Where Mindful Leadership Meets Urgency

There are many ways to make change in the world, but all change that has to do with moving in a new direction, breaking old habits, or arriving someplace new (faster) requires clarity of intention.

I am reminded of this every time I sit down to write a piece, and every time I try to collaborate with others. For me, this is where mindfulness comes in. Whether or not the concept of mindfulness appeals to you, we all know the value of slowing down to speed up. Taking time to properly wrap our heads around something before jumping to what we think is a solution. Paying attention to the task in front of us to better prepare ourselves for what we hope to achieve in the end.

In the business community, we call this starting with purpose and following the problem-solving process (or letting the work flow) from there. In my work teaching emergence, my colleagues and I start with “calling questions,” ask ourselves “what is the need?” and co-design learning events and action plans only once we have taken the time to collect and reflect on this information. One method works with problems, the other works with strengths, but both require clarity of intention. And then the work becomes about creating the conditions for alignment. For all other frameworks for change out there—and I’m sure there are a few—I’m willing to bet clarity of intention is right up at the front of those processes, too. And the wonderful thing about intention is that it can change. While intention is essential, it is also just a starting place.

But what if we feel we don’t have time to think carefully about intention or critically about process because something just NEEDS to be done? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately in light of the cuts to women’s healthcare in Texas and Trayvon Martin’s death. Whether we are working alone or with a team, thinking about our own path or the path of a group/organization, or a much larger issue in society, what do we do when we feel a deep sense of urgency? I rarely hear advice about this, I imagine because acknowledging feelings of urgency would also mean getting in touch with fear, anger, confusion, vulnerability, hope, vision, and desire… a whole range of things that place us much more in our hearts than in our heads, and we are still learning about how to act and lead from a place of whole-heartedness. Acknowledging urgency would mean asking ourselves big questions about how we are showing up (or not showing up) in our leadership and then having the courage to try to answer those questions honestly and change our own personal behavior.

In times of urgency, I wish I could say that moving to action is the only thing that matters, but save for those instances where people are in actual physical or emotional danger, I can’t. I’ve seen too many people check out of their activism (or hopes, dreams, commitments) when they are wrapped up only in feelings of urgency. Intention matters, and it always comes first. In No Excuses, Gloria Feldt explains the relationship between intention and responsibility: “[Intention] goes a step beyond ambition. Ambition is aspirational… Intention implies assuming you can and have every right to achieve your ambition and that you care enough to make it happen.”

Furthermore, when we have clarity of intention and we express our intention (we often fail to do this crucial step), we create new language and find communities of support. The shared meaning-making that arises out of expressed intention WITHIN A COMMUNITY OF SUPPORT is what leads us to wise action… action the world needs now.

Not sure what your intention or next step is? Don’t try to figure it out alone! Use your community. And if you can, please join Gloria Feldt and the Take the Lead community for a 2 part webinar, starting TODAY at 1pm PDT / 4pm EDT. There is still time to register!

About the Author

Lex Schroeder is a writer and speaker on gender equity, systems change, and the future of work. She is a Leadership Ambassador with Take The Lead and is based in NYC. She can be reached at lexschroeder@taketheleadwomen.com. Follow her on Twitter @lexschroeder.