Another project that has been taking up a lot of my discretionary pro bono time is taking a coordinating role on the Core Host team organizing the upcoming April 29th Vancouver evening event with Meg Wheatley. We expect to be sold out this week, and are looking forward to a incredible evening of stimulating and inspiring inquiry into how women can step forward more fully with the gift of leadership in service of community. One hundred percent of the funds raised by this event will support the work of The Berkana Institute; click on the link to see the work with women and men in Latin America, Africa, Asia and North America. Along with an amazing local organizing group, we are also in the process of setting up a social network site for pre- and post- event connection and follow-on project work. We also intend to host whoever is interested in further conversation following an Art of Hosting format (World Cafe, Open Space, AI, Dialogue) – stay tuned!
This message by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (author of Women Who Run with the Wolves) seems perfect as we move into the darkest and longest days of the year: “there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here.” This is the full text:
“My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.
You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.
I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind. Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.
In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails. We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?
Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.
One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these—to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.
There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.”
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D
Author of the best seller Women Who Run with the Wolves
“We are crossing the river by feeling for stones.” Deng Xiaoping on reform in China
“What does it mean to be a leader in complexity? It means accepting that certain aspects of our work are inherently unknowable. It means accessing the wisdom in our communities, rather than being the ‘Big Brain’ leader who provides the wisdom. It means not beating up on ourselves when we can’t figure something out. Leadership in complexity requires different skills than traditional models of leadership. It requires us to think of leadership as inquiry, and this in turn means that we need to think much more critically about the kinds of questions that we ask. It may not be the answers that need changing, but the questions.” Brenda Zimmerman, Getting to Maybe: How the World is Changed
“There is no greater power than a community discovering what it cares about. Ask “What’s possible?” not “What’s wrong?” Keep asking. Notice what you care about. Assume that many others share your dreams. Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters. Talk to people you know. Talk to people you don’t know. Talk to people you never talk to. Be intrigued by the differences you hear. Expect to be surprised. Treasure curiosity more than certainty. Invite in everybody who cares to work on what’s possible. Acknowledge that everyone is an expert in something. Know that creative solutions come from new connections. Remember, you don’t fear people who’s story you know. Real listening always brings people closer together. Trust that meaningful conversations change your world. Rely on human goodness. Stay together.” Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers, A Simpler Way, Berrett-Koelher Publishers
What type of leadership is needed for wise outcomes to emerge from the engagement of communities and organizations? Some friends and colleagues are meeting this week in Belgium to ponder this question. I was also at a conference this week – “Changing Community Systems through Collaboration” where in many ways the same question was being asked. And the answer they came up with is about the importance of letting go of the ‘expert’ leader model and of inviting instead, diverse stakeholders to grapple with best solutions to complex issues along with them. Margaret Wheatley says,
“A leader is anyone who wants to help at this time. In fact, in this day and age, when problems are increasingly complex, and there simply are not simple answers, and there is no simple cause and effect any longer, I cannot imagine how stressful it must be to be a leader and to pretend that you have the answer. And a life-affirming leader is one who knows how to rely on and use the intelligence that exists everywhere in the community, the company or the school or the organization. And so these leaders act as hosts, as stewards of other people’s creativity and other people’s intelligence. And when I say host, I mean a leader these days needs to be one who convenes people, who convenes diversity, who convenes all viewpoints in processes where our intelligence can come forth. So these kinds of leaders do not give us the answers, but they help gather us together so that together we can discover the answers.” >Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World, Berrett-Koehler Publisher
Recently I clarified my work purpose with the help of a wonderful coach. It summarizes down to this: To help advance human capacity to work together and co-create a desirable future. My specific contribution is primarily to design, facilitate, and teach about – effective, empowering, and inspiring processes where groups, organizations and communities can discover and take positive action towards wholeness, deeper purpose and possibility.
There are many others in the world with a similar focus and intent. The Collective Wisdom Initiative is just such a virtual community. Their Declaration of Intent states: “We know that people in groups can consciously generate collective wisdom and that individuals can cultivate their capacity to receive, to hear and to amplify wisdom in the communities they are called to serve. By coming together in groups to consciously generate collective wisdom, we believe we have the potential to heal conflicts that seem impossible to heal; embrace with compassion polarities and paradoxes that tear the fabric of our psyches and communities; and cultivate our capacities to love and forgive in groups splintered and polarized. We come together as artists, educators, mystics, practical idealists, scholars, activists, and especially pragmatists, bringing forward some of our own light and seeking to do together what is not possible alone.”
The growing list of dedicated world servers on this site is uplifting, and I am honoured to have my co-authored piece on their website: Co-Creative Power: Engaging Stakeholder Networks for Learning and Innovation.