Leading Others with Heart and Soul in Challenging Times
I have had the honor of serving on the Board of Trustees at the Voyageur Outward Bound School, the preeminent outdoor leadership organization. The other day I watched as Jack Lee, the Executive Director, led a Zoom video meeting with the board and members of the staff. His letters each week throughout the COVID-19 crisis encourage everyone on staff to hold to the Outward Bound principles of compassion, integrity, excellence, inclusion and safety. He is all about the Voyageur Outward Bound Mission, which is building more compassionate and resilient people for a more compassionate and resilient world.
As he discussed difficult decisions brought on by COVID-19 and the impact on his team and the economics of the business, he was interrupted by his 8-year-old son, Timothy, who climbed into his lap, giving him his daily “good morning” hug at the start of the day. For a few moments, Jack turned his focus to his son. We, on the Zoom call, wait and witness the tenderness of an authentic leader, a person who understands the importance of family, work, and our role in the universe.
Martin Luther King said prophetically, “The ultimate measure of a person is not where he/she stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he/she stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Leadership. It is what you see and feel when people lead with heart and soul. You see their character and vulnerability, their fear even, and their strength and courage in the face of uncertainty. It is not separate from home life or family. It is who we are and how we are, no matter the circumstances.
Our company, the Prouty Project, is not immune to the challenges beset by the coronavirus. And yet in Ernest Shackleton-ian style, our Founder and Chairman, Jeff Prouty and CEO, Mike Felmlee have offered to forego their salaries for many months this year to help us cover expenses and keep the rest of the staff intact.
We are looking all around us for good leadership in our organizations and our city, state, and country politics. Frankly…it is not easy. Since the murder of George Floyd and the nationwide and global protests for racial equity, many of us are emotionally exhausted. And yet, we must keep on doing what we can with the information and energy we have at the time. Ernest Shackleton said that “Optimism is true moral courage.” These days, I too am trying hard to hold on to that notion….and then I come across this writing about leadership, a note to leaders from those they lead, and I know that I can strive to be a better leader one more day.
by William Ayot
A word from the led—
And in the end we follow them-
Not because we are paid,
Not because we might see some advantage
Not because of the things they have accomplished,
Not even because of the dreams they dream
But simply because of who they are:
The man, the woman, the leader, the boss,
Standing up there when the wave hits the rock,
Passing out faith and confidence like life jackets,
Knowing the currents, holding the doubts,
Imagining the delights and terrors of every landfall;
Captain, pirate, and parent by turns,
The bearer of our countless hopes and expectations.
We give them our trust. We give them our effort.
What we ask in return is that they stay true.
These days, we are all getting a chance to be leaders. To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the leader you wish to see.” We wish you well as you find within yourself the capacity to lead well in difficult times.
Essay One, Part Two in a Series by Peter Bailey, Adrienne Jordan, and Kristin Jonason at The Prouty Project.
Read the Essays from Part One Here: