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Learning to Change the Way I Lead

I have been wanting to share some things I learned at the most recent workshop I led for our Region. It was a general workshop on reclaiming power, which I lead yearly. I work hard to recruit very new Co-Counselors each year (because I think the heavy emphasis I put on inherent nature and stepping out of being a victim is useful to get early on in RC). I have learned lots over the years about how to welcome new counselors, set it up well for them, and counteract the oppression of leaders. This year about a third of the workshop were people who had never been to an RC weekend workshop before, mostly fresh from fundamentals classes.

Here is what I did that worked.

  1. I did not ask people in introductions how long they had been in Co-Counseling but instead talked about the fact that we bring to the weekend our whole life experience, not just our RC experience. I challenged people to act from that and to learn from the fresh perspective that newer folks bring to us.
  2. I asked everyone in the workshop to choose a buddy for the weekend. This was a huge contradiction for the 'experienced people' and useful as usual to the newer folks. I then asked the entire workshop to be my buddy and told them it meant that they each needed to check in with me once over the weekend, specifically about how leading was going for me. This ended up to be a surprise brilliant move, because I was not only better thought about than at any time I have ever led, but it also gave the new folks an 'excuse' to approach and talk to me. I realized that part of what keeps people separate from leaders is that they are just shy and don't know what to say. The newer folks actually supported me better than the more experienced people, and I established relationships with most of them. I was not 'clienting' all weekend, but the entry question, 'How is it going as leader?' led to much interesting interaction. And sometimes I also used their attention to discharge.
  3. I set up a meal early in the weekend with all the first-time people, during which I counseled each one, got feedback on how the theory was getting through to them, and asked them to counsel me. I talked personally about what RC leadership has done for me and encouraged them to lead. I asked for one piece of the theory that particularly struck them, which gave me loads of information about how clear I was being in theory presentations.
  4. I discharged early on, in front of the whole group, specifically on being the leader.
  5. I stayed accessible, not hiding out during breaks or before classes. I decided to be part of the workshop. I initially expected this to be some kind of 'sacrifice' (but thought it would be good to do). I was surprised at how staying that connected to everyone moved my leadership forward hugely.

Usually when I lead workshops, I get a lot of 'adoration' thrown in my direction. Farewells have traditionally been agonizing for me, having to take in all the adoration and not being 'seen' well. I got none of this during the whole weekend, and I believe it is because of how I set things up for me to be a 'peer' leader. I could tell people truly appreciated me, and I got great appreciations, but no blind adoration. I think the oppression of leaders is perpetuated in part by the way we separate ourselves, cling to other leaders and trusted buddies, and don't really take the risk to use all of the workshop participants as resources. I was completely shocked and pleased at this particular outcome.

None of my 'regular' Co-Counselors attended this workshop, so I went into the weekend expecting to have to work really hard to get support. It was delightful to notice that I can set up support anywhere.

One other thing that pleased me: I have always struggled around the 'no attacks' policy on one point. I have felt that in RC, because of the no-attack policy, my leadership doesn't benefit from the feedback I get in other arenas (though in other arenas it is not usually thoughtfully given). I have seen people get so careful around leaders that it becomes harder to learn from mistakes, harder to even see mistakes. I have thought a lot about this over the years. What I noticed at this workshop was that because I had lunch with new folks and heard how they had interpreted the theory I presented, I got a picture of where I wasn't being clear, what they had misinterpreted, etc. This was the best feedback I have gotten since I began leading in RC, and I could actually use it to make what I said clearer and more consistent with theory.

I believe there is some connection between isolation and leadership oppression that is actually being perpetuated by the leaders. I don't have a clear handle on it yet, but I think it is very important.

Gina Kellogg
Mansfield, Pennsylvania,

Last modified: 2020-07-01 08:33:43+00