Leadership: “What is mine to do?”

TED-Branded-Complete“Leadership is the ability to create change,” explained Martin Luther King.   I long for change in the way we connect with each other and with the natural world so I know I need to step up as a leader. But ‘What is mine to do?’ 

Ko Papatūaānuku tena koe                Greetings to our earth mother
Ko te whare etu nei , tena koe           Greetings to this building
Ko ōku hoa mā, tēna koutou katoa  Greetings to all of you, my friends.

As I see it, First I need a super strong vision so as to gather in others to share a journey together. 

I’m tasked today to share details of my ‘leadership style’: that’s the ‘gathering others’ part.  To explain 3 ways I choose to show up as a leader, I’m going to use a superb model developed by David Emerald around relationships.  Healthy relationships he suggests can be viewed as a TED or Empowerment Dynamic Triange.  To explain three ways I choose to show up as a leader, I’ll be moving around the 3 vertices, being a CREATOR , being a CHALLENGER and being a COACH .

But first, my vision!  I hold to  2040 being the time when in my neighbourhood, my district and, (rather outside my current circle of influence as a leader) my world, we experience flourishing communities, flourishing ecosystems, flourishing children. We arrive at this flourishing because we humans put violence behind us. We eschew violence.

Tama tū, tama ora, tama noho, tama mate says the Māori whakatauki :
He who stands, lives; he who sits, perishes.

 ‘Anti-violence’ is the stand I take, and means I choose to reduce the violence of my actions on the world:
Its why I’ve shifted to a plant-based ‘vegan’ diet;
aspire to living zero waste going to landfill;
drive an electric car;
and it’s why I am studying Te Reo Māori, to understand more of how to truly be an ally and to address my own inbuilt institutional racism.

For the past 6 years I have been studying and practising ‘NVC’, non-violent communication, a way of  relating to others with respect, now practised by hundreds of thousands of people around the globe.  Yet, “There are many people,” says Miki Kashtan, advocate for non-violent communication and global systems change, “Who are committed to non-violence in action, far fewer are committed in word, and way far fewer to non-violence in thought.”

While practicing non-violence in my own communication and thoughts towards others and myself remains a work in progress, as a leader I choose to show up as a CREATOR. I’m a believer in the need to ‘synergize’.  Was anyone else inspired years ago by  ‘the 7 Habits of Highly Effective people’?  SYNERGY is habit 6, the creative energy that appears when 2 or more people focus on a challenge, be it someone’s personal challenge or challenges the Council seems unable to resolve. It’s the fun energy in  ‘brainstorming’, in  ‘blue sky thinking.’

Seeking that creative energy is why I recently to turn down a role leading a local community organisation. “I believe 2 heads are better than one,” I told the committee, “lets create a co-leadership role,”  but they can’t yet see past a single leader ‘at the top’.  IYears back, when my husband died, I ended up running a sizeable business alone.  It’s a lonely place at the top, embedded in patriarchal concepts.  I don’t believe its how  human beings function best.  In our changing world, organisations need the synergy that comes not from ‘power over’ but from ‘power with’.

Getting the best out of others can also mean being a CHALLENGER : a person who calls forth growth in others.  Being a challenger means using my assertive energy to get needs met without punishing, to support others in becoming responsible and accountable.

Yesterday , I respectfully asked a lady, “Please don’t take this personally,” I said, “But I do worry about wildlife”’ I began. As I walked towards here I’d notice her stubbing out and leaving here cigarette behind, so I asked whether she was aware that seabirds feed cigarette butts to their chicks which ide of starvation. As I was speaking, she simply went back and picked it up. Her choice, no malice, job done. I spoke up, she listened.  It took courage on my part, and that’s where my commitment as a leader to my vision works for me.

And as a challenger, I value seeing people move closer to the edges of their courage… its precisely at that edge that I believe we find our calling.

 This weaves in to what 84 year old retiring Silver Ferns coach , Dame Lois Muir, said this week, ‘A coach helps people discover themselves.’  Part of being a leader is to be a COACH.  How do I support others be the best they can be, to bring forth their gifts and vulnerabilities, qualities to make the world work for all of us?

One choice I make as a coach is no longer to use praise and compliments.  Through my studies in NVC,  I see praise as a tool to  manipulate, to reward compliance and to perpetuate cultures of dominance, of judgment,  of ‘power over’ (watch this space for my next speech!)

As I lean into the role of leadership alongside others, new threads of understanding  weave in.  For now, I feel called to lead others into a flourishing 2040 by showing up as a CREATOR, A CHALLENGER and a COACH, standing firmly in the call to ‘anti-violence’.    I believe, in these challenging times, each one of us is called to respond in leadership in our own unique way to that question the universe puts to us, ” What is mine to do?“

(First presented as a speech to Topstart Toastmasters  Kerikeri  11 June 2020)

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