I remember the excitement and all the wonderful possibilities that raced through my mind when I received the email announcing I was awarded the Bush Fellowship. It was so energizing to meet my fellow Bush recipients, hear all the dreams and some of the stories from all the people with different backgrounds. It sounds like a cliché, but truthfully, the world was different then. How could we ever have imagined the whole world would change so dramatically in such a short time? Those of us that could see that this country was in turmoil never could have imagined the events that have taken place in the past 8 months. I have to be honest and say that it has been a most difficult time to be a Bush fellow. I have done some deep diving to be creative and make the most out of this opportunity when we are not able to leave our homes to travel, social distance daily and try to communicate with others without seeing them face to face. I have experienced great loss of people who were very dear to me due to the pandemic and grief is hard when you cannot hug or cry with friends and family or attend ceremonies as part of the healing process. I work in a field where we are exposed to the virus daily. Myself and my staff have knowledge and experience on what the virus can do and has done to family, friends, and community members. This knowledge creates the constant fear that today is the day I will catch the virus. After a hard, long day at work, I come home to the news of the daily events happening in this country and a different type of fear sets in. This fear is for the safety and well being of my children and grandchildren. Then I begin to pray for all those that are grieving and for all those feeling lost and my strength returns.
So how has my leadership changed through the fellowship with all that is happening around us in the world today? I live in the country on a small ranch along the Missouri River. I work in a small community within a tribal nation that expands 75 miles by 50 miles that is sparsely populated. During tis pandemic we are all very isolated from each other with none to rare community gatherings. This isolation has given me an opportunity to really do some self care and learn about myself as a leader. I have done some real growth these last few months which has reflected in the way I have lead my team through the most difficult times we will experience in our lifetime. If I were to teach a course or courses on how to be a great leader, I would begin with self awareness. During this time of isolation, I was able to become aware of my strengths and shortcomings and build on those as a new starting point for improving my leadership skills. Except that we are human and we make mistakes. Take ownership of these mistakes and embrace our own shortcomings. There are many things you can read about leadership in books, theories and types of leadership for different scenarios. Until you truly become self aware, you can only act out these practices and theories. I have seen this in action and have been able to recognize those who have true self awareness, hence my great leadership team at the hospital I work at. Self awareness began for me through self care. I began to develop self care doing things I never made time for such as becoming more aware of my surroundings and all that I am blessed with, taking time to develop healthier habits, really taking time to open myself up to listening to all the positive things the younger generation are developing and sharing my life experiences with up and coming leaders in the community. After quarantining for several days, my family and I rented a cabin in the Black hills for 5 days where we spent time isolated from everyone way out in the middle of the hills. We spent time praying in the heart of our creation stories. We prayed, played games, laughed, cooked, sat on the porch for hours solving the worlds problems. I came away from this trip a new and refreshed person and was able to pick up and move forward with a refreshed outlook on the horrifying events around us. Only when we take care of ourselves can we lead and care for others. Leadership starts with self awareness with a large dose of self care.
I went from being angry and ashamed of peoples actions and words to having pity. Pity for those that are lost and misguided. It makes feel empowered and blessed to be grounded in my beliefs and relationship with our creator, this earth, and my relationships with the wonderful people in my life. But all is not lost if we hold true to each other (LOL, a line from Lord of the Rings).