Friday, March 26, 2010

Leadership 101: Conscious Leadership

In my last post I wrote in generalities about what it means to be an erotic hostess. What was missing from that post is what it means to be a conscious community leader.

I used to say that my first 8 years working in the non-profit world was leadership boot camp. I worked in direct support of Executive Directors and Boards of Directors for multiple organizations. Most of my experiences were learning from the failures that come from a lack of consciousness. In one case I witnessed an organization’s leadership fail do the necessary work to raise the money to be sustainable and was eventually laid off (as was the Executive Director). In another organization I witnessed the Executive Director, who was remarkable at keeping the money flowing but out of touch with day-to-day operations, come in and make careless decisions that created a dysfunctional culture. I witnessed another Executive Director rule through a tyranny of fear, creating a frightened and depressed culture. I have witnessed Board members who were more interested in the clout associated with Board service than they were in actually doing the work needed for an organization’s success. I have witnessed political and personal conflicts combined with unhealthy communication practices create cultures of tension, fear and heartache. Out of the six organizations I worked for, only one had strong leadership and a healthy culture, and even that organization then hired a new ED who was great at networking and creating a great image, but terrible at people management. She felt putting the money into a pretty building was more important than retaining the positions and people providing direct services.

I have learned that conscious leadership* is vital to an organization’s overall health. I have learned that people are an organization’s primary resource and the one that is most mismanaged. I have learned that the traditional business model that believes being professional means leaving your feelings at the door is unhealthy and unrealistic. The emotional does matter and it matters more than anything else, especially in community service. If people don’t feel good about the work they are doing, or the place they are doing it in, then they will not be capable of making a positive difference in the lives of those that they serve. If an organization’s culture is dysfunctional, it will not have an effective impact on the community. If it is funded by donations and client services, a negative culture will have great difficulty attracting donors and clients for long-term survival. If it can survive because its services are government funded and vital to human welfare, it will not have people who deliver services with kindness and compassion. Employees who are afraid, depressed, and burned out are going to pass on that culture to their clients.

Now I realize that those first 8 years were more like leadership internships and now I am actually in boot camp. Since I started leading the Impropriety Society two years ago, I have attempted to take everything I have learned about conscious leadership and apply it to our decision making processes, especially in regards to managing people and navigating relationships where the lines blur so much between the professional and the personal. Due to the complex nature of working with identity, sex and relationship, we have to make decisions that other businesses or organizations don’t have to consider. We have had to make staffing decisions that are not based on professional qualifications, but whether someone is capable of healthy communication and facilitating a safe emotional space for others. We have had to deny volunteers leadership positions because they have issues around sobriety. Our decisions have to be emotionally healthy if we are to facilitate as safe environment possible (knowing there is no true safety) for people to explore their deepest issues around identity, sex and relationship.

What I am learning is that being a good leader isn’t about your professional qualifications or expertise. It isn’t about life experience or having all the answers. Conscious, healthy leadership is about one’s willingness to take responsibility for everything – the successes and the failures, the practical logistics and the emotional culture – in an organization, as well as in one’s own life. It is about having the motivation to think about every word that you say and every action that you take and how it will affect others. It is about taking the time to study those who have succeeded and work to implement what you have learned into your own practices. It is about being willing to make every effort, fail, and then have the humility to apologize and make an even better effort the next time around.

It is my goal to be a conscious leader and encourage conscious leadership practices within the Society. I believe bringing consciousness to everything that we do is what makes us a revolutionary organization.
* Dictionary Definition of Consciousness - awake, thinking and aware of what is happening around you.

Seven Attributes of Conscious Leadership

1. Provides authentic, values-based leadership
2. Clearly aware of people and situations from many angles
3. Consistently demonstrates the ability to listen on multiple levels
4. Balanced in their thinking with an observer’s hat on – aware of their own biases and emotional investment in the outcome
5. Heightened ability to communicate on many levels
6. Intrinsically validates and engages others
7. Ability to model and coach others in Conscious Leadership

1 comment:

Dave Berman said...

Every post here makes me feel more devoted to the Imps community. Your conscious leadership is working!