From Administration to Leadership: Answering My Call?

This is a modification of My NOW Era, a short paper written for my writing group that met on Friday, December 14, 2012.

Since 1999 I have been a member of a spiritual writing group that meets every month or two. Each time we agree on a topic for the next meeting, and the assignment for this meeting on December 14 was to write about some specific period of our life that has significance. I chose my NOW period, since it feels so alive for me. I have edited it somewhat for this blog entry.

My NOW Era

I have been riding the many ups and downs of the waves of my life these days. As I pause, as I am doing here, I feel inner excitement about an emerging sense of direction for my life.  This sense of direction is a bit overdue since I am now 70, but I am where I am, by the Grace of God.

Surprisingly, this emerging overarching sense of direction came on the heels of only a few days ago feeling my until-recently-unconscious bitterness and resentment toward most of the earlier eras in my life. Why bitterness when from the outside I have had such a grand life?  The bitterness came when I realized that throughout so much of my life I seemed to serve the needs of others (the Church, SDRC where I worked for 29 years, the United Way, to name a few) but in the process abandoned many of my own passions. “I,” and what wanted to manifest through me, were simply missing on many important levels, especially in my vocational life. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my life – very much so in fact. But I was not really following an inner sense of Calling and rather just following the crowd.

I am reminded of an incident early in my career during my stint as Vice President of Administration at SDRC. I had hired a high-priced management consultant and he and I worked for a week or more on seeing how I could align our organization to our vision and mission.  I thrived on this kind of project. But I’ll never forget the last day of his engagement with me. He announced to me that we had now done everything we needed to move the organization anywhere I wanted to take it. “So, Gary, where do you want to take it, what is your vision for SDRC?” I was shocked at his question. I realized I had never thought about that question and had no sense of where I wanted SDRC to go. All of my energy had been in supporting the founders and other leaders so that SDRC could go where they wanted it to go. I would help organize and administer, but I had never given a thought as to where I wanted SDRC to go or why.

I loved the organizational and administrative tasks and did them well. I even approached my three-and-a-half-year stint as CEO as an administrator rather than as a leader with vision. My heart was not in engineering or software or business – I held no passion for taking SDRC in any particular direction. Ditto my 30+ years at St. Paul Lutheran Church, my stint on the Board of Trustees of the United Way, and leadership roles in many other organizations. I worked hard, we got lots done, but it wasn’t part of my vision, my passion. My passions were realized in my avocations and hobbies, but not my vocation and career.

Then twelve years ago Pathwork found me and I swallowed Pathwork hook, line, and sinker. It was a spiritual awakening. However, as was my habit, I got heavily involved in administrative and organizational activities until today I find myself once again consumed in administrative stuff in serving as Treasurer on the Board of Trustees, Chair of the Finance Committee, member of the Executive Committee, and Chair of the Mid-Atlantic Pathwork Council. And, as with times earlier in my career, in these roles I have not focused so much on and certainly not committed to what I wanted for Pathwork and the organization but rather upon what others have wanted and envisioned. In fact I have been discounting my own ideas, which of course could go nowhere in the face of ideas of strong personalities in other positions of leadership.  Of course, as in my earlier careers, I have done well at the organizing and administrative functions in support of tasks others wanted accomplished. Yet the organization seems awash and not fulfilling its mission. And in some way I feel culpable.

In recent years one of our key staff administrators, in our private conversations, would consistently say that in her view I was one who held the true vision of Pathwork for Mid-Atlantic Pathwork. It has been hard to accept her view of me seriously and act on such a grandiose mission of leadership, a mission guided not by the vision of others but rather by MY own sense of vision for Mid-Atlantic Pathwork. Could I possibly take that on and commit myself to it?

Yet Moira, who has been my Pathwork Helper for three years, increasingly has been supporting my stepping into leadership rather than staying back in administration where I support the leadership and vision of others. Leadership, she reminds me, does not take as much time as all the administrative tasks I take on, but leadership builds on something deeper inside of me. “Gary, you are both a visionary and an organizer. That combination is powerful … and needed!”   So I hear Karen.  I hear Moira. And I realize I have never done something like this: lead an organization from my own inner sense of vision and mission.

Two days ago I awoke a 2:00 AM. I was very distressed and disquieted, but could not put my finger on why.  Was my body giving me a message about an impending illness? Was this anxiety an emotional reaction I was having toward situations or people? Neither of these seemed true.  Rather it seemed that on a deep level I was feeling the terror of daring to step out into my own true leadership role for this organization I have been a part of for twelve years. I felt a little like what I imagine Moses felt like at the burning bush – “No, God, not me! Send Aaron!”

Moira also offered other advice. “Gary, you cannot do this job alone. Let’s pause here, Gary. How do you feel about asking God (or Source, or the One, or Jesus Christ, or whomever you consider Ultimate) for help?” Her question immediately brought up another issue in me: I have a strong preference for taking this, or any job on by myself. I could feel my arrogance and pride. Me, need help? Never. Yet a deeper part of me knows I cannot do leadership alone, and not even with the help of my colleagues. Leadership depends upon wisdom from beyond my ego with its many but limited ideas and strong self-will. Ego may be able to do administrative and organizational tasks, but ego cannot provide true leadership. Leadership is new to me, so if I step into this role of leadership then personal growth from which I can learn to tap into a deeper wisdom will be essential, or I shall fail.

My 2:00 AM wake-up call led to my recalling a thought from a Pathwork lecture I had been listening to during my workouts over the past week (#234 Perfection, Immortality, Omnipotence — open relevant paragraphs). The key idea, applied here to leadership, was that leadership was not fixed or rigid. Rather, flexibility and spontaneity were the essence of true leadership – knowing when and how to be assertive when assertiveness was called for and conversely knowing when and how to yield and be flexible when flexibility was called for. Or as the popular song says, “Know when to hold and know when to fold.” This leadership is about riding the waves of Spirit as Spirit moves – sometimes mightily.

This Pathwork lecture was a dose of “supporting wisdom” coming to me from the outside, and it was not wisdom of my thinking ego. I was tapping into Divine Wisdom from without (the Pathwork wisdom) and from within (inner intuitive Truth awakened through resonance with the sentences of wisdom from Pathwork, or from numerous other sources, often including the bible, when familiar verses rise up at just the right time).

I am only vaguely aware of the magnitude of this job called leadership. Will I step into it, or retreat away from it? Just what is my Call as I embrace my NOW era, entering my eighth decade on the planet? How will I answer it? And how does my Call fit my evolving relationship with Pat and our phenomenal growth work with our Pathwork Couple’s counselors Sage and Anthony, and the many other good and worthwhile things I am into: my recording of another 400 pages of Pathwork material, my stepping formally into my role as a Pathwork Helper, my work developing Pathwork educational videos for my website, developing a Pathwork workshop with my Pathwork buddy Jenny (a workshop on growing through religious, psychological, and then spiritual awakenings – a topic I am quite interested in), helping to promote, and participate in a graduate-level Pathwork program, and more. And choosing from this rich palette of juicy life morsels all the while maintaining some modicum of connection with family and the various deep friendships I have and groups I belong to, to say nothing of the multiple residual administrative roles I still hold in Mid-Atlantic Pathwork.

Yes, as I look ahead into 2013 and beyond, my NOW era is the richest time of my life, holding potential for amazing personal growth on many levels. And who knows what other situations will show up to further my growth on planet earth? Some may not be welcomed. Some may be overwhelming. But this is my NOW era, and I look forward to entering it with ever-deepening consciousness – and, I pray, with God’s help. Or, more honestly, “I pray that I might pray for God’s help.”

Shared in love, Gary