Leading from Our Center

Extraordinary times demand extraordinary responses. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been reflecting on the role and performance of leadership in general and FUUSN leadership in particular, including FUUSN’s Board of Trustees, the Operations Council, our minister, our lay leadership, and our devoted staff. Our leadership has stepped forward with extraordinary speed and energy in the past few weeks to make the difficult but necessary decisions to close our facility and shift as much of our congregational life as possible onto virtual platforms. We have also doubled-down on our outreach to meet the emerging needs of individual members of the congregation for practical and emotional support in this trying time. Finally, we are looking ahead and trying to discern as best we can what awaits us as a community in the coming weeks and months and how best we can respond to that.
When we think of leadership we may often think of leaders functioning in their formal roles as leaders. Leaders ideally exhibit leadership. But I’d like to invite each of you to consider leadership in a much broader context: the leadership that each of us has the potential to manifest in our daily living and interactions as a member or friend of our congregation. In our leadership in this sense we have the potential to encourage and inspire ourselves and others to move us to action in directions that are aligned with our fundamental mission and purpose as members of the FUUSN community during this extraordinary period.
The uncertainty of our present situation and how it will affect us going forward can easily propel us into an emotionally reactive place. I imagine we have all witnessed or experienced in recent days moments of intense and gnawing fear, anger, denial, guilt, blame or shame, and grief about the daily litany of terrible and terrifying events that we hear or read about, that play out on our screens and sometimes unfold in our families, neighborhoods, and local communities. It can often feel overwhelming. Exercising self-leadership can serve as an effective antidote to this sense of emotional overwhelm. The essence of leadership is the courage to acknowledge what is and to act in the face of the unknown and the ultimate uncertainty of the future. It is to remind ourselves of what really matters to us; to acknowledge and dissipate our denial; to confront, acknowledge, and accept our fears; to resolve our guilt and seek forgiveness; to let go of our blame and shame and to remind ourselves of our fundamental worthiness; to open ourselves to our own sadness and the sadness of others. Rather than being led by our emotional reactivity, we can learn to orchestrate our own emotional responsiveness. And out of that responsiveness is likely to come action that effectively responds to the needs of the situation.This we need more than ever at this particular juncture in our history.
Of course none of this is easy. Cultivating this kind of self-leadership is challenging. All leaders are imperfect and all manifestations of leadership are inevitably flawed to some degree.The greater our humility regarding our efforts to manifest leadership, the more effective our leadership is ultimately likely to be. A place to start is discovering or rediscovering that centered place within us where we can notice ourselves and keenly observe how we are reacting to the world around us.
As members of a democratic congregational polity, each of us shares some responsibility not only for our own well-being, but for the well-being of our entire community. For those of us occupying formally designated leadership roles, I view encouraging and enabling the cultivation of self-leadership amongst the community as one of our central tasks and responsibilities in this current challenging period. Now more than ever we need each other to be present for each other and to be centered for each other. If we do this, I am certain we will get through this period stronger, wiser, more aware and more resilient as a community.
-Chris Krebs, Board of Trustees