There are many changes to my leadership that have stood out to me. The past year has created a real change in my thoughts and approach to the problem of child welfare that I am trying to solve. I wanted to use the fellowship to advance my ability to create systemic change; to take the change I was creating from the person level to the population level. This required that I seek new knowledge in the area of organizational change and development. I’ve spent my first year of the fellowship enrolled in a doctorate program in Organizational Change and Leadership at the University of Southern California. The combination of my classes, my learning from other fellow, and the incredible mentors and network I have assembled in the past year have advanced my leadership in three important and unexpected ways listed below.
Mastery & Competency: What has surprised me is that I finally feel “grown up” as a leader. I’m not sure if it’s because I unexpectedly lost my mentor this fall, and was “pushed out of the nest”, or if it’s because I’m working my way towards a significant birthday, or what exactly happened, but I feel much more competent, confident, and comfortable thinking of myself in the role of “expert”. It is with caution that I say that, as I feel like my learning and knowing are growing and changing literally every day. Still, I’ve crossed to feeling more like a mentor, more often, to more people, than a mentee. This newly found sense of assurance has made me more comfortable in taking more risks and putting myself out there and has taken away the feeling of “what do I know” or worrying I will be questioned or exposed as not knowing. I’ve had the experience more frequently that what I think and know is different and unique from others; which I forget until I share and it’s met with an enthusiastic response.
Shared Leadership: The greater the impact I want to make, the larger the geography, the larger the number of systems and people served, the more I: 1) let go of the need to know everything and 2) the need to do everything myself. As impact grows, control lessons. I’ve developed into a space of deeply valuing shared leadership and the idea of “everyone a changemaker”; moving away from building an organization and more solidly leaning into building a MOVEMENT! This requires radical partnership, bravely sharing power and information, and deeply believing what we create together is bigger and better than anything we could do alone or separately. This has required that I make diligent efforts to identify board members, staff members and partners who are smarter than me and can push my thinking further. That being said, I know that I don’t ever intend to work “for” someone again, but I am deeply interested in working with others to drive greater impact.
Trust: I’ve become more comfortable with not knowing and trusting that I will get what I need, when I need it. I’ve developed a deep faith in my role in what I call “carrying the baton” on this part of the journey. I’ve recently said that below are my current guiding bits of wisdom and core values on this journey:
The right people show up; it works out just as it should; we are all Divinely guided and protected; I will get what I need when I need it; right beats might; and in the end it will be okay, or it's not the end.
I’ve learned to better trust my gut, my partners, the Universe, and the outcome. I’m better regulated, I get less anxious or worried, and feel less responsible for the outcome and that my own worth or wellbeing is tied to the outcome. It is what it is; I do my best and that’s all I have to give.
In general, I feel more comfortable and more confident in my leadership. I feel more secure and assured about the future. I think that a great deal of this is due to my growth of my ideas from a service or a program to a population level intervention; from the development of demonstration projects or an agency to the creation of a movement. This feels bigger than me, like I’m along for the ride, just doing my part to advance the effort. In addition, I have become more aware of my own sustainability and the need to protect my health and energy in order to maintain the fortitude necessary to advance systemic-level change. I am becoming increasingly aware of the personal sacrifices and trade-offs necessary to commit to work of this magnitude. I am deeply grateful for the support, learning, and incredible opportunities afforded to me in the past year!