Blame it on summer. Or on the sun. Perhaps it is because I just got back from the better part of a week of whitewater rafting on the Rogue River in Oregon. One way or another I am all "het" up. It is an exciting time to be leading and making change in the world.
Now, I've jumped from airplanes, have hang-glided and have zipped through the woods on a wire, but nothing I've done has required my sustained, immediate presence like rafting. I had to pay attention to everything going on - ten gazillion gallons of water rushing between big rocks and small canyons demand full engagement. I had to rely on the whole team - everyone needed to be in rhythm, and the stroke of our oars needed to be aligned in order to make it through boiling rapids. We took our cues from our leader-guide, whose work it was to see ahead and "read" the currents while we attended to providing the energy needed to move elegantly through both turbulence and still water.
Rafting can be a vast source of delight or be quite scary and frightening. Much like leadership.
Emile Zola, back in the 1890's said: "If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I will answer you: I am here to live out loud."
Now is not a time for timidity or hesitation in speaking our courageous truths, or in creating vibrant partnerships to help move our work forward. Yes, we must be thoughtful and avoid capriciousness, but it seems to me that this is the time to be bold, to move with passion, to listen to the demands of our hearts and souls.
As I write this, it is right smack in the middle of summer. The hummingbirds are madly rushing from flower to flower in my garden. The bears are foraging, and otters are cavorting in the rivers. Emily Dickinson wrote: "To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee. One clover, and a bee. And reverie. The reverie alone will do, if bees are few."
Even in times of great movement and excitement, it is important for us as social change leaders to balance engagement with reflection. I invite you to spend a few moments in reverie with me - you might journal in these inspiring weeks of summer to ask yourself:
- Everything seems to be awake. Am I? What might I need to wake up a bit?
- What would my leadership look like if I were fully awake and engaged?
- Is there something it that I've been really wanting to do that I haven't quite gotten to?
- Is there a bold step I've been meaning to take, but for various reasons, haven't?
- Have I been hiding some of my light under a bushel? What would it take to shine a bit brighter?
- Who could be a support to me in this?
This is the season for dancing in the rain, for being at ease in our clothes, for barbecues and fires on the beaches with our nearest and dearest. It's for reaching out and taking late night walks, for howling at the moon. Summer is a good season for wildness, for loosening the parts of us that have become tame.
If you were to allow yourself to become a bit feral, what might happen?
Leadership is serious business, sure. It must also come from our heart and passions. Is there something you want to do that is just a little off the charts? Something you'd do just for the sheer pleasure of it?
Go ahead. Jump in the water...
Join the otters, it's summer.
Time to live (and lead) out loud!