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#30 Be. Leadership Class of 2015 - Graduation Speech

by Tonya Baker & Stephen Macartney

WOW …..They said it would go fast and it really has been almost supersonic 21 days, once a month for each of the 9 sessions, sometimes it felt like we’d only been together just the week or two before, yet other times there was so much "news" and happenings it felt like it should have been much much longer.

One of the first lessons that I remember on our leadership program & journey with be. Was that you can only truly be a leader when you peel back your own layers and get vulnerable and intimate with yourself. When you know your own story, your attitudes, beliefs, values that make up your true authentic self.

We were told, no commanded, to "Go Deep", observe our responses & actions and "get underneath them" to discover our hidden depths of being.

We learnt about the balanced ego of leadership between humility & self confidence, and were encouraged to maintain an awareness of our position between the spectrum of these two ego states on our journey.

Our self-exploration took many forms this year, including our personality types according to Myers-Brigs under the expert guidance of Karen Sew Hoy. In fact Stephen & I are very close in our personality assessments. I am the introvert to his extrovert in the NFP profiles.

The importance of Yin & Yang came through strongly throughout the year, or as Karam Meuli called it "Wairua", two rivers converging, where you need opposites to coexist together such as:

  • Holding on / letting go
  • Short term focus/ long term view
  • Success/ Failure
  • Reaffirm self/ challenge parts of self supposed
  • Give/ receive

We were exposed to some great authors and thought leaders through our readings, who truly helped shape our learnings and experience:

  • Naomi Klein
  • Peter Block
  • Brene Brown
  • Margaret Wheatley
  • Eleanor Roosevelt (to name a few)

Speaking of thought leaders, our facilitators Philip & Lesley have indeed provided much food for thought this year.

This fabulously fashionable, fiercely intelligent, ferociously opinionated and principled duo have at times lit a fire in our bellies, put a bomb underneath us or blown our minds apart.

Of our teachers and our experience we would like to share one of Davendra Barnhart’s writings:

"Raven, teach me to ride the winds of change
Perch where the wind comes at you full force
Let it blow you apart till your feathers fly off and you look like hell
Then abandon yourself

The wind is not your enemy, nothing in life is
Go where the wind takes you, higher, lower, backwards
The wind to carry you forward will find you when you are ready
When you can bear it"

We received some true gifts in the form of speakers this year, thought leaders, business leaders, community, education, social and service leaders. We are all so grateful for the generosity of those who shared their time, experiences and lessons with us and our leadership journey and lives are the richer for it. All seemed to echo the power & value of conversation, and there was much admiration and respect expressed for Be. As a community through which transformational change could be achieved.

We also learned some new & interesting terms of phrase, for me I recall:

  • Minority stress
  • Coalessence
  • Intersectionality
  • Murky Middle
  • And of course "Wairua"

We have discovered for ourselves that this program is indeed a waka, not a ferry, requiring our active participation, and sharing of inarticulate thoughts and feelings at times requiring an immense amount of trust in & respect for each other. We did not always get this exactly right but I am sure we have all learnt, as many of our speakers have said, that through adversity there is often the biggest learning or growth opportunity for us.

We have experienced many things to be grateful for this year. With the aroha of all the people around us. We've learned that more than saying thank you to a speaker we express our gratefulness for their sharing. And in that spirit we would like to thank our friend's family and whanau for their support and belief in us throughout this very busy and challenging year.

And a special mention for the Finances, we've had two "engagements" this year amongst the cohort. Congratulations to Loren and Teena. 

We've been away from Friends and family, we've been busy before during and after each session, We've been grumpy with ourselves with others and absorbed by strange comments, answers to questions and feedback.

And gratitude to Sam and Hannah and briefly Michelle for an organization, its leaders and its wonderful staff who have made it their goal to support us in our leadership development. It can't be easy.. to organize travel, accommodation, reflections, notes feedback surveys, meals.

I, personally, will be forever grateful to Philip, Lesley & Be. For this opportunity to take the time to examine myself and my leadership journey.

Through this I feel I have more self awareness & leadership strengths & skills to step in and out of leadership roles with confidence. While this is only a part of my journey I feel revived and refueled by this experience to lead myself into the next leg.

We include our cohort in our gratitude tonight, who have allowed us to share, listen, learn & grow with them this year. You have shown us much love support & care. We have much admiration for your own drive and sense of purpose you continue to show.

We offer this wish to you our dear friends:

Kia tou kaha hei tutau ki hurihia koe me te koutou parirau ki te tango i rere

Let your strength be your anchor to ground you as well as your wings to take flight.

To conclude, In the words of Margaret Wheatley, "We've lived fully, we've experienced joy, we've had some fun and we'd do it all over again."