Week 9 was my second to last week of the Fellowship, and it felt fitting in a number of ways. While I again spent most of my time working independently and quietly on my review of the Crime Victims Rights Toolkit, the week was bookended by out-of-the-ordinary afternoons on Monday and Friday. On Monday, our Fellows group had our longest and in my mind, most rewarding, professional development session yet – this time a consideration of leadership that included intriguing Ted Talks, insights from Dr. Lomax, II, and our most extensive full-group discussion to date. While Dr. Lomax intentionally ended the session without a firm conclusion, a few themes have remained in mind.
We spent a good deal of time discussing power, starting with the premise that we, as humans, are innately powerful but need to understand and own that, especially to lead others. Dr. Lomax shared the Four Agreements from Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. The first few agreements (“Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions.”) resonated with the individual growth I have sought this summer. I came to see that preparing oneself to best use one’s own power is another way to view the concept of personal development.
Among the components of leadership Dr. Lomax mentioned, he also emphasized trust in three forms: Internal (trusting oneself), External (trusting others), and Active (using “the power of trust in community to create change”).
The discussion made me think of an example from Dayton Civic Scholars, a program I was involved in at the University of Dayton, in which a group of other students and I were working on a capstone project in a local neighborhood and had partnered with an established church in the area. Both the neighborhood and church leaders were greatly enthused to have our help, especially because we could potentially bring newer, innovative ideas to share. Ultimately, though, we committed to helping the church start a community garden, something that had previously existed but did not last. My student cohort knew almost nothing about agriculture, yet we talked to area experts, pulled together the resources we needed to (including with the help of other community organizations) and got a garden going again. The biggest challenge came when we were about to graduate and had not been able to find another group to sustain the project. However, at that point, the church community assured us they were ready to keep the garden going and even expand it. I, for one, had felt pressure for my cohort to find a solution for the church, but after all the trust they had placed in us, it made sense that the only way for the garden to have longevity was to return that trust. I had just overlooked that. The experience showed me both the challenge and the necessity of utilizing each type of trust Dr. Lomax described.
Then, at the end of week 9, I was summoned at work to provide my thoughts on a difficult press release a couple of the attorneys were writing. Everyone in the office at that point had been asked to help, but I was initially surprised they wanted a Fellow, still a bit unfamiliar with the legal workings and programs of the organization to give input on such an important matter. I was forced to remember that my perspective would be like others outside the organization who would see the statement, and for that, it was valuable. The collaborative nature of the press release-writing effort felt like a minor demonstration of Active Trust and solidified that lesson from Monday’s Fellows session.
Looking Back Ahead
Another theme from the conversation about leadership was the approach of simultaneously learning from the past and keeping the future in mind. Fields Wicker-Miurin presents in her Ted Talk about Benki, the leader of an Amazon nation who stewards the knowledge of previous generations for his people and ponders how coming generations will answer the question he asks himself – essentially, what is he doing to protect the livelihood of his people? Later another Fellow shared the advice she had heard to think back to three generations in the past and think ahead to three generations in the future when acting in the present. Dr. Lomax said the notion of sankofa, a Ghanian word, is similar. He summarized the ideas through the idea of “looking back ahead,” or gaining insight from the past to apply in preparing for a better future.
On a smaller scale, the Fellows session had helped me to look back ahead on the summer itself, with one personal insight standing out. My Fellowship project has made me more confident in my ability to thrive in an individual, self-directed environment. At the same time, the leadership session was the first one of our professional development meetings that allowed significant time for us to exchange ideas with each other about concepts, rather than our personal experiences of the Fellowship alone, and that was a refreshing change. It reminded me how much I appreciate spaces and conversations for learning within a group. In fact, a number of Dr. Lomax’s points about leadership echoed the importance of the combination of personal capability and working as a community.
As Part of a Community
Indeed, Dr. Lomax’s definition of leadership includes the idea of community multiple times. To him, a leader must “see themselves as part of a community whether they are from it or not.” From my reflection on my Dayton Civic Scholars capstone to the joint effort on the press release at work and the group discussion on leadership, in which each person provided wisdom, the week rejuvenated me to build capacity and seek change in community.