Breaking Out of Binaries

January 20th, 2011

I’ve just about had it with the vitriol and saber-rattling lately. Our world cannot sustain much more bellowing from those on one end of a spectrum at those on the other, with no room for nuance, ambiguity or the unknown. Enough!

So much of our current day “discourse” is framed (at least in the mainstream media) by discussions of who is right/wrong, right/left, bad/good, holy/evil. As long as we are limited to these extremes, we will be doomed to the tyranny of righteousness and posturing. This will not, and cannot, sustain us.

Lately, I’ve had the pleasure of listening to old speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His ability to engage ideas and hearts without spewing hatred often moves me to tears. I’ve so enjoyed hearing (again) his deep and resonant call to accountability and conscience. Somehow, with his commitment and clarity, and without name-calling or viciousness, he managed to move mountains. He didn’t get distracted by hatred or vilification. He built, instead, a “Beloved Community.”

Sometimes it is so tempting… so very easy to fall into the old comfortable dance of “we the anointed, they the oppressor,” or “we the good guys, they the bad.” Isn’t it oddly enjoyable now and then, to assign blame and condemn those with whom we disagree? I do it more often than I care to admit. Delicious.

And then I come to my senses and take the more difficult road of really trying to listen to those with whom I vehemently disagree. This means I must set aside my notions of who I think they are, and who I think I am. I have to be willing to be changed by what I hear. This is terribly challenging sometimes, but I find that when I’m willing to stop and really listen - with my heart as well as with my ears - I learn something. I grow. I change.

Biologists tell us that the most interesting, diverse and evolving places are at the edges of ecosystems – where unlike organisms come into contact with one another. And science is showing us that cooperation - not competition - is actually the best means of collective survival. What if we humans began to act as though we were part of the ecosystem, and were to sidle up to and explore difference rather than fear or kill it?

I know that you and I are working hard toward creating a world where leaders, both those in Congress and those who are nine years old, can gather freely. We are dreaming of a world where killing and torture are unthinkable, where we can disagree without mayhem.

This is a call to hearts. Let us interrupt the tendency to sort into “either/or”, to look for opportunities to blame, or to create enemies. Let’s explore some edges and find new ways to dance.

Good leadership depends on our willingness to engage new and, perhaps, uncomfortable ideas. It depends on our willingness to be changed by what we encounter, and to grow.

In fact, the world depends on it.

From my heart to yours.

January 2011

Take Your Leadership to the Next Level in 2011

Rockwood has heard from many of its alumni that they're looking for more advanced leadership tools that can help them lift up the performance of their organizations and networks - and perhaps you are looking for that, too.

Take your leadership to the next level by applying to Rockwood's Advanced Art of Leadership: Leadership in Action. This four-day retreat takes place March 28-31, 2011 at the beautiful Westerbeke Ranch in Sonoma, and is offered exclusively for graduates of Rockwood's Art of Leadership course.

At the Advanced Art of Leadership, you'll receive an Interpersonal Leadership Styles survey, along with advanced training in:

  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Time management and personal ecology
  • Creating teams of excellence for more sustainable organizations

Rockwood's work is inspired by you - a leader striving to make positive social change. In these divided and troubled times, the world needs strong, purposeful and collaborative leadership more than ever before. Apply today to deepen your leadership and collaboration skills in 2011.

For more information, please contact Stacy Kono, Director of Programs at 510-524-4000 x 113 or

Fellowship for California Immigrant Rights Leaders

Rockwood Leadership Institute is proud to announce the launch of a FELLOWSHIP FOR CALIFORNIA IMMIGRANT RIGHTS LEADERS with the support of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund.

The Rockwood Fellowship focuses on leaders who are working for the human and civil rights of immigrant communities. While historically, immigration policy has failed to meet the needs of these communities, over the years, and especially the last decade, more and more people have been mobilizing to influence how these policies are shaped. This Fellowship is designed to support leaders and organizations who are working for social change in immigrant communities.

The FELLOWSHIP provides leaders with tools to:

  • Deal more effectively with leadership and organizational challenges
  • Create and sustain compelling visions for their organization
  • Engage in a learning community of leaders working throughout the state of California on immigrant rights

To nominate a leader to the Fellowship for California Immigrant Rights Leaders or for more information, contact:
Stacy Kono, Director of Programs at 510-524-4000 x 113  or

Supporting Social Change Leaders in Israel

“Leading for social change in Israel at such troubled times is a journey, a way of life. It’s exciting and rewarding at times, frustrating and disheartening at other times. It is a journey down unmarked paths and roads not taken that challenge us to extend our capacities and qualities as a leader to the limit, while inspiring and supporting our partners in this journey.” Hamutal Gouri, Project Coordinator and Rockwood Alumna

In partnership with Shatil and with the support of the Nathan Cummings Foundation and Ford New Israel Fund, Rockwood Leadership Institute has opened the application process for our second Art of Collaborative Leadership for Social Change Leaders in Israel. Launched in June of 2010, Rockwood’s Israel trainings mark our first foray into international work. In April 2011, the Art of Collaborative Leadership will train and convene a learning community of 24 leaders working for the environmental, civil and human rights, peace and justice and much more. To find out more about this, and to see a list of past participants, please see this link.

Rockwood will also offer a Strengthening the Practice Refresher course to our Israel-based alumnae/I who have already attended Rockwood trainings. The Refresher course creates the space to connect and reconnect with other leaders, and deepen the leadership practice.

For more information about the Art of Collaborative Leadership or the Israel Refresher course, please contact:
Hamutal Gouri, Project Coordinator in Is:
[T] 972-525601859
[M] 052-5601859
[F] 0776425115

Applications are now online for Selah National Cohort 10!

The Selah Leadership Program is a collaboration between the Nathan Cummings Foundation and Jewish Funds for Justice, in partnership with the Rockwood Leadership Program. Selah trains a cross-section of leaders in Jewish and secular organizations to be effective, sustainable and collaborative agents for change. 

The Selah Leadership Program is a collaboration between the Nathan Cummings Foundation and Jewish Funds for Justice, in partnership with the Rockwood Leadership Program. Selah trains a cross-section of leaders in Jewish and secular organizations to be effective, sustainable and collaborative agents for change.  Selah is the first leadership training designed specifically for Jewish leaders working across the social change field.  Since its founding in 2003, we have trained more than 200 leaders from 165 organizations.

The Selah Leadership Program provides unparalleled training for social change leaders, new tools to enhance organizational vision and facilitate change, and the opportunity to learn among some of the Nation's most innovative and inspiring Jewish social change leaders.  This cohort is broadly designed for Jewish leaders across the country who are dedicated to social change and justice and have at least 7 years of experience in their field.  We encourage applicants from secular and Jewish organizations that work on social change from multiple approaches including, but not limited, to: community organizing, direct action, social entrepreneurship, advocacy, education, and arts and culture. The application process is highly competitive.

Learn more about Selah, get an application, or recommend someone you know.

Applications are due by Tuesday, March 1st, 2011.

Training dates:

Training 1: Sunday, July 24 - Wednesday, July 27, 2011; (East Coast) 
Training 2: Sunday, December 4 – Tuesday, December 6, 2011; (West Coast)