At the beginning of most versions of the Leadership Yoga Workshop, I begin with a short explanation of how the idea came to be. As part of that I reference, as I have before in my newsletter, Larraine Matusak’s book,  Finding Your Voice:  Learning to Lead… Anywhere You Want to Make a Difference. Matusak’s book is not one I reread often, but there are three or four nuggets that I return to again and again.

It’s from reading her book that I came to understand the idea that finding something you care about and learning to do the work to make a difference in, around, or for that idea is the beginning of the deepest kind of leadership. It was in her book that I found one of my favorite Warren Bennis  quotes about leadership: “While great leaders may be as rare as great runners, great actors, or great painters, everyone has leadership potential, just as everyone has some ability at running, acting, and painting.”

Matusak acknowledges that we all have skills to develop and lessons to learn on the way to more effective leadership. One of her chapters on those skills and lessons is devoted to risk-taking writing that risk-taking is an “indispensable part of leadership”. What she explores in this chapter is an essential part of the creation of this workshop idea – including taking the risk to try something as odd as this combination may appear at first.

This is what I say at the beginning of the workshop:

“‘Risk-taking is definitely something that can be learned, but you don’t need to take classes … or intensive training programs. In fact, the process is quite simple. Try new things.  Be creative.  Put yourself in situations that are slightly uncomfortable – stretch.’ We’re going to take her literally today.”

Photo by Morgan Petroski on Unsplash

Leadership and yoga both ask us to stretch – our muscles and our skills yes, but even more our awareness of ourselves and the world around us. Both practices ask us to push. Yoga teaches us to push gently while listening to our bodies as we work to lengthen and strength without hurting ourselves. Leadership work challenges us to push ourselves, our colleagues, and our organizations forward into new ways of thinking and working without causing harm.

Sometime in my first couple of weeks as Vice President for Student Affairs at Trinity University, one of my new colleagues asked me ‘what is your tolerance for risk?’  I had never thought about it in that way before and I didn’t have a good answer. I’m not sure I do now. What I do know is that over time I have learned to be more comfortable with uncertainty. I have learned to be more willing to try something new and risk it not working. I am more willing to trust in my own intuition and experience when making difficult decisions. I know how to stretch safely. I recommend stretching as part of your yoga, leadership, and life practices.

Take care,



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