July 2017

Onward Leaders Blog: Cohort 2

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”  

Henri Nouwen

Vulnerability is an undervalued trait of leaders.  To be vulnerable takes amazing courage, but is rarely acknowledged in a profound manner.  Superficially, it is lauded on TED talks and other social media. Real vulnerability is not contrived or packaged. Seeing it, hearing it, feeling it and being transformed by it; it is grace.  I had the great opportunity to hear a leader talk about doubts and insecurities this past week. I had not seen this before, though I had admired this leader who has inspired me for the last several years.  This leader spoke of driving to work and looking at other people’s jobs and dreaming how that life might be. Or wishing to be back at another job-comfortable and safe.

Twenty years ago one of my siblings phoned me distraught late in the evening. As an aside- I have nine siblings-so you cannot pin this on anyone of them, and we are Irish through and through and have been known to bring wrath upon those who have offended us- think Beowulf.  This sibling described a great desire to have another life and even articulated how great it would be to have work where one was able to be outside walking daily.  Twenty years ago, the mail was delivered by people who got to wear shorts to work and drive these nifty small cars and we saw these parked on every street while the driver walked up and down delivering hand written cards and letters and bills with penmanship a nun would have admired.  This sibling shared with me the uncertainty of choices made. I thought of this sibling while this leader spoke last week of uncertainties and again I knew the grace that comes from sharing our doubts- not concealing them.

I will backtrack a bit- I am one of ten.  Number seven- which is an insignificant number in a family of ten.  Seven means zilch in that crowd. You have absolutely no leverage- no power. But we were Irish and we give names and meanings to things that have no meanings, and so I was the oldest of the four little ones (the Whammy Girls- to be exact) which afforded me some gravitas. When this older fragile sibling called me and expressed doubts; it was oddly comforting.  Grace again. Like Christ with Thomas we say to one another: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side,” as if to say-see, I am vulnerable, too. We are all, indeed.

I have never referred to this phone call since with my sibling.  It has, however, been a comfort to me when uncertainties and memories of missed opportunities lead me into a dark night of the soul. Paralyzing fear grips me as I conjure up wrong moves of years ago and new ones to come. There is comfort in knowing our heroes are daily anguished and uncertain just the same. Sharing our uncertainties is grace.  God’s grace. As leaders, it might be a good idea to share these more liberally.

Cohort 2 finished up week one of our learning together, and Cohort 1 moved officially into the lead learners at their schools.  We are committed to learning together this year which means we are willing to share our doubts, as we try on new ways of doing and thinking.

God Bless,

Meg Samaniego, Director