Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Stark Beauty of November and Transformative Leadership

November is here. November the remembrance month; November the just-before-December month; November the month my father and his twin brother were born 89 years ago. There are many things I love about this month but the thing I'm thinking about today is how under-appreciated the month of November is. Perhaps because it stands in the shadow of bright and glittery December, it claims so little fame. Yet it has a full moon like every other month, each day brings its surprises in weather (in the countryside, the snow now clings determinedly to the ground), it has more or less the same number of days that the other months have. So why do we relegate it to a place of so little importance?
I just returned from Vancouver where it was less stark than my own Northern terrain (as seen in these photographs). There, it rained for three days yet leaves still clung to the trees. I saw a bush with tiny purple-beaded berries. I walked in the district of Strathcona and enjoyed the colours of the clapboard houses. I found a tea shop where a lovely young woman explained the various teas and treated me like I was royalty. I attended a wonderful conference titled “Transformative Leadership” led by two friends. Throughout the three days, the facilitators asked us to reflect on our own learning, but somehow I found that a challenge. I was still so immersed in the experience and it was too early for me to say. But now that I'm home, I have a better idea of my learning. True learning, as we all know, happens outside of the classroom, outside of the conference, outside of what we normally associate with learning. However, if the classroom or the conference room successfully engages us, we will then take the ideas that cling to our minds and our hearts and move towards planting those seeds. And yes, this conference most definitely did that for me. It filled me with ideas for communication and helped me connect with my own values. From what I could observe, the experience was equally enriching for the others as well. And what a wonderful group of “others”, I must say. This was a group of genuine-hearted people who are looking to lead from a place of service and kindness. Wow! This could change the world, could it not? Imagine if all of our politicians, all of our teachers and lawyers and spiritual leaders and so on, led from a position of kind service? This is no small thing. This is taking our world and seeing it through a kaleidoscope, where broken pieces become patterns of beauty. Yes, seen in this light, leadership is of the utmost importance.

True be told, there's a tension in me around the word “leadership.” I want to be able to share my passion for creativity with others and so I find myself in leadership roles. But not because I crave it. If anything, I crave time alone; to reflect and daydream. If anything, I would rather not feel responsible for others (unless those 'others' happen to be my own family.) But this discomfort with leadership may be that I've narrowly defined the word “leadership.” And this is my new true learning from the conference: that we are all leaders, after all. Do we not have someone in our lives— a child, a parent, a friend, someone who is interested in what we have to say? Interested in our actions? Interested in our stories? If there is one single person aware of our words or our actions, then we are a leader. My sister once said, “Everything you do is a statement.” And I would add “the things we do not do are also a statement.” November is a perfect month for dancing with such thoughts and ideas. The sky is grey, making colours of thought or feeling seem all the brighter.