By Lynn Redenbach
This year’s IPNB conference, Timeless Wisdom, Timely Action touched me deeply, as it did for many others who were fortunate to attend this final gathering. Perhaps, the announcement that this would be the last conference of its kind added to the preciousness of the experience; however, the experiential focus throughout the event brought the topics into body and relationship. It was far more than a cognitive event. As well the presenters facilitated a shared space where we were together in dialogue, within ourselves and with each other, around pressing historical, social, and global issues. For me, this conference has lived on in my consciousness, in my body, and in conversations in ways that have been both delightful and disturbing.
One of these living conversations surrounds a profound and deep call for leadership. The question (inspired by one of GAINS board members: Thank you Greg!) “what is the relevance of IPNB to leadership?” recently brought forward some musings, which I share with you now.
In asking this question and listening, I recognize that this question is multi-layered and not simply about principles that can be applied to people or situations. There is vast leadership literature, full of “how to’s” offering tips on strategy and steps to apply to people, to situations, to manage. This is not IPNB.
IPNB is as much about the leader as a person as it is about what she/he/they do.
Digging deeper, this question asks us to consider the leader’s self. It suggests a redefining of ‘self’ as relational, embedded, and embodied as it is about any kind of IPNB-infused action, (although that is interesting too). The leader self is emergent, always in dialogue, always dynamic.
We are at a time in history (perhaps it has always been, but the stakes are at an all-time high), where we are having a crisis in leadership. The old models are not working. Old models are being challenged. Old models must be challenged. The call to new leadership was woven throughout this conference as we grappled with the urgent issues of the climate crisis, what this means for the youth of today, and the historically embedded issues of racial violence and oppressive use of power. Top-down leadership models do not fit with what is necessary to bring what is needed to the crises at hand. Without connection with the natural world, with our bodies, with each other, our very foundation and sustenance have become unbalanced. The climate crisis, I believe, is one of many system-wide symptoms and motivators to do this differently. The crises that we are facing around the globe are uniting us all. I left this conference with a deep recognition that if ever there was a time for IPNB-informed leadership, now is it!
As we know, change like this can propel us into chaos, therefore, leadership that is informed by connection, compassion, and wisdom (gleaned from multiple sources like science, nature, and contemplative traditions) is necessary.
What does leadership mean within this new climate?
I believe that IPNB, in its essence, calls us forward to examine what leadership means at every level. We cannot have integration if leaders are not listening. We cannot have integration without everyone’s participation. In times of crisis, we often seek out leaders who will tell us what to do; perhaps this protects us from having to grapple with the hard questions in ways that disrupt and disturb. People may be attracted to this, but it isn’t about integration, which will only lead us into more chaos or rigidity.
IPNB-informed leadership means that ‘all-our-relations’ be considered. It calls us forward into service; to face our own humility and to lead from a humbleness that acknowledges our interconnectedness. No relationship can be ignored. No voice unheard. Including the leader within his/her/themselves. I believe that the crises at hand call us forward to transform consciousness within and between, as well as a reconnection with the natural world, including our bodies.
IPNB has to grow into this new calling – and I believe the recent 2019 conference challenged IPNB in as much as it provided a forum to bring diverse voices together. IPNB has received the invitation to consider the historical, social, and political dimensions of diversity, power, and privilege as it is intimately related to the global crises we are all facing. The personal is political, and the need to bring IPNB forward into this realm is evident, real, and the time is now. Let’s all ask ourselves, “What am I/we/MWE called to do?”