Reflecting back on this entire year that I have now been focusing on my leadership development. I cannot believe the tremendous amount of learning that I have participated in and inwardly looked at my leadership. I participated in Rockwood Leadership Institute's Year Long fellowship (Leading from the Inside Out). The fellowship supported me to push my boundaries, own the power and abilities that I had already. The fellowship enabled me to claim what I often have overlooked or put to the side, which is my knowledge, voice and presence. I learned from a close colleague, now friend in a spiritual retreat that I needed to take up the space that is already felt by others in the room. I take so much time making myself small in the presence of others because I want to lift up others' leadership and voice that I forget that people are also waiting for me to claim what is mine. I learned through Rockwood to focus and harness on what I am already good at doing and deepen those skills further. I felt like I had to learn and improve in areas I was not good in before I can become a capable leader but this learning to focus on deepening and widening my strengths helped me not feel so overwhelmed. It definitely helped me show up in spaces differently by claiming my space and claiming the power that I have to influence and push others. So, it was not a far fetched idea to strengthen what skills I am already good at doing because even with those skills I have not fully implemented or used them to the best of my abilities. It was affirming to see that there were many leaders out there who were in similar or same space as me in their leadership development. Each one of us had our own unique struggles around leadership development but we also shared the similar/same fears, doubts or suspicion about our own abilities as leaders. Developing a mantra to help ourselves tackle our fears, doubts or suspicion was helpful to me as I re-iterate this power mantra to myself every once in a while. The mantra helps me care for my doubts that I have about my leadership skills. The mantra helps me show up fully claiming what is mine to own and still be humble about lifting up others voices and leadership. Additionally, the coaching that I found for myself helped me internalize my skills further and allowed for me to process my own thoughts about what leadership means. Having a coach really helped me feel supported and secure in claiming my leadership capacity more.
I said at the beginning of this journey that this fellowship would be an opportunity for me to invest in me, that is exactly what happened in this year long journey so far. I got to invest and focus on me; my skills; my leadership; my relationships; my wholeness, etc. At times along the last few months I felt selfish that I was not engaging enough of community or building enough of community, so I had to talk myself to the place of knowing that it is ok for me to take this time to do this learning. That this learning I did over this last year was just a pause in my work not a re-shift in direction of my work nor am I walking away from the work necessary. I had to say that it was "ok" and necessary for me to continue developing the work and others' leadership that I needed the time to look at myself in the mirror more closely and that may mean people get left behind and some work gets paused. I learned not to constantly respond and react in my work but rather I came to the place of being more strategic about what decisions and actions to take in the work. Learning to create impact but without having to constantly respond or react is a practice that I am learning and continuing to learn to prolong my energy in the work. I have seen many leaders fall into this pit of constantly moving and then becoming overwhelm and crashing down hard. This was something I was careful to not want to have happen to me.
In light of knowing this now, I learned that my leadership also meant caring for my physical health, spiritual health, mental health and emotional health and more importantly that it is important to ask for what I need support with. Something I was not particularly focused on too much in this journey but learned along the way accidentally that the wholeness of who I am as a person is important to how I show up, respond and act as a leader. I say accident because I was invited to participate in a spiritual learning journey with some other folks from across the country. Spirituality was something that I had not thought about in leadership development but the way my colleague who convened us talked about it was in a broader and non-finite terms. She was not defining spirituality in the way we typically associate to spirituality but to our development as leaders and the gifts we bring to others -- the deep sense of knowing and following within ourselves in our spirituality was defined from what I understood, but I am still not sure if that is how she defined it. This spiritual knowing helped me pay attention to again the way I show up in space; how I relate to others; how I lead others; and how others are willing to chose to follow me. We talked about energy and how to replenish our energy without feeling bad like we could not as I shared previously. Leading is about utilizing the energy we have to give and share with others, it is not about what energy reserve or stored energy we have to use for others but really looking at understanding our capacity to hold space for others. In this I learned that as leaders sometimes when we are constantly in reacting mode we are running on adrenaline, which is energy that sparks but does not last long. This adrenaline energy is short lived and burns us out fast; again something I saw happened to other leaders. I learned to intimately listen to my energy more so I can learn to expend it with others. Going back to the wholeness of my health and learning to slowly focus on my physical health something that I have often overlooked and put to the side as long as I keep breathing I am moving that is all I knew in my leadership. Caring for my physical health is very relevant to how I show up in my wholeness and with others. I am slowly learning to take steps to care for my physical health, not sure what that looks like but will be working on this practice this next year in my fellowship. I think my emotional and mental health fair pretty well as I have people who support them and I know how to draw boundaries to not internalize others' issues or problems. Learning to know what to let go and what to hold onto was something I have thought about and practiced much in my leadership journey regarding emotions. Overall, wellness is vitally important to my leadership and how I lead or the impact that I can make, if I am not well in any of these areas above then I will not be able to fully show up. This is what it meant to do self-care for me throughout this last year, which again was something that I did not think about previously. I thought self care was just ensuring I took the time to decompress; spend with family; build and nurture relationships -- that again it was not about spirituality and physical health. Now I understand that in claiming my fullness and power as a leader it means claiming my wholeness in wellness too.