It is very hard to believe my Fellowship is three quarters over, it does feel like it is in many ways just getting started. I have looked back at original goals and objectives of my leadership journey and have extreme gratitude for this incredible opportunity to reach these goals. When I first began this process, I wrote “This Fellowship will change the way I approach work and leadership by affording me the time, space, tools and structure to acquire and hone the analytical skills necessary for policy development and implementation, balancing and building upon my creative problem-solving approach and experience in addressing rural challenges. With an expanded knowledge base and peer network, new analytical tools and skills, and more opportunities to use and share them, provides the opportunity to enhance the way I view and exercise leadership in local, regional and national settings.”
As I reflected on those goals, I realized they were written from the mindset of being a leader in a non-profit organization. The real question of how my understanding of my leadership has changed to date, I believe has a lot to do with having the time to reflect, as well as permission to really focus on self-care. Adjusting to completely leaving a formal leadership position as an executive director in a small rural community has at times been difficult. However, it has allowed me to gain valuable perspective and start viewing my leadership not through the formal lens of an executive director, but rather as a person on a leadership journey.
It has also been very gratifying watching (now from a distance) the growth of two emerging young leaders at Lanesboro Arts, who are now part of a rural leadership team doing amazing work.
There are so many different leadership styles and philosophies but transitioning from the mindset or lens of leadership through an organization to the mindset and lens of personal leadership has been perhaps the biggest challenge – but also the biggest change in my understanding of my own leadership. When I first began this journey, I also wrote “I believe that leadership encompasses not only passion and expertise but also the judgment and integrity to lead in ways that allow others to grow beyond my expertise.” The Bush Fellowship has allowed me the time, the space and the resources to continue the transformative personal and professional journey I have begun.
Focusing on my own leadership has allowed me the opportunity to be more reflective. Having the opportunity to receive feedback as well as be pushed and challenged by coaching has also helped shape and change my outlook in how I approach leadership. It also has changed how I view “work”, meaning the mindset of work as a job or career vs. work being viewed through the lens of passion or purpose of goals and dreams.
It has been very heartening and extremely valuable to have the opportunity to read learning logs from other Bush Fellows and realize just how important self-care truly is. Talking about self-care is one thing, taking concrete steps to practice and realizing how crucial it is to sustaining not just leadership, but a life balance is quite another thing. In short, my view now of self-care has evolved from ‘one of the components or goals to follow’ to “the essential and critical role in sustaining a person’s ability to lead’. To me, self-care also means nurturing and seeking out what replenishes us, what inspires us, so that as leaders, we too can be sustained. I end with a quote from No Mud, No Lotus by Thich Nhat Hanh. “Maybe we have not been kind enough to our body for some time. Recognizing the tension, the pain, the stress in our body, we can bathe it in mindful awareness, and that is the beginning of healing.”