Moving Toward Action: My Introduction

Because everything we do and everything we are is in jeopardy,
and because peril is immediate and unremitting,

every person is the right person to act and
every moment is the right moment to begin.

– Jonathan Schell
Act, and God will act
– Joan of Arc

One day in the early 1990’s – though I do not recall the date, I clearly remember the moment – I was standing in the bathroom brushing my teeth, and typically even then pondering the important questions in my life. That particular morning, I suddenly began to put some of the pieces of my conscious evolution and personal journey together into a future scenario. I began thinking that I might become a consultant to non-profit organizations, helping to transform and sustain them as environments in which workers could be healthy, happy, and productive.

The next step in turning this early morning pondering into action was to develop a process for strategic planning grounded in feminist theory. I did this, and eventually used it to successfully facilitate planning sessions for a few non-profit organizations. (See Resources)

I also began at that time to put some of the pieces of my personal journey of conscious evolution together to offer presentations and workshops that brought together my journey with the insights of Eco-Feminist Spirituality and the New Cosmology.

Encouraged by these experiences, I decided to do graduate study. Knowing that what I really wanted to do was figure out how we could talk about spirituality in relationship to leadership and organizational life, I spent a few months discerning which degree program to pursue. I needed to decide whether I should get a master’s degree in the field of organizational development, and bring my insights on feminist process and spirituality into that work, or obtain a doctor of ministry degree with a focus on spirituality, exploring leadership and organizational development issues as a field of ministry through that route. In the end, based on very good advice from others, I pursued the D.Min. degree in spirituality and spiritual leadership at Chicago Theological Seminary.

Immediately after making this decision, I was graced with the opportunity to become the executive director of the Institute for Spiritual Leadership in Chicago, a small non-profit organization undergoing transformation. While it meant taking eight years as a part-time student to complete my coursework, the experience gave me the opportunity to attempt to put into practice what I was learning in the classroom.

During those years, I also trained as a facilitator of  Open Space Technology, a process for dialogue and decision-making in small and large groups developed by Harrison Owen. Eventually, I was hired to facilitate major decision-making assemblies of women religious (300-450 in size) using Open Space.

In 2003, while on a week-long retreat, I sketched a color-coded outline of the inner and outer process of my past conscious evolution. As I did so, I realized that there were four key movements driving my own evolution:

  • ecology,
  • feminism,
  • spirituality,
  • leadership.

Working with this list, I wrote down the key ideas, values, or principles held within each of these movements. The activity helped solidify for me the importance of these ideas, values and principles as foundational to my own life. I also noted the overlap of some values, and that key within each movement is the discipline of achieving at all times a healthy balance of competing values.

In the summer of 2006, just as I was leaving my role as executive director at the Institute for Spiritual Leadership, I was invited by my friend Avis Clendenen to teach a course on “Feminist/Womanist Approaches to Religion” and later one on “Christian Ethics” at Saint Xavier University in Chicago. A year later, I received an invitation to teach the ethics course and one on human development at Loyola University Chicago. While I very much enjoyed this foray into teaching on the college level, developing the courses also afforded me the opportunity continue to grow in my understanding of the process of human development, including human spiritual development, and its impact on ethics and social justice.

All of those past experiences brought me to my present work as a leadership development educator and trainer. In this work, I often use the leadership development model proposed by James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their book, The Leadership Challenge. In that book, Kouzes and Posner summarize their findings from interviews with hundreds of leaders about their best leadership experiences. From this data, the authors drew themes which they identify as “The Five Exemplary Leadership Practices.” These practices are what makes people the best kind of leaders in any part of the world:

  • Model the Way
  • Inspire a Shared Vision
  • Challenge the Process
  • Empower Others To Act
  • Encourage the Heart

I hope that this site reveals these same practices. In fact, it is in a way organized with them in mind. I am inspired to write it because I hope in doing so to model the way for others. I hope it gives others the same inspirational vision of hope that I received from the experiences I share within the book. I also hope that it will inspire others to challenge the way we have been living, particularly in Western culture. I hope by reading it, and doing the suggested reflections, readers will find their own voice and be empowered to act differently. Lastly, I hope that my personal story will encourage readers during the difficult times we all face ahead.

For an index of other posts within this current Click Here.

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