I was feeling cranky the other day. Cranky that we are still at war, that the healthcare bill will be watered down to almost nothing, that immigrants are being torn from their families and that the environment is still a mess. There are many other things I could have been cranky about, but those were at the top of my list. Looking around for someone to blame, President Obama crossed my mind, and I indulged in a bit of Obama bashing. I mean, he’s had almost a year to fix everything – what’s he been doing up there on the hill?
And then I looked in the mirror. Wow. I’ve had almost two years to make changes here at Rockwood, a relatively small non-profit, and we’re still in transition. I took over from Andre Carothers, who is a brother of my heart, and who did everything he could to hand me the reins with his full support. Thank you, Andre. He created a great organization and asked me to make it greater. And it still took me two years to transition.
Then I asked myself: What am I asking of a president who inherited a huge mess and who is trying to contend with a loud and ugly contingent of folks determined to undermine his leadership? In my frustration, wasn’t I doing exactly what we ask our leaders not to do?
I’ve noticed that I’m not the only progressive who is taking out some anger by picking at Obama. While I understand distress and agitation, I also think that if we’re to create any lasting change, it is crucial we don’t vent our frustrations on those who are trying to make a difference on our behalf. I know that there are decisions I’ve made over that last 18 months that were not universally liked. I can’t imagine trying to make them with millions of people breathing down my neck, scrutinizing and criticizing my every move. I’d want to give up daily.
So I thought, if I’m not going to kvetch and fuss at him, what can I do?
Gratitude came to mind. What if I’m grateful for what’s been going on – Sonia Sotomayor on the Supreme Court, adding Trans folk to the list of people covered under hate crimes legislation, green jobs money flowing … I’m really grateful for those things. When I move from a heart of gratitude I can see the unfinished work with compassion. Instead of questioning motives and timing, I’m moved to ask “how can I help?”
At the heart of this is the question of how we support and uphold our leaders. I am much more willing to be held accountable by those who respect me and who I know have my best interests at heart. I am less likely to take in feedback from those who want to tear me down or belittle me. My guess is that this is true for most of us.
In the spirit of caring for and about our leaders, I’d like to ask you to take a moment and bring to mind the hard working leaders around you. Hold them in your heart…
- What do you appreciate about them?
- What are you grateful to them for?
- What support can you offer them?
I’d love it if you were to find a way to tell them your thoughts. Please let a leader you care about know how you feel. Even if you have something difficult to say, it is possible and important to do it with a heart of gratitude.
What I do know is, if we replace 25% of our criticism with appreciation and gratitude, our leaders and movements will be more effective, we’ll all be happier, and we’ll likely stay for the long haul. And that would be fine.
I hope you all are having a wonderful fall season. Thank you. Thank you for your leadership.
Thank you for your work.