Where the Sweetness Happens

I do believe that community leadership is ultimately about having the courage to step forward. But, on that particular day, I wasn’t feeling it at all.

I had just reviewed the content of a presentation I was about to deliver at a national forum and was beginning to second guess myself. 


On an intellectual level I understood the community leadership learnings I planned to share were solid, innovative, and grounded by boots-on-the-ground experience. However my personal insecurities, (perhaps a subject for another blog?) in combination with working outside traditional systems and challenging the status quo, meant I was often working in a sometimes lonely place without a lot of support.

However, as I was sitting and gathering my thoughts and trying to at least appear confident, a woman I had never seen before came up to the table, leaned in, and pointed her finger at me.

Enunciating each word clearly she went on to say in a somewhat excitable voice, “Lady, you changed my life…not only the way I do business but my personal life too”. 

While I did try to remain calm, my inner insecurities had me thinking, “Oh oh, what have I done now?”

As it turned out, the woman had taken part in two courses offered through my social enterprise called, “Campus for Communities of the Future”. Since the courses are online, I had heard her voice but never actually seen her which is why I hadn’t recognized her. 

She went on to tell me that she was a person who liked order, thought in a linear fashion, and ultimately liked to be in control.

What she had learned in the courses was that when working as a community leader, she needed to give more control to other citizens and stakeholders if they were to be engaged and empowered to take ownership and action.

She continued by saying, “I don’t want to suggest it has been easy but it has been really tough for me. But in the end it is absolutely amazing because letting go of control and empowering others not only reduces my stress, it is also hugely rewarding because people are really engaged. The result is that they come up with innovative ideas and initiatives. Letting go of the power is really when the sweetness happens.”

Truly I was moved beyond words and thanked her profusely for sharing and making my day.

Of course I did go on to make that presentation that day. However, I did so with just a tad more confidence as the result of having been reminded that while the learnings I share will likely never resonate with everyone in the audience, knowing I had the potential to reach even one person was a reminder of why stepping forward will always be worthwhile. 

Posted on 05-14-18

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