I stepped into the Impact Hub building on 7th street NW at a little after 9:30 am, and I whispered a short prayer, “Dear Jesus, help me understand the point of the past four days in this program.”
Lo and behold, 45 minutes after 2 pm that afternoon, the light bulb turned on and something clicked.
She made the statement, “Our world needs better leadership,” and in the moments right after she uttered those words, every speaker and activity over the course of the last five days coalesces into a tangible whole, and settled deep within me. And in the aftermath of connecting the dots, I, for the first time, opened up my heart and trusted that a room full of strangers had my back and were willing to challenge me while also rooting for me to win. In opening up my heart, I realized I also laid my prejudices and bias down.
Don’t get me wrong; I had a great time at the StartingBloc Fellowship Institute.
I spent five days in October in a room with a little over 100 people, and we were inducted into the StartingBloc Fellowship on the last day. I made great connections and learned a lot, but all five days, I struggled. I wasn't connecting with the content, I couldn’t figure out how the content connected together and I was lost on what it meant for my life and career. Something felt off. I was present physically, but all week long, I felt like the real me was floating above looking down and asking, “what the fuck is this all about really?”
I was introduced to StartingBloc by a good friend who was part of the L.A. ’17 institute. She had raved about it and encouraged me to give it a try. So I did. She also said to lay all my expectations down, go in with an open mind and be ready to party. However, I am Type A, and I rarely apply for anything or go to a networking event without a plan or an intention. I took her advice to mind, but I still wrote my intentions for my week down though I wasn’t even sure what the program intended for me.
Does that ever happen to you? You step into something knowing what it is, but also not knowing, even when the information is right in front of you. The statement, “Our World needs Better Leadership,” is one I had heard and read over and over and over again, however, I didn’t receive it and neither did it sink in until the last day of the fellowship institute.
So at 2:45 pm on day 5 after Annika Erickson Pearson, the StartingBloc’s Director of Search, made the statement, “Our world needs better leadership,” I put it all together. I am a leader, and great and better leadership requires a myriad of things especially if you desire to lead social change and make an impact. Hence I laid my bias down and opened up my heart to trust a room full of strangers, but understading the shape of leadership and my role as a leader were my biggest takeway in that aha mment. Here are the exact thoughts that rushed through my brain right after I made the connection:
- Leadership requires transformational action; a model for personal and social change that calls leaders to move beyond simply protesting what’s wrong with the world and into coming up with creative win-win solutions that uplifts all stakeholders
- Leadership requires engaging in polarities of who you are, what you can be and what you are capable of without losing sight of what you value and why you value them.
- Leadership demands inclusion.
- Leadership and vision will evolve and should evolve, as you better understand the need, your strength and the ecosystem in which you are working.
- Leadership puts people not profit or fame at the center of design and innovation
- Leadership requires courage, heart, conviction and purpose.
- Leadership requires showing up in the world as it is and owning our place while allowing others the freedom and grace to do likewise.
- Leadership speaks up
- Leadership is still
- Leadership recognizes lessons in failure
- Leadership uses engaging vocabulary
- Leadership impacts and is impactful
- Leadership moves and breathes
- Leadership put what it knows on the table and allow for feedback, help, and support.
- Leadership is about taking action, getting dirty doing the work and thinking lofty while doing the little tasks
Being able to stand on the precipice of leadership and engage all of the above with what is traditionally defined for a leader is great leadership. This is is how we create and nourish humane realities for whole leaders, and StartingBloc pushes its fellows beyond just career and social impact leadership, it challenges us into personal and community leadership.
So I got it, at least the basics. Now the challenge is in engaging these lessons daily in my life and career.