Carol A. Hand
There are so many examples of public figures who promote selfishness and mean-spirited stupidity these days. They see themselves as “leaders,” and many aspire to become president of the United States. Often when we hear the word “leadership,” it connotes an image of hierarchy, with leaders at the apex of a pyramid, the opposite of teamwork.
These notions of leadership make me think about the opposites – the principles that underlie visionary transformation to create inclusive healthy communities around the world. From my perspective, leadership is a responsibility all of us are capable of shouldering in our respective positions. It’s a way of life that doesn’t necessarily mean standing on the top of a hierarchical organizational structure or on a stage.
Photo: With Former Students at Their Graduation Celebration
Acting from a sense of integrity and responsibility doesn’t necessarily mean being understood or being popular.
“Why are you so different? You think you’re better than we are.”
“I think it has to do with you being fiercely independent, with a little dose of willful stubbornness!”
“I’m sorry for all of the mean things I did to you before. You’re the kind of person I always wanted to be. I just wanted to hurt you because I was jealous.”
Why would anyone choose this? Leaders in traditional Ojibwe culture were born into this lonely life without any guarantees that people would listen to them. They had to earn people’s trust and affection through their generosity, diplomacy, even-handedness, integrity, and wisdom. It was a life of training to learn how to listen to and care for others, to scan the environment for opportunities and threats, and to carry responsibility for bringing people together to assure community survival.
These are the principles about leadership that I learned from my mother’s example:
- Respect for self and others based on a belief that people are in essence basically good and capable of great kindness and contributions;
- A sense of responsibility for developing our own potential and using it to make the world a kinder place for all;
- Self-awareness – knowing and accepting our own strengths and limitations;
- The capacity to value and acknowledge the strengths of others without feeling the need to compete or bring them down;
- Empathy and compassion for others, both those who are suffering and those who cause suffering for others. (Those who cause suffering are often hurting, too, in ways that may not be visible.)
These are just my morning reflections today. Perhaps I’ll share examples from my years in community practice and teaching in future posts…
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