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How Can We Lead Now?

By January 19, 2021April 21st, 2021One Comment

Photo by Santoshi Guruju


The first few weeks of this year have been difficult for us at Rockwood, to say the very least. There’s tremendous grief, pain, anger, sadness, and fear. There’s been meetings and Slack conversations about how to plan for what these next few weeks may bring. We’ve been checking in with each other, trying to put words to what we’re feeling, and trying to give ourselves the room we need to navigate those emotions while still getting work done.

It feels almost impossible to show up for our movements, our communities, and ourselves these days, when we’re facing white supremacist violence on a heightened national scale while also in the midst of a pandemic that increases our feelings of isolation.

We wish we could say that this is a unique moment, or that it truly is “unprecedented,” but the reality is… there is precedent. This is not new or even surprising. What we’re seeing right now – acts of domestic terrorism, the consequences of a mishandled pandemic, ongoing police brutality, and the ever-present upholding of white supremacy – is all part of the long, loping thread of the history of this country.

But there are other threads braided into it, too. The threads of generations of leaders who stood against the intentionally broken systems our country was built on, and of the current generation doing the same. Our ancestors, mentors, spiritual and physical family, friends, loved ones, co-creators / dreamers / workers, and even our inner selves, all carry deep understanding and insight that can guide us through.

We hold those threads as we ask ourselves: How can we lead now? How can our leadership uplift the truth of our interdependence? How can we take care of ourselves in this moment as we set our sights on emergence of the next world of liberation and justice?

There are many answers to those questions, wisdom that will work for some and not for others, or only in certain situations. We know that we here at Rockwood can only ever offer a small piece of that, so we are sharing some wisdom steeped in our values and curriculum, as well as resources from our beloved community, to help you build a foundation for your own leadership.

Here are a few ways we can lead right now:

  • We can stay committed to ending white supremacy in all its forms. For BIPOC leaders, this national reckoning with white supremacy doesn’t need to come at the cost of your personal well-being. You can ask for support, you can stay close to loved ones, you can challenge the never-ending sense of urgency, and you can take time to ground in your sense of self and your roots. For white leaders, this means educating yourselves, knowing when to step up and when to step back, and not being performative in your allyship. (See further resources for BIPOC and white leaders)
  • We can have a clear vision of the future we want to see. There is another world making itself known to us, one that is not built on white supremacy, colonization, imperialism, genocide, and violence. We can hold that vision within us, to help guide us as we move through a time that may often feel too dark for us to see where we’re going.
  • We can let go of the idea that the world will – or should – go back to the way it was. The world as it is and has been is not working. We can use this time to reevaluate those old ways of being and doing, let go of the people we have been, and take time to decide who we want to be within that new vision for the world we want to see.
  • We can stay connected to one another. No one leads alone and no one ever has. In order to not only dream but build the world we want to see, we can stand with each other, committed to collective care and collective love. We can check on and give support to our loved ones where we can, and we can remember to ask for and receive support, too.
  • We can breathe. The work doesn’t stop, but there is always time to pause, to take a break, to rest. We can invite ourselves to do that, at any time, in any place, and for any reason. And when pausing doesn’t feel right, we can dance and move our bodies instead.

And here are resources we have found grounding and useful for framing how we can lead right now:

(Have a resource we should include here? Let us know.)

From Rockwood

For Leadership

For Well-Being

For BIPOC Leaders

For White Leaders

For Trans & Gender Nonconforming Leaders

For Disabled Leaders

As we move into this week marked in different ways by anticipation and hope – the celebration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the National Day of Racial Healing, and the inauguration of a new president and vice-president –  we hold all of you in our minds and our hearts. To quote activist & author Grace Lee Boggs:

“Love isn't about what we did yesterday; it's about what we do today and tomorrow and the day after.”

Additional text, thoughts, and language from Raj Escondo, Nani Toda, Amie Lam, Amanda Rodriguez, Lucia Castañeda Kimble, Melanie Anne Conway, & Julie Besaha.

Rockwood Community Call

Cecily Rose Engelhart

Master Certified Life Coach, Speaker, and Designer

September 28 | 12 PT / 3 ET