I am one year into my two year fellowship and what I did not anticipate was that my development as a leader would require a complete deconstruction process. Rather than it being a matter of taking the next step in my leadership development journey, I have had to go back and deconstruct what has gotten me here. While the behaviors and skills I have developed over the years have taken me far, they may not be what I need to take me to the next level. It is not a situation of applying more will, effort or force to take the next step in my leadership development, but rather has required that I go back and take stock as to whether what got me here still serves me and those around me. It is as if I have built a nice enough looking house and it served its purpose (shelter, warmth) but have now realized it was built on a shaky foundation. I am having to take it back to the studs rather than just add an addition. It is not a comfortable process- in fact it is really inconvenient! I realize though that without the Bush Fellowship, this would not be possible.
The focus on my fellowship was to develop as a female leader working in a male-dominated industry. To do this, I have been studying and learning from various women leaders. Among these women are Brene Brown, Pema Chodrin, Ruth Hayden, and Marcia Hyatt. As part of the Bush fellowship, we are required to work with an executive coach. I selected Macia Hyatt because of her years of experience with women leaders. She co-founded a women leadership development program in 1997 that is still in operation today. My work with Marcia has been a very inwardly focused, personal journey. Marcia uses the Enneagram which has been a helpful framework in understanding my leadership journey. Marcia has been guiding me through the deconstruction process. As part of this process, I have been working to identify, examine, and dismantle the mental models that inhibit my leadership development. The Enneagram provides a framework for identifying patterns and coping mechanisms that get established early in life which at the time help us survive. These characteristics have both good and bad aspects. However, there often comes a point in life where they outlive their usefulness and actually inhibit growth and development. When we started our coaching sessions, Marcia had me take the Riso-Hudson Ennegram Type Indicator (RHETI) to determine my type. My highest score was Type 9, the Peacemaker. As a Peacemaker, I am generally patient, calm, and easy-going and work to create harmony in my environment. I am also accommodating to a fault (or rather I have been in the past). However, real change requires some disruption. As Marcia says disruption is like "hell on earth" to a peacemaker.
Ruth Hayden taught me that generally in relationships women are socialized to believe that when there is a problem it is our fault. At the same time, men are socialized to think if there is a problem, it is the woman's fault. This gets us and keeps us in a feedback loop that results in resentment because we work hard to change ourselves but that doesn’t fix the problem. Getting out of the feedback loop sometimes requires us to disrupt systems. This is a very uncomfortable prospect for a Peacemaker! In my experience, when you begin to relate to people in a different way and disrupt patterns it is anything but peaceful. I am learning to live with the discomfort of those feelings. The job of a leader is rarely to make sure people feel comfortable.
In our monthly reflection reports for the Bush Fellowship, we are asked to talk about what practices we are engaging in to sustain our leadership. I always thought I did a good job of self-care but am realizing now that I have built a practice of having a minimum of needs of accommodating others and not being in touch with how I feel. It has been a challenge for me to think about self-care and I am embarrassed to admit that sometimes I don’t know what that means.
The other aspect of my leadership I have been focused on is developing during the past six-months is in the area of organizational finances. I have had the luxury of working with very competent CFO’s and in some ways have not developed in this area because I knew this was being taken care of by someone else. In March, I was selected to participate in Propel Non-profits Financial Leadership Cohort Program. The financial skills development and increase in my knowledge of non-profit financial management has led to increased confidence as a leader. It has been empowering to realize I can and am mastering this area. In my first log I talked about being on the Inclusion and Diversity subcommittee of the board of the Minnesota Council on Non-profits. Because of my background and experience, this was a comfortable place for me to serve. However, I decided that to further my leadership development, it would be useful to stretch myself in an area where I don’t feel so competent. In January, I transferred to the Finance and Fundraising Committee. I have realized it is similar to learning a new language, it requires repetition and practice.