Lessons in Leadership
Yesterday, Saturday, August 18, at 6:35 AM, my friend Karen, our Mid-Atlantic Pathwork School Administrator, passed away, peacefully in her room in her residence on the Sevenoaks property. The timing was perfect in the sense that 13 leaders from our Mid-Atlantic Pathwork Helper community were meeting at Sevenoaks this weekend for our annual faculty discernment retreat. Yes, we 13 were meeting on the Sevenoaks property when Karen’s spirit chose to leave her body.
The news of course was shocking for all of us, but at the same time the experience of community was profound for all of us as well. And we found ourselves not so much mourning Karen’s death as honoring Karen for all she has meant to us individually and collectively. We could hold and support each other. And we could discern what our next steps would be over these next days, weeks, and months as we move forward without the support of all that Karen has done for us down through the years of her ever-present service to Pathwork and to Sevenoaks.
In March, when Karen knew she was up against cancer, Karen and I had met and talked about her sense of what the future of Pathwork could be. It was a deep and heart-felt exchange. During this 2-hour meeting in her office she had given me a multi-faceted crystal that for her represented our Mid-Atlantic Pathwork community. She said she had brought this crystal to every helper retreat she had attended down through the years. It held a place on the altar for these retreats, and in between was on her altar at home. Her words to me as she handed me the crystal were, “Gary, you need to have this. You carry the vision of Mid-Atlantic Pathwork.” I was at once honored and yet perplexed. How could she see me as one who carried the vision for our community?
On Friday evening, the first day of our retreat and while Karen lay peacefully in her bed during her final hours of life among us under the watchful eye of a few dear friends, I placed this crystal on the altar and shared a bit of what Karen had said about seeing my leadership in our Helper community. It was awkward to share with the group of helpers Karen’s sense that I held a place of leadership and vision when I have not yet “claimed full helpership,” but on the other hand she and I had spent many hours discussing, and usually agreeing on, a vision for MAP. I was just so hesitant to declare this role, fearing my own pride and arrogance would be revealed in the process. No, I would be more comfortable holding back.
On Saturday morning, the second day of our retreat and after we had digested and processed many of our feelings both grieving and honoring and appreciating all that Karen has been for us, I spoke more about the crystal and my role in leadership. I also shared my resistance to leadership. Like Moses before the burning bush, I was saying, “NO, oh God, send someone else!”
A little later Saturday morning a member of the group offered that while Karen had given the crystal to me it was really for the entire group. She suggested a shared leadership and asked if I would be willing to pass the crystal around so that each person at our helper retreat could feel into its energy and impart his or her own energy to the crystal. Of course I agreed (how could I not?) and passed it around.
But after Karen’s crystal was passed around and returned to its place on the altar, I shared with the group that I noticed a place in me that did NOT want to pass the crystal around, a prideful place in me that wanted to be the leader, the “head of the pack” so to speak. While I was ashamed of this prideful energy, I welcomed its presence, felt its aliveness in me, and felt better for having shared this prideful place in me with the group. Yes, for a moment I could accept my foibles, my limitations in being “merely and utterly human.”
The rest of Saturday was very frustrating to me. I was like a deer in the headlights in dealing with almost all that was going on as we discussed picking up the pieces of all that Karen has been doing over recent weeks and what had to happen as we now moved forward. All during the day I was easily confused and seemed not able to track what was going on in the group.
And I wanted to present a visioning framework I had created over recent weeks. I had spent hours on it, had shared it with a few Council members, and felt it would be helpful in establishing context for all that we were about. On the way in I had stopped at Staples and spent $35 to make copies of this presentation and had brought the projector along so I could present the framework. I had energy and excitement for doing this.
But this is not where the gathering was led. One senior helper suggested to me that instead of my presenting the framework it might be better for people to share where they were individually in their own Pathwork outreach and service and then afterwards I could present my framework to show how I saw these pieces all fitting together. I could see the wisdom in this approach, but yet the time allotted to this process was taken up by this sharing and there was no time (or interest) in looking at my framework. As so often happens when I have a presentation for the helper group, I left my projector in the car and threw out my $35 worth of handouts. I was confused, angry, and discombobulated. Why was I not to present my framework to the group?
Then when we entered the discernment process for our faculty for next year I felt completely awash. Not only was I not “leading,” I was confused by what was happening. This was very disharmonious energy in me. I felt disconnected from the group, and I could feel that I was withdrawing my energy and disassociating from the process going on around me. As I sat there in my confusion I remarked to myself silently, “Me lead? You have got to be kidding!” I was feeling fear and anxiety and frustration – nothing at all like the “leader” I thought I was supposed to be.
Then this morning, Sunday morning, the last day of our retreat, sitting in meditation on the deck of Center Building at Sevenoaks, I could feel a bit of wisdom come in. Perhaps my definition of leadership was an image of what leadership ought to be, and not at all what true leadership is! What I saw was a deeper leadership arising, a leadership from…
• Presence vs. Distancing, being ahead of the pack
• Humility vs. Superiority
• Not knowing vs. Knowing
• Sharing Leadership vs. Alpha-Male Leadership
• Engagement vs. Isolation
• Receiving vs. Giving
• Heart vs. Head
• Letting and encouraging others to help vs. Doing it all myself
• Asking “Who else can do what I am about to do?” vs. Doing it myself
• Listening vs. Talking
• Being Slow and deliberate vs. Being Quick and “shooting from the hip”
• Being Clueless when I am clueless vs. Being Brilliant when I am clueless
• God’s will vs. My will be done
• Discerning Spirit’s movement vs. Controlling
I could see that while my mind is not big enough to lead, my heart is big enough. So true leadership is, perhaps, all about HEART-Leadership rather than HEAD-Leadership. Or rather BOTH/AND – a balance of Head and Heart, but the Head and Heart of my Divine Essence, not the head and heart of my limited ego.
I walked away from this meditation and stepped into my day with a deep sense of Peace.
Shared in love, Gary
PS Click here to see the presentation I did not present. In all honesty I can see the wisdom in not presenting it. Perhaps it is just to clarify my own thinking, or to be shared in more of a one-to-one situation.