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Teaching About Leading

Toward the end of my fundamentals courses I do a class I call "Leadership/Protecting What We Have." Here's a short description of it:

We begin with the information that nearly everyone has either a chronic responsibility pattern or a pattern of chronic irresponsibility-that a relaxedly, rationally responsible person is a rarity. Then we do a mini-session. Usually people discover a lot about their motives for taking leadership.

Next I talk about how it is part of everyone's inherent nature to want things to go well for everybody. I talk about how our experiences of oppressive leaders have hurt us, leaving us feeling paralyzed, defeated, and resentful. I suggest that "following" is a distress-based activity and that all of us should be: a) leading, and/or b) actively supporting our leaders, or c) discharging on what is in the way of doing a) and b). Then we have another mini-session or I do a demonstration on early experiences of taking/being given authority.

Following this I spell out some of the ways one can lead. I encourage people to take leadership in RC and in their lives in general. I also encourage them to notice where they already are leaders but haven't been appreciating their effort. My list of ways one can lead includes:

  • thinking well about people, their strengths and struggles

  • interrupting patterns awarely

  • appreciating and supporting other leaders

  • taking initiative on good policies

  • modeling activity/behavior for others

  • using counseling tools

  • providing clear information to people

  • helping people get to "key issues."

    Next I take the client role and select a student to counsel me (usually someone who has expressed interest in leading in RC). I start the session with something like, "Lead with me, (counselor), and I promise I will . . ." and I go through the following list, teaching and discharging along the way:

  • support you, not just by appreciation or praise but by helping with the necessary work

  • counsel you well

  • not thoughtlessly accept your thinking

  • get close to you, discharge on what's hard about that, and stay close to you

  • not permit anyone to criticize or gossip about you, in session or out

  • interrupt any attack on you, regardless of how "valid" it may seem

  • not idolize you or put you on a pedestal

  • come directly to you with my concerns or complaints about your leadership, no matter how messy it may be

  • share my thinking with you

  • allow you to make mistakes and make corrections

  • not rehearse my powerlessness at you

  • not indulge in competitive patterns.

    Everyone can add items to the list that contradict their own particular distresses around leadership. This session always brings easy discharge for me and for the student counselor, and often for the other students as well. People express sentiments such as, "Wow, I can't imagine what life would be like if people did this for each other."

    The final segment of the class is on attacks, criticism, and gossip. I explain why we cannot tolerate attacks on RC or on individuals who use it, and I clarify what we mean by an attack. I talk about how we should go directly to the person with any criticism of or concerns about him or her, and I go over what to do if that doesn't bring results (this is all in the Guidelines). I remind people that being attacked is an inevitable accompaniment to being a good leader. I never fail to cry when saying that we all have too much to lose to ever allow an attack to proceed uninterrupted.

    I talk a bit about the patterns of attacking and criticizing and how people with these patterns deserve just as much good counseling as anyone else, but not unless they cease the attack.

    Finally, I like to counsel everyone in turn (if the group is small enough) or do mini-sessions in pairs on the topic of: "Where do you feel most vulnerable? Where could an attacker temporarily

    disable you by restimulation? What do you least want anyone to make public knowledge about you?" Tons of embarrassment comes off in these sessions, along with some terror. Most of us then realize that it's not what we've done that's so horrible-it's the internalized guilt or shame that does us in. I encourage everyone to discharge more on this, because I fully expect them all to be leading soon, if they aren't already.

    Deb Eisenmann
    Drury, Missouri, USA

    (Present Time No. 110, January 1998)

    Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00