“From the place where we are right, flowers will never grow in the Spring…” – Yehuda Amichai
Since late February this year, as the events on the world stage turned ugly, we’ve seen the impact of the heartbreaking invasion of Ukraine and the effect it’s had on the many organizations, teams, and teammates located in the country. With blunt immediacy, war was right up close to many of us who had previously considered it a thing from history class, or tales from our veteran family members. Our screens and feeds and inboxes and global relationships brought the pain of what we witnessed very close to home. To know colleagues, clients, friends, and family in the nightmare that is the line of fire is heart-wrenching.
In this podcast episode, Jerry talks with Andrew Alexseyenko, co-founder of Kolo, a non-profit based in Ukraine. Watching the impact of the invasion on his beloved country, Andrew and his team shifted the focus of their work when the attacks began. The work they’ve been able to do has been supportive for the team as well as those they are helping. Andrew did this not by leading with authoritative force, he did it by allowing his team to step up.
“There is leadership that is loud and demonstrative, and then there is leadership that is quiet and stable. We need both kinds of leadership. We need the people who can organize and create the conditions for other people to step up,” Jerry notes to Andrew. “Shared leadership is miraculous.”
Shared responsibility creates a sense of empowerment and gives a sense of agency in the face of helplessness and hopelessness. It empowers everyone in the organization and alleviates the loneliness of the person at the top of the pyramid. Some of these people may stay and grow the existing company, or they may find their own entrepreneurial spark to follow. Thus adding to the ecosystem that directly creates generative economic change in communities. As Jerry notes in this podcast, that’s an alternative purpose to the traditional pot of gold at the end of the IPO rainbow.
Shared leadership is counter to the image of the leader at the top of the pyramid, and more in line with servant leadership. At deeper layers, this way of leading has a quality of inclusion and equity.
As a leader, that calls for authentic leadership. When I think of authentic leadership these days, I’m reminded of Brené Brown’s line: “Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up, Stand your sacred ground.” It’s a call to stand in the heat of the moment and in the truth that’s ours with the ability to navigate our inner space and the relational space between us.
This is where we are able to set aside our assertions of being right, and be open, listening fully, to the information around us and what’s ringing true within us. That’s where we don’t burn down relationships, but instead, light them up in ways that allow them to flourish. This is the generative place where flowers will grow in the spring.
“Because the truth is we,” Jerry reminds us, “you and I, are just as capable of dehumanizing and othering people as we are reaching deep within our hearts, our broken-open hearts, and connecting to them.”