May 2016

May 2016

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

When I think about what stands out the most for me so far on the journey to strengthen my leadership for not only myself but also to further the work I do for the community I serve there are several things that come to mind. I thought about how trauma impacts leadership. I thought about how navigating my leadership as a bi-racial woman looked different than just as a black woman. I thought about how important it was a leader to draw a line regarding where you stand on your values and not let these values actually work against your development or success.

When I started this journey, I knew my past was a reason I was in this work and the driver for why I wanted to stay in this work but I never took the time to think about how the trauma from my past affected my ability to reach my full potential as a leader. However over the last year, it has become increasingly apparent how my leadership potential is affected by past trauma.  I often find myself triggered in certain spaces, with certain professional relationships, and even at times working in my community I am fighting for. Although I have been to therapy, the process to heal takes extensive time. Time I feel that I do not have when the work I want to do has such a sense of urgency. This year taught me I needed to learn how to deal with triggers brought on by my past trauma. I need to stop dealing with what I carry with me and face healing head on. I just never really took the time to reflect on how the past could affect my potential to reach the level of growth I so yearned for. 

This year also taught me a lot about the need to navigate spaces and professional relationships differently than I never thought of before. Yes, I knew I was a woman and this brought a need to navigate differently and yes I was a black woman so this brought an additional need to navigate differently but I never thought of my white side bringing a need to navigate differently. I have always felt conflicted when talking about race and class. I knew race and class conversation for white people created a sense of being uncomfortable and I always felt a sense of sympathy for them having to feel uncomfortable.  I would always feel like a part of me could feel their pain and I knew I didn't want to. I didn't want to because I knew they never saw me for my white part. They only saw me as a black woman and I was always uncomfortable. So why should I feel bad for them? Yet, this year brought this to the surface for me. As I found myself in predominately white spaces being seeing only as the black mom I learned I had to be OK with not feeling sympathy for my white allies because have sympathy kept me from having very needed uncomfortable conversations about race and class. 

Although there was many other learning over the last year, the third one that sticks out is how to draw the line on how far you are willing to go in your fight for your cause based on your values. I did a lot of this work with my professional coach on this topic. She really helped me to identify what values I held that overlapped with both my personal work and my personal life. After doing this work with her we identified eight values that drive the person I am. The eight are as followed: Spirituality, Mothering, Education, Security/Safety, Personal Health, Equity, Community, and Success.  When I think about these values in relation to my leadership, I have learned they can be a strong motivator and they can also be the barriers to you reaching your full potential. For example, my need to serve my community, my value of education, and my value around mothering at times became a hindrance because I felt if I was not always there for people and meeting their needs then I was a failure. Most times this constant need to serve came at the cost of me giving up my value on personal health, mothering to my own to kids, and success. The most valuable lesson I have learned from this is I can’t honor any of my values without carving out time for my daughters and myself. Without doing so everything else in my life lacks real quality to produce the results I truly want to see and my desire to develop future healthy leaders is diminished because I am not modeling the values I claim to hold.