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By September 17, 2013October 2nd, 20192 Comments


We’ve been in the process of setting our direction here at Rockwood. We’re looking at our purpose, our vision, and how we will fulfill our commitments to the world. It’s been an enlivening and satisfying exploration, and as a result, it has become clear that I need to radically shift my role from one of internal management to external relationship building.

This is a change I welcome, as it is much more in alignment with my gifts, and will allow me to do more of what I love and less of what is best left to others. I know it’s good for Rockwood that others take greater leadership, and I’m committed to stepping aside when appropriate.

Nonetheless, I’m finding that occasionally I resist actually letting go of some of my old tasks, clinging to my old role as key decision-maker in most things. While I know this shift in role is good for me and for our organization, I still sometimes resist.


Logically, I should be delighted to relinquish those tasks for which I am not well-suited. I should be wildly excited about delegating to others with greater skills than I, so that my load is lightened. I’m really happy with what we’ve learned and where we’re going, so what is keeping me from fully embracing change?

Sometimes I fear that if I don’t manage everything, we’ll make mistakes and fail. (As if I’ve never made a mistake or failed…). Or I get invested in how we’ve always done things and take it personally if someone has a better way or idea. Or the Taurus part of me likes things to just remain the same – let’s not fix what ain’t broke.

Fortunately I have Rockwood practices to lean back on, and they remind me that good leadership requires co-powering. It does not serve Rockwood or the world when I refuse to create space for other leaders in our organization. Nor is it helpful when I try to weigh in on all decisions – that can stifle the creativity of those around me.

Letting go of and sharing power requires discipline and intention. The habit of doing everything can be a hard one to break. But I’m finding that if I really let go, really share power and decision-making, life gets infinitely more easy and satisfying. There are folks in my organization who are much wiser about their work than I could ever be. If I get out of their way, magic happens. Stepping aside creates space for the wisdom of others to emerge and thrive.

I don’t think that I’m the only person on this planet who has a hard time sometimes letting go. Perhaps this is also true for you. If so, I invite you to take an honest and rigorous look at your habits and connections to old patterns:

• What might it be time for you to release?

• Are there decisions that do not need your input?

• Are there people who are better at some of your key organizational tasks than you?

• What could happen if you trusted more and controlled less?

Imagine what might be possible if each of us were freed up to do what we do best. Imagine how much easier that might be than trying to control it all. I’ll bet that if we all let go of a little, there would be significantly more room for those around us to step forward, and our lives and leadership would become more satisfying and interesting.

And that would be good for the whole world.

From my heart to yours,


September 2013

Flickr photo credit: Changed Priorities Ahead by Jonas Bengtsson.


  • Thanks, I needed that!

    Over a year and a half ago, I told the board of the social justice fund that I work for that I planned to step down from the directorship in two years – that is, this fall or winter.

    The reasons were exactly the same as yours. I had originally moved into the director job from program management because the organization needed it, but I knew then that nonprofit management was neither my strength nor my interest. So after doing it for a while and helping the board make some basic changes in how the foundation works, I felt that I was getting near the end of my usefulness. Two years would be ample time for the board to find a talented new executive director. It would also give me time to put a few more things in place before leaving.

    Now the board is getting applications for the job. Watching the process has been hard because I don’t have much control over it. After investing almost fourteen years in the organization, I want the transition to go right!

    Which means I constantly want to jump in, and the board (very reasonably) doesn’t let me. So your list of questions is useful:

    – What is it time for me to release? My hope that the new director will share my commitment to nurturing democratically run community organizations. I’m also concerned with what I call Funder Disease: the attitude that we grantmakers are brilliant because we have money and that, therefore, we should feel good about making nonprofits jump through hoops.

    – What decisions don’t need my input? Our “bike rack” issues – topics the board has flagged to talk about at some point. I still plan to offer bike rack suggestions, but I’m fine with just raising the questions, then letting board members discuss them (or not) in their own time and way.

    – Are there people who can do anything better than I can? Lots of them! And I hope some apply.

    – What could happen if I trusted more and controlled less? I’d be more productive and less distracted day to day. Strange as it is to say, I’d be more excited about leaving if I were having more fun with my work.

    So again, thanks so much for your letter. You’re asking questions I should have asked myself months ago.

Rockwood Community Call

Cecily Rose Engelhart

Master Certified Life Coach, Speaker, and Designer

September 28 | 12 PT / 3 ET