Katherine Tyler Scott recently attended the International Leadership Association's Annual Conference, “ILA 11th Annual Global Conference” held in Prague, Czech Republic. She and Mark E. Nepo, Program Officer at the Fetzer Institute were chosen to give the closing reflections at the Conference. She has been a presenter at previous ILA Conferences and her writings have been published in the Conference Journal.
November 14, 2009
The work of transformation is the adaptive work of significant change and transition requiring bold action; bold action like that described by Ivana and Monika as they shared their stories of The Velvet Revolution and the courageous actions of the students.
Bold action is not the fruit of fear or moral relativism, nor does it emanate from vengeance or a piety that can lead the oppressed to become the oppressor.
Bold action comes from a deep place of knowing, of humanity such as that we observed in the opening plenary session with Tom, Juana, Prasad, and Élaine; or it can come from a gentle invitation, a calm voice like that of Cynthia's.
Remember Cynthia's question that began our work together: “How can we flip the leadership paradigm so that our work leads to innovative spirit and change making?” It emboldened me.
The boldness of which I speak has a thread of humility, tempered with knowing “we are created for goodness,” as Bishop Tutu reminded us; a thread of integrity that is the plumb line for insuring alignment between our values and actions, our being and our doing. It is the answer to the question posed by Parker, “Was I fully present in the world with my own truth?”
It is the example of Helga Hoskova, the 80 year old artist with a youthful and indomitable spirit. At the age of 12, when she and her parents were torn from the fabric of their existence to begin the hellish journey of stays at concentration camps, she took with her a pad of paper, pencils and crayons. Through her art, we see the triumph of the human spirit. Through unspeakable pain and deep sorrow, we see light and grace. Her storytelling through art says “Life matters; I matter; you matter.”
I felt this message on the walls of the Pinkas Synagogue where the names of 80,000 Jewish citizens of Prague are hand inscribed. I fell silent upon seeing them, just as I did when I viewed the Jewish cemetery with layers and layers of lives lost.
“Silence teaches us to speak,” according to Henri Nouwen. As I emerged from my silence, I believed even more strongly that we all matter. I realized that I, too, stand on layers and layers of lives lost. Their stories are my stories, and my story is their story. They are the ground on which I stand, and these stories give me a panoramic view of the world—a broader and more inclusive perspective.
Our stories matter. They are narratives of our lives and also trajectories of personal and professional, private and public transformation. We must be bold to tell our stories. “Our reason for telling our stories is not simply to repeat the past, but to bring the past into the present for the sake of the future.” (Carl Dudley) In other words, as Shelly and others have said, our inner work is central to outer work; to the bold action needed for true transformation.
It is no accident that we are here on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of The Velvet Revolution because we have been issued an invitation to a revolution of our own. It is a revolution that honors the sense of place, the sacredness of space, the sharing of story, and the journey of shadow and light. It is a revolution that calls for radical trust and truth telling grounded in history and in hope. This revolution collects passions already ablaze and those in need of rekindling. It connects our memories, our relationships, our communities, our struggles and celebrations, our disillusionments and our dreams.
All are elements of transformation, and in each of our processes of weaving together what this all means and why it matters, we will acquire the compassion, fortitude, the courage, perseverance, patience, and love—yes love—necessary to change what only we can change.
The ILA Conference in Prague is our invitation to this revolution, not only for our own development, but for the sake of the world. Each one of us is required to RSVP. In doing so, we must remember that transformation may not occur in one conference, one year or even in a lifetime. I am reminded of Reinhold Niebuhr's words with which I will end:
“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime;
therefore we must be saved by hope.
Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone;
therefore we must be saved by love.”
Remember to RSVP.
Katherine Tyler Scott