There is so much about summer to be grateful for. Fresh vegetables from the farm, blooms in the garden and lazy afternoons spent with family and friends. The season feels ripe with opportunity to reflect on who we are as individuals, as community members and as citizens of the world. A quick google search of national holidays illuminates an interesting parallel. In the first two weeks of July alone, several countries around the world will celebrate their independence: Burundi, Cape Verde, the Bahamas, Canada and the United States. Regardless of where you sit, these holidays present a reminder of our struggles, achievements and continued progress in assuring one of our core rights as human beings: the freedom to choose.
Freedom of choice can be as simple as hopping in your car and going wherever you want, when you want to. Or it can be complex: how do you deal with a shortfall in revenue, a marriage that isn’t working, or the deepening sense that work, life and the world are out of sync? My experience has taught me that leaders feel these imbalances deeply and their ability — or freedom — to choose is critical to their own wellbeing and to those around them… at home, at work and in their community. How do we choose? Who will be impacted by our decision? Who will celebrate this choice? Who may be hurt by a new direction we may choose to take?
In our mindful leadership retreats, we often share with participants a simple sheet of paper with five seemingly simple words strung together. We encourage them to hang it in a prominent spot above their computer or desk. The words can serve as a centering point when the next step seems less than clear, and when reflection is needed to support a leadership decision. Sit comfortably, feel your feet on the floor, allow your body to settle and, if comfortable, close your eyes. Now ask yourself:
WHAT IS CALLED FOR NOW?
As so many of us gather for a family barbecue or wave our nation’s flag as the parade marches by, leaders everywhere are struggling with the state of the world, asking ourselves how we can get past the noise and raise our voices above the fray of discord, discontent and discrimination so prevalent in today’s society. It is no longer enough to assume the mantle of authority and responsibility for our organizations, meet the quota, issue orders and punch out, for as leaders, we are most often the key influencers on those around us. Our role has the potential to launch a ripple effect that can change the course of other’s lives.
In 2004, Wangari Maathai was the first African woman to receive the Nobel prize- for her “contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.” Any one of these contributions would be and should be enough. Maathai’s leadership inspires us not only with the list of her accomplishments, but with the example she set as a leader with the clarity and compassion to effect change, and her voiced awareness that each of us has the innate ability to lead ourselves and each other into a brighter future.
“In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now”. — Wangari Maathai
No, all is not well or right with our world today. But there is still time to harness the energy, heart and compassion of all leaders: at every level, in every organization and at every opportunity. To remain resilient, we must strengthen our mind’s ability to focus, approach ourselves and others with clarity and an open mind, develop creative solutions and new ways of doing things, and maintain compassion and deep understanding, in our communications and within the circles where our ripples can be felt the strongest. Regardless of your nation’s flag or politics, its independence or lack thereof, the question is the same for all leaders everywhere.
What is called for now? How will you choose to lead?
All of us have the innate ability to live and lead with excellence. Interested in strengthening your potential to lead? Learn more about upcoming workshops and retreats offered by the Institute for Mindful Leadership.
Originally published at instituteformindfulleadership.org