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10 Qualities of Visionary Leaders and Healers in Transitional Times

Wednesday, April 8, 2015 15:28
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9th April 2015

By Gerri Ravyn Stanfield

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

Let’s push it, let’s birth it. Let’s create and heal and risk the pain. I love the way you lead the way, the way you risk that disapproving sneer, the distasteful glare. I love the way you dive right into the fear of isolation and rejection, just to become the truth. Sure, we want to be good and to be loved, but following the rules has never unveiled the joy we seek.

Now is not the time to follow the old rules!

The world is in a great initiation, a giant transition. It’s time to question the (de)construction of every wall. Those of us willing to identify as leaders and healers are uniquely poised to help this process. Surviving crisis is written in our DNA, but this time around, the scale is larger.

10 Qualities of Visionary Leaders for Transitional Times - Art by Chris Saunders

Many of us have had the luxury of time spent together in friendship, spiritual or professional community, celebrating the cycles of the planet and imagining the world that is to come. Our intention is sent out to create that world where natural resources are valued, everyone has what they need and our relationships with plants and animals are healthy. We want to recognize the interdependence of our lives with other humans. We are surrounded by people who may have a different view of what is coming or who may fear the events that are unfolding around our climate, racial justice and change in economy.

The Great Turning

In their book, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re In Without Going Crazy, Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone outline three paradigms about the way that the world is going right now.

The first is Business as Usual; this seems to be the way that most of Western urbanized culture is going. Governments still recommend economic progress based on overuse of resources; the media still gives the message to consume. No change is recommended anytime soon.

In The Great Unraveling story, it is the opposite. All the dire truths about this time weigh heavy and there is no other direction except for imminent destruction.

The third paradigm, The Great Turning, is about a major transition in lifestyle and actions to shift human culture towards a holistic healing relationship with our planet.

People who are practicing Business as Usual seem to be living in denial about climate changes, extinction of species and extreme economic disparity. When faced with this story, everything can feel hopeless and we find ourselves spending hours searching the internet or distracting ourselves. It is seductive to engage in The Great Unraveling as well. This one feels like we are really doing something by convincing people how bad it is out there. Our urgency feels like the opposite of apathy. Perhaps we grow more desperate, thinking that it is too late for significant change; that we are surely doomed.

In healing leadership, we continue to revisit The Great Turning as a possibility for the future. We share what is so painful and exciting about being alive right now. We remember what is worth fighting for and loving; and what qualities leaders need in the real world to bring The Great Turning to life.

Qualities of Visionary Leaders and Healers

Capacity For Holding Grief.

We are in a time where many things are changing and being lost. Sometimes, the growth on the other side of loss isn’t immediately obvious. Our opportunities to sit with people who are in distress may increase.

In many of the healing arts, there are techniques around energetic shielding to effectively help people process deep emotions without taking them on ourselves. Grief sometimes elicits anger, anxiety or fear which can be difficult to support. The tendency can be to try and ‘fix it’ so the person will stop expressing the emotion we perceive as negative. In Chinese medicine, all emotions move qi (life force) through us. Emotions are in service to our health and they will not be endless. When people feel things intensely, we can learn to give them space and empathy. We cannot fix it and sometimes what people want is to be physically or emotionally held so that they can keep going.

If you do not feel comfortable around heavy emotions, ask yourself what is hard for you about it. How can you grow your capacity to hold people in transformation? What are the resources in your community to help people process loss and anger?

10 Qualities of Visionary Leaders for Transitional Times - Art by Chris SaundersCapacity For Rejuvenation.

Just as we expand our ability to hold suffering, it is also necessary to become excellent at rejuvenation. At a memorial service for my friend, Jim Brandau, we were told that one of Jim’s great mottos was a rule from the Running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona, Spain. “All participants are required to lend to the joy of the fiesta.” Our joy matters now more than ever.

One of the first signs of trouble in an activist campaign is when we lose enthusiasm. As leaders, we are responsible for knowing what brings us pleasure, how we can find respite. Our self care becomes more vital than ever. Because passion and motivation are such wonderful qualities in leaders, we must be ever seeking inspiration.

What are ten practices that refill you? Who are the people or beings who help you relax, reconnect with resources and with yourself?

Ability to Listen and Synthesize.

We all love leaders who have brilliant ideas and communicate them in a succinct way. Even more coveted is the ability to synthesize what has been said. Leaders who release attachment to their own ideas and draw together the passionate opinions of others are needed. One of us is rarely as brilliant as all of us and the marriage of different ideas is a way to achieve innovative solutions. It is great to restate people’s words in a group, ensuring that everyone understands what is being said and allowing individuals to edit their own offering. Crafty leaders also begin to notice when folks are saying similar things and make proposals.


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