I have been thinking so much about leadership and pace and how that has popped up so much for me throughout my fellowship. The pace of work, the pace of expectations, the pace of conversation, and for sure the pace of needing to pivot which has only heightened in the last year with COVID. I have learned to not become as attached to a strategy and outcome as I used to. That was something that I already was experiencing and learning before COVID, and COVID just further pushed that as all the goals and outcomes for 2020 got delayed or altered. What surfaced for me in the last year with both COVID and being pregnant and having a baby, is that it is not the tangible/concrete strategy and tactics to have attachment to and base my leadership in, it is the ability to hold principles and values and mission and know when it is okay to change strategy in relationship to that and know when to admit that previous strategy was misguided, misplaced, or simply needs to change due to new factors. I am still wrestling with how leadership is both being present and all the unseen. With being pregnant during the pandemic, I worked mostly remotely due to being high risk, a benefit I am deeply grateful for. I started coming back into the office and being on site after almost a year. Much of our staff greeted me with excitement and congratulations and asked how it was to be off for so many months. I found part of me wanting to say, oh I have been working. And then realizing that that was about a need to receive credit and be seen. I pushed myself to hold back and instead listen to what our staff’s experience and lives have been like, as my leadership is not about proving I have been working.
Going back to the concept of pace, a colleague recently recommended a Hidden Brains episode called “Why Conversations Go Wrong.” A key takeaway was that different cultures and regions will have different accepted lengths of pause in conversation. Some people may interject after 3 seconds whereas other may interject at 5 seconds, and that difference can lead to interpretation of being interrupted or vice versa not being engaged. This seems minor but it has had a deep impact on my thinking about pace. Pace of conversation can lead to feelings of disconnect and misunderstanding and then mid trust. At the beginning of the Bush Fellowship, we did the Intercultural Development Inventory and I have often come back to those learnings in terms of my privilege and leadership. In taking the IDI, I assumed I would be on the open-minded and progressive side of things and found that I was less open and able to listen than I thought. I learned that I often hear someone’s experience and then try to immediately relate and jump in with my own experience, thus resulting in not really listening and centering the conversation back on me as a white woman. This podcast resonated so much in terms of that training and looking how to create inclusive and equitable workplaces. The piece I keep needing to push into is thinking about these things in terms of my leadership. I feel tired by it and yet the necessity. I think my pace can leave people confused. And because of my position, my flexibility or openness can feel unsafe or unsure as people don’t know where I stand. For others those traits may feel empowering. So I am sitting in the yes and of it all and working to slow my pace and listen in terms of my leadership.
In relation to not becoming attached to strategy, I have noticed that I am more comfortable in my expertise and experience as a leader in my field both of recycling and zero waste as well as small business and social enterprise. I was interviewed by the New York Times and CNBC this past week on why Paid Family Medical Leave and Child Care Infrastructure matter to small business. I have been participating on several multi-stakeholder councils at the national level related to plastics pollution. In this context, I am finding that imposter sense is disappearing as I feel the benefit of my expertise and instead of needing to prove my knowledge it is about figuring out how that applies to solving some very challenging and complex issues. I think this sense has laid the groundwork for my self care. Admittedly, self care was challenging with my 4 year old home for much of the pandemic and then having a baby. The one consistent thing that has worked is not doing work or checking email for one day a weekend. I really need to turn my brain off and be present with my family. As I finish this up, both my kids are throwing up for the third day and instead of trying to do work calls and emails while rocking them, I just canceled everything today. I kept saying to myself, that is self care that is self care.