Reflections on….

“‘Leadership’ is a concept we often resist. It seems immodest, even self-aggrandizing, to think of ourselves as leaders. But if it is true that we are made for community, then leadership is everyone’s vocation, and it can be an evasion to insist that it is not. When we live in the close-knit ecosystem called community, everyone follows and everyone leads.

“Even I – a person who is unfit to be president of anything, who once galloped away from institutions on a high horse — have come to understand that for better or for worse, I lead by word and deed simply because I am here doing what I do. If you are also here, doing what you do, then you also exercise leadership of some sort.” (Bold emphasis mine.)

Parker Palmer, from Let Your Life Speak:  Listening to the Voice of Vocation.

Many of you know, I’m a fan of Parker Palmer. I have been for a long. Ever since I was introduced to this book in fact by Jim Caswell, who was Vice President for Student Affairs at SMU and my boss at the time. It’s a small book with just over 100 pages and I have tabs and underlines throughout it, but it’s this quote that I use over and over again. I like it for many reasons. From the idea that we are made for community, that leadership is everyone’s vocation, to, most importantly, the idea whether or not we identify ourselves as leaders, we all exercise some form of leadership because we are here doing what we do.

As I often say after I use this quote, that’s scary isn’t it? Because that means we are influencing people and exercising leadership all the time. Not just during the speech that we planned out carefully, but when we find ourselves in the middle of a difficult situation that catches us by surprise. What does our leadership show others then? Not just when we are the chair of the committee, but when we are sitting there as committee member either as a frustrated member or an effective participant.

Today is the start of an irregular series of reflections on favorite quotes, ideas, books, past experiences, etc. They will be tidbits that have been helpful and influential for me offered for you to consider and reflect on in the hope that you will find them usefull as well.

For today’s quote, you might ask yourself these questions. Who have you seen embodying this idea, leading simply because they are there doing what they do? Is there an example of of someone making a comment about your leadership when you didn’t even realize you were leading? If Palmer has it right, It’s worth stopping to think about what we ¬†practice regularly to be certain we are leading in the ways we want to lead. Are there habits you want to cultivate or stop? Or do you disagree with Palmer? If so, what are the ways you think about leadership as a behavior rather than a role?

I hope you’ll find some time over this next week to sit down and practice some reflection using this as a starting point. One of the critical tasks of leadership is finding time for reflection on all kinds of questions. And one option is to take a quote like this, or those at the end of the newsletters, and consider the ways it does or does not have meaning for our behavior, our leadership, or the ways we live our lives. What decisions do we want to make about how we want to lead, how we want to act?, and what we want to be and do?

Have a great week and a fruitful time of reflection.

Take care,


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