I was talking and exploring with my friend Randy yesterday, whom I met at my first Authentic Relating training, and there was this fantastic moment that I want to elaborate here. BTW I'll definitely recommend him as he expands his coaching/guiding practice. Anyway there's a little AR game, I think it's called "headline", that consists of talking for 3 minutes, then summarizing to 1 minute, then summarizing that to 10 seconds. I referenced "only having the long version" of my goals (versus boiled down to an elevator pitch) which I think prompted him to pull out this game for me.
I gave a description of my future vision, describing the levels of relationship (self, friends, community, society) and qualities of acceptance, belonging, support, openness, etc - the vision of the space and what could come to be in the future. After that 3 minutes, I was feeling pretty good about the description I had given, when Randy seemed to pause, and asked something approximately like "Where are you in this? What is your relationship to this future?"
Reader, the absence that pulled that question out wasn't just the randomness of time-boxed summarization. I had elided myself from that description - because, I realized, that's something I've been feeling uncomfortable about. I have been a "leader" and leader-type for decades, but... the way I see agency in relation to other people and the world is something that has shifted for me - and not yet solidified. What I called urgency and acceptance recently, I could also call "doing and being" as another lens on the same polarity. My deep goals are exploring being-ness, which is an important part of a non-doing synthesis that transcends-and-integrates both of those modes.
I have some fears still lurking in me about being the old/wrong kind of leader in this new venture - about dominating or pushing too hard, of not listening or attuning or co-creating because of my attachment to my own vision. These come from lots of experience with the pervasive form of social organization, the domination (or "power over") hierarchy. We call the extreme forms "authoritarian" but when you start looking hard at the fine line between "using" and "misusing" authority, that line starts to dissolve.
Authoritarianism resides in our organizations and in the behavior of our leaders. It also exists within the submissive - whether welcomed or chafed at, whether backed by physical violence or a purely social construct. It even exists in our systems of meaning-making, in the weaving together of spiritual beliefs and religious authorities in a religious system. I've seen and experienced the use of dominance in both corporate and religious settings, and felt the impact of the damage it does. Randy shared one of his experiential insights, which definitely resonates with me as I look at myself and my future ventures:
"Your greatest gift for the world, is the one you most want to give yourself." --Randy DesRocher
So what will my relationship be to being, as a doer doing things to bring about better being-ness? I leaned in that direction on my next headline attempt, with a mix of verbs connecting myself to this work. An expanded set is: call, invite, host, birth, midwife, (co-)create, solve, host, facilitate, hold (space and intention), gather, resonate, tune. Initiating is not dominating. Leadership is... well, perhaps a self-contradictory mix of things in how we all regard that word today. The development of the field and study of leadership over the past several decades has trended away from the dominance role inherited from earlier societies, though it's by no means arrived at a full disconnection.
Authority will always exist in social systems - not the "I can fire you" kind, but influence, inherent in relationships and in group dynamics. As a rule, we are very tolerant of accepting its usage in our communities - much too unquestioning I think, barely noticing when we rely upon it. It's the "push" of taking over to speed a group into a plan of action, versus the "pull" of co-creation to coalesce a group's energy into direction. Again, this circles back to awareness - being aware of "power over" happening and seeing it in our brains, in our relationships, in our community, in our society.
I'm feeling more integrated now, as I write this, about the object distinction between dominance and leadership. It's yet another false equality, bringing freedom in seeing and breaking it.
My final headline, the one sentence version, brought together the need/problem as well, to make three parts: the need, the solution, and my part in it. I'll try to forge a satisfactory version of that mission statement soon, I imagine.