…and sometimes it's just hard

November 22, 2013 1 Comment

The following is a letter by Akaya Windwood, President of the Rockwood Leadership Institute and member of the IISC Board of Directors. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did and don’t forget to join the conversation! 

Recently, four friends of mine lost parents and siblings. Rockwood has had a few unanticipated challenges this year. The ripples of the 2008 recession are still affecting the nonprofit sector, and many organizations are struggling. The instability of our national government in recent months has made things very difficult for many folks.

Sometimes life is just hard.

I come from a family that lived by the adage, “God bless the child who’s got his own.” I learned early and thoroughly not to complain, to toughen up and deal, and to do what’s in front of me right now and with excellence. There was kindness in my family, but we were expected to do our part without much help, and to get it done well. It was how my parents learned to survive, and I honor that they passed those lessons on to me.

In many ways, those lessons have allowed me to be successful in my work, but they have also taught me that I must be totally self-reliant, not depend on anyone else, and that fundamentally, I can only count on myself to do things right.

And that’s what makes things hard. Unnecessarily so.

A couple weeks ago, I was having one of “those” days, so I called a pal and asked her to remind me why I said “yes” to this work. Without missing a beat, she said: “Because you are born for it, you have a gift for it, you love it and no one is better suited for it.” My jaw dropped. I was expecting her to join me in a bit of “woe is me.” Instead, she showered me with a deep and affirmative truth I needed to hear. A truth I wasn’t capable of telling myself at that moment.

She lovingly yanked me out of my isolation and put me right smack back into the circle of relatedness.

It was a reminder of how much I need others if I am going to be an effective leader and work for the common good over a lifetime. It was a reminder of how much each of us needs the other. We cannot do the work of transforming the world unless we are in interdependent relationships—the work is too vast and complex for any one of us.

Since that day, I’ve looked for other ways to practice reaching out and asking for help, and have been astonished by the many folks who’ve been delighted to lend a hand, a shoulder or some needed wisdom. WOW!

Leadership can be downright daunting at times. Hard even. The next time your leadership begins to feel like a burden, I invite you to reach out and see who responds. I’ll bet there is more support for each of us than we can imagine. I’m beginning to wonder how much of the isolation many leaders feel is based in a false belief that we are alone.

Let’s reach toward each other. Let’s ask for assistance when we need it and lend a hand when we can. I promise you that the work of transforming the world will be much more satisfying, effective and easy if we do it together.

Here’s a video that reminds me of what’s possible when we flock and fly in community – beauty and motion and joy. Murmuration.

From my heart to yours.


1 Comment

  • Cynthia Silva Parker says:

    Thanks so much for this reminder. The very thing that makes us capable of doing so much can also get in the way. I share the need to remember the connections and ask for help when I need it. Given what I’m looking at for responsibilities in 2014, it’s a competency I’m going to need to develop much more fully! And, I’m up for it! In the spirit of Ella J. Baker, I have to pay much more attention to building capacity than to just getting it done. peace!

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