May 2016

May 2016

Updated by
Elena Gaarder

What stands out to you/has surprised you about your leadership development through the Fellowship to date? 

“Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart…..let yourselves be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.”—Rumi 

As I sit in reflection around the first twelve months of my fellowship, it amazes me how quickly time passes. Thinking of the days after receiving news of the fellowship, the heartfelt congratulations sent my way and the people I met in the past moths fills me with joy. I continue to be humbled and grateful.  I also continue to grow as leader, with a number of interesting insights along the way.

“It Takes A Village to Raise a Leadership Fellow”

Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to travel across the country to learn, share and build networks in order to expand my leadership around community wealth building models.  Each time I prepare to travel, I have to call on the collective resources of family, friends, coworkers and colleagues to support some component of each site visit, panel discussion or training. Whether it’s a ride to the airport, a house (and dog) sitter, a coworker to cover a meeting or an introduction by a colleague to someone across the country doing powerful work,  it has been a collective effort.

When I started on this journey, it hadn’t occurred to me the extent to which others would be traveling with me. So often when we think of leadership, we think of the “I” rather than the “we”. While the fellowship has provided me with the space to look inward and sharpen my leadership skills, the reality is that I cannot do it alone.  None of us can.

This holds true when you consider the efforts required to create systems change. It will take multiple skill sets, cultural perspectives, leaders and resources to shift our economic system towards local and broadly shared wealth.  It requires people to acknowledge differences while at the same time moving towards the collective good of “the village”. To this end, I’ll be deepening my communication skills, prioritizing relationship and network building as key focuses for the second half of my fellowship journey.

“The Art of Leadership”

As part of the first year of my fellowship, I had the opportunity to attend a week-long leadership program through the Rockwood Leadership Institute called the “Art of Leadership.”  Leaders from across the country traveled to a beautiful ranch in the Sonoma, CA to do a deep and personal dive into the practice of leadership. During the program, I was again surprised by this theme of the “I” and the “we”.

Leadership, as defined by Rockwood is “the [my] ability to inspire and align others to successfully achieve common goals.” Within the framework, each of Rockwood’s practices; purpose, vision, partnership, resilience, performance and personal ecology, focus on how the “I” impacts the “we” in the context of leadership.  Partnership for example, “to build and maintain strong interdependent relationships in order to advance our vision,” clearly articulates this message. So to be effective and have lasting impact in community, I must sharpen my skills in each of the areas.  

The thinking around the practices of resilience and personal ecology stood out for me the most. “Shifting from a place of reactivity to resourcefulness in moments of stress” and “maintaining balance, pacing and efficiency to sustain energy over a lifetime of activism and service” are quite possibly my biggest challenges as a leader. The urgency I bring to the work does not serve me or others well. This particular lesson in my leadership journey was humbling but necessary.  Although there are growing economic disparities in our communities and an urgent need for new ways of thinking and doing business, coming at the work with an unattainable pace and constant sense of pressure will not produce a lasting impact.  To be able create spaces for shared learning and shared understanding requires balance and patience. These are skills that I must cultivate to be an effective leader. 

Fortunately, I’m also participating in the Wilder Foundation’s Shannon Leadership Institute where I can take the lessons from Rockwood and incorporate into a leadership renewal plan. During the Shannon Institute, each participant is required to develop and present a plan for how to sustain their leadership practice. Through this process, I can receive support from my cohort in thinking through what tangible strategies, learning opportunities and wellness practices I can put in place in order to approach my leadership with a strong sense of resilience and personal ecology.