached to our ego and basic survival needs, and more concerned about the well being of all creation.
What is leadership to you? How do you lead? Do you prefer to follow, or to lead? Do you have a philosophy of leading, or leadership? Please share your comments.
Timing is important, very important (Kellerman, 2010, 165).
Why now? After resisting the desire to be a writer, why should I start writing this blog now? The recognition that other women (and marginalized people) have found writing to be a tool for influencing people helped me to recognize the connection between my many attempts to exercise collaborative leadership and my nagging desire to write.
Authentic leadership emerges from a leader’s lived experience, it is contextual. For the past five years I have felt the impact of my choice to refuse to submit to an abusive religious authority. I made a practical choice, to pursue a legitimate path into spiritual power (to be a professional Minister), a career with a salary and benefits, and that choice led to a dead end.
When the religious hierarchy pushed me out of my positional leadership role as a Pastor, I found myself under-employed and floundering in the depth of the economic crisis of 2009-2010. I had lost my spiritual path, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I still felt called to be a spiritual leader, to be a source of hope for the hopeless and oppressed. There was an abundance of need and I had accumulated experience, education, and the skills to help people who had been displaced by the economic crisis.
The world was shifting — the power and wealth was getting more and more concentrated in the hands of a few. Our elected leaders bailed out the big banks and financial institutions and left the unemployed struggling to pay their mortgages. Nonprofits and religious organizations were reeling from the economic crisis. Foundations cut back their giving. Middle class donors (more generous than the wealthy) were unable to give.
It was a humbling time for me. I was in Oregon and at that time one of five Oregon workers was jobless or underemployed. The religious hierarchy blocked my attempts to create a new ministry to serve those who were displaced by the economic crisis. I had no salary, benefits, or career track. For the first time in my life, I felt like a nobody, so I moved back home to nowhere Montana.
In Montana, I was able to connect with meaningful work as an Executive Director for a couple of nonprofit organizations. However, I was not using my communication gifts. I was not speaking in public or writing, I was mostly an administrator. I was doing what I needed to do to survive, and my continuing commitment to developing egalitarian leaders caused me to search for a connection. I found that connection through the California Institute of Integral Studies — Masters of Arts in Transformative Leadership program.
(Continued in part four).