I am honoured to be writing this first welcome in my capacity as Executive Director of Routes to Resilience, now an independently constituted social enterprise. I am also delighted to share with you our new branding and website and to showcase our expanded programme and workshop offerings. These cater not only for young adults and educators but now also for young professionals and emerging managers based on the skill set, expertise and experience that I bring to the growing Routes to Resilience team. Please do share your thoughts and let us know what other support you might need to find your resilient sustainable future.
To be leading Routes to Resilience is a great honour. It fulfils a calling I have felt, deeply, since the day I listened to Nelson Mandela address the new Rainbow Nation of South Africa. I was just 8 years old at the time. Although young, I was old enough to already know that I wanted to be a positive contributor to society. I wanted to be part of the change that brought kindness, compassion, social justice and resilient sustainability to bear on how we lived in the world, whether in our family group, our community, country, continent or planet.
In the time since then, I have followed a meandering route though always at the centre was my commitment to strive to have a positive impact on society, to use the skills and principles that I was able to gain from my many teachers and to hopefully contribute back as generously to the colleagues, young adults, new professionals and emerging managers with whom I have worked over this time. I am immensely grateful now for the opportunity to deepen my knowledge and to enhance my potential for contribution by leading Routes to Resilience, working with our fantastic multi-disciplinary team and the incredible faculty of thought leaders and practitioners actively working to make a positive contribution to society, the environment and our economies.
Reflecting on the challenge of sustainable development and the link it has to personal leadership and contribution, I am reminded of a tale that I love, written by an unknown author. It is a story of an old man teaching his grandson about life. It goes like this:
“A fight is going on inside me,” the grandfather said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One is angry, envious, greedy, arrogant, full of false pride and superiority. He is also self-pitying, resentful, full of guilt, sorry and regret. The other is full of joy, faith, hope, peace and love. He is humble, kind, benevolent and compassionate. The same fight is going on inside you. It is inside every other person too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”
The old man replied quite simply, “The one you feed.”
What I love about this story is that it is a story about our internal battles to define, recognise and lead ourselves to success by discovering our own unique and authentic self – good and bad. Leadership is about getting to know, coming to love and learning how to respect and guide ourselves to a life in which we can thrive and through which we can contribute to the flourishing of others. If we cannot lead ourselves, we can’t begin to lead another. So leadership is something all of us grapple with even if we don’t want to be the CEO of the company.
Recently, however, I learnt that there is a variation of this story that I find even more thought provoking. In this version, the old man adds, “If you feed them both right, they can both win”.
This calls on us to acknowledge our shadow fears and feelings, to challenge ourselves to manage these better and find the strategies and behaviours that will support ourselves as holistic integrated entities. We cannot ignore these parts of ourselves in the hope they will just go away. We need to identify them, understand them and find out how to address them.
Recently I had the privilege of attending a workshop and small group lunch with Carol Dweck, the thinker behind the “Growth Mindset”. Carol’s discussion reminded me of this story because she points out how we often have an internal battle between being fixed with what we know and how we do things (use our Fixed Mindset) and being open to new outcomes and new possibilities and new ways of doing things (a Growth Mindset). The world is calling for us to find these new ways to do things, better ways, ways that will enhance and contribute to the experience of ourselves, those around us and the world itself as a place we need to protect and restore.
Whether you want to save the world, be the best parent you can be, run a company successfully, lead a team, or pursue a humble joyful life, you have a journey ahead. So I invite you to consider your strengths and your shortfalls, to seek to understand how they might be nurtured or healed to amplify your potential. What are the needs you have that might be leading you to unsustainable actions – whether in service of yourself or others? What stops you from valuing simplicity, focusing on others and being aware of your community needs? What are you doing that is working well that others can learn from? Who could help you on your journey?