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Personal Ecology

Presence and Balance: Nonprofit Leadership Tools

By May 28, 2013February 10th, 20172 Comments

“In order to really be an effective ‘leader’ in this movement, we must fully be present with each other. For me, that has meant that I need to put my cell phone down – I know – it gave me anxiety when I first tried it too!”

Nicole MatthewsIn early 2013, Nicole Matthews, Executive Director of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition, took Rockwood’s 5-day Art of Leadership training in Sonoma.We’re thrilled to be able to share the story about her experience that she posted in the Novo Move to End Violence blog post, A Journey to Self Discovery.


My Move to End Violence journey has begun, and it has been quite a journey so far. It started out with a meeting of my fellow Cohort 2 peers in Tarrytown, New York. I entered that meeting full of questions, and when I left Tarrytown, I left with even more questions. I left that convening excited, nervous, inquisitive, and more.  Some of the many questions I have pondered since that time, include: where will this journey take me; who will I meet there; how will I make it relevant to Tribal Communities; and what will I find when I get there?  I’m still processing those questions, and I’m anxiously awaiting their answers.

My next destination as part of the Move to End Violence journey was to Sonoma, California to attend the Rockwood Art of Leadership training. I went into that training with my “professional hat” on; ready to learn those ever-important leadership skills.  After my first day there, I went back to my room thinking – what have I gotten myself into? I had to take my “professional hat” off, and just be me.

The journey I took during that week was not only transformative – it was eye-opening, deeply personal, and incredibly worthwhile! I’ve often struggled with this notion of ‘leadership,” and the perceived power that comes with that title. One of the many lessons I learned at Rockwood was about presence – being present with myself, my colleagues, my family, and my work. In order to really be an effective ‘leader’ in this movement, we must fully be present with each other. For me, that has meant that I need to put my cell phone down – I know – it gave me anxiety when I first tried it too! I have found that when I’m fully present with people, I feel much more connected to them, and they feel much more connected to me. I feel more effective in my work, because I am actually hearing what’s being said, and I’m not missing those crucial moments in time because I’m checking my e-mail. In our current age of technology, we often forget about the importance of our relationship to each other, and Rockwood helped remind me how important that is to my work and to my life.

Another important lesson I learned from Rockwood was about balance – personal, and professional. In my work of ending sexual violence against Native women and children, I often talk about balance, and the importance of restoring or having balance in our Tribal communities. What I was missing, however, was a real understanding of what balance is.  You see, many of us, have been given unspoken (and sometimes spoken) teachings that tell us that when you are part of this movement – you must work long hours, give until it hurts, and make endless sacrifices. “It’s just part of the job – get over it!” I have been living much of my professional life like this, and I can tell you that it doesn’t always work out so great. In fact, I could give you a huge list of sacrifices that I’ve made, and I’m sure that my children could too. What I’m learning about myself, is that there are tools to help me work ‘smarter’ so that I’m not always working in crisis mode. I can put my cell phone down after 5pm (yes, it can be done), I can make a plan to take care of myself, and I can restore balance in my own life and be a model for others. Of course, there will always be those crunch times when I will have to work late, when I will be away from my family for days at a time, and when I will undoubtedly have to check my e-mail after 5pm. But if I restore some balance in my life, those times will seem less painful.

I’ve only just begun this journey called Move to End Violence, and I’m already feeling transformed, invigorated, and ready for more. I’m excited for this journey, and I’m ready to learn more about my fellow cohort members as we embark on this journey together.


You can learn more about Rockwood’s Art of Leadership training by clicking here. Questions? We’d love to chat with you.  Shoot us an email, or give us a call.


  • Roberto says:

    Congratulations & thank you! Your growth revelations are inspiring. Learning to be more presence is big. It enables us to more resourceful, responsive and effective. Also, committing to care for yourself, as difficult as it can be, will also enable you to be more the “healer” we need you to be for yourself and our communities. Forward move to end violence with more courageous love and healing!

  • Nicole says:

    Thank you Roberto! I am always a work in progress, and some days are easier than others. I appreciate your words of encouragement!! 🙂

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