On a Well-Rounded Leadership Style

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As someone stepping into the CEO role for a nonprofit organization for the first time, it has been quite the developmental journey to embrace a leadership style that works for the creative and collaborative culture of the Children’s Creativity Museum. My understandings of who I am and who I need to be as a leader for the organization have evolved over the fast-paced and packed year that I’ve officially held the role.

A recent realization that is providing me a lot of peace of mind is that I don’t actually have to choose one particular leadership style. Sure, my staff wants consistency, AND adaptive leadership requires that we have an array of leadership styles into which we can tap in order to respond to a changing world. I can be authoritative and make solid decisions, AND I can be collaborative in thinking through a project. I can feel like I’m alone at the top, AND I can consciously connect with my support network.

It’s like shifting gears. When I am going uphill, I can kick it up a notch. And when I’m on the highway, I can cruise.

The choice in leadership style, then, becomes not about who I need to be forever-and-ever-amen, but rather what is required of me in a given situation.

On One of the Most Sacred Tasks of the Leader

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Leadership occurs in a cultural context. Even if a leader is the most dynamic and inspiring person an organization has known, s/he is only as effective as the norms and values of that community or organization will permit. This flies in the face of the myth of the “lone leader,” the person who, through sheer force of will, can compel the organization to march in a certain direction.

Because leadership occurs in the context of a group’s culture, one of the most profound ways in which the leader can serve the group is to help to facilitate healing. No group of people is immune from the individual hurts and traumas in the group. No group of people is exempt from the history that has left the group where it now is.

In this way, the leader is the chief healer. S/he has an opportunity to bring compassion to life within the community. S/he can devote energy to the question:

How might I help bring Wholeness back into this group?

Leadership can become an act of profound collective healing, one that eliminates the things that have held an organization back.

Undesirable

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Right now, I am struggling to just be with what I am currently experiencing emotionally. In the past two blog entries, I had begun to explore how race and culture have impacted the ways in which I have interpreted my becoming another year older. This inquiry has left me in a place where I am learning to just be with what feels like my own “undesirability” in ways that are powerful and help me to grow.

It’s a struggle to find that place for myself where my confidence isn’t derived from my external achievements, my appearances, or the games that one plays when they are participating in “the hunt.” And although how men behave towards me has nothing to do with my intrinsic value or self-worth, being left by Aaron and others plays to my insecurities, which in the past I’ve mentioned revolve around the story that I an umworthy and not good enough to “keep” my men.

My tendency in this kind of situation is to withdraw, … to cut off my connections and retreat behind my self-imposed silence. Yet, I know that the evolutionary impulse is not to contract but to expand. It is to open up to the world and express more of who we are. And as I sit with my own undesirability, I can’t help but marvel at the irony that true intimacy comes from being completely open and vulnerable to the world.

Someone’s Already Partner

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Loneliness, to say the least, is an unhappy experience. And it doesn’t  help that I operate in a cultural environment that puts a premium on being in a heterosexual marriage model. By extension, the cultural message  is to feel bad for someone if they aren’t in a relationship.

Is it any wonder, then, the lengths to which I go to fit in? I dress  to get someone’s attention, rather than as an expression of my inner  beauty. I communicate indirectly with a guy, because I want to test the waters but don’t want to scare him away. My self-confidence is often a function of whether or not I can make a guy’s head turn when I’m walking past him. … It’s insidious the ways in which culture and society have colluded to compel to play this game. I am told that my value or worth is to be determined by someone else’s interest.

Yet, I’m realizing, as I move through my healing process around Aaron, that I am “the One” for someone, just as there is the One for me. … I am already someone’s partner. And what would it be like if I came from that place? What if my self-worth and value came from the place of knowing that I already am Whole and that I have something to contribute to another man’s life?

What would it truly be like if we walked in this world with head held high as the kings and queens, … the “already partners” that we are?