Those who march, write and engage in other forward looking activity exercise civic leadership. We are part of the energy that will shape the future. We are involved. By being involved we can influence and contribute. That is democracy!!!
Here is what we know about civic engagement from the work of Chrislip and O’Malley.
– Leadership is an activity, not a position.
– Anyone can lead, anytime, anywhere.
– Progress starts with you and must include engaging others.
– Your purpose must be clear.
– Make no mistake: leadership is risky, both professionally and personally.
Often, when we think about leadership our thoughts go to individuals who attempt to exercise their power and control. Yet, as we see with the current levels of civic engagement, we can re-frame our thinking to realize that leadership is: showing up engaged and ready to connect with others to make things better.
The concepts of “better” can seem not specific. So, I suggest that in America in 2018 “better” fits the language of The Constitution of the Iroquois Nation (from researching Wikipedia) under the heading of The Great Binding Law: “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation… even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.” A Chief of the Onondaga Nation writes: “We are looking ahead to make every decision that we make relates to the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come. … What about the seventh generation? Where are you taking them? What will they have?”
Heifetz, Grashow, and Linsky explain that leaders who work to address challenges from an adaptive point of view will be, “required to step into unknown space and disturbing the equilibrium, it is an activity that is inherently uncertain, risky for the organization as well as for the individual, and, for these reasons, often disruptive and disorienting.”
We can’t pretend that the changes that need to happen to activate our democracy will not entail some uncertainty and potentially disruptive and disorienting experiences. And, we must ask ourselves, would we rather hold onto the status quo? Or, are we ready to build the future together?
You don’t start with all of the answers when you are breathing new life into our democracy. The work of today’s engaged citizen is not linear. “Doing this work requires flexibility and openness – even in defining success. The pathway is not a straight line, and because working through an adaptive challenge will always involve distributing some losses, albeit in the service of an important purpose, the systemic dynamics that ensue, the politics of change, will have many unpredictable elements.”
So, just because this kind of civic engagement isn’t predictable and some of the present preferred system won’t likely become part of the future – why not start working for dramatic improvements? The future is a terrible thing to waste. Now is the time to use the present to get to work toward the best for all children. In fact, for all children seven generations from now.
Wikipedia post. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_generation_sustainability
For the Common Good: Redefining Civic Leadership, by David D. Chrislip and Ed O’Malley, KLC Press, 2013, pages 159, 164, 165 and 166
Heifetz, Grashow, Linsky from their book: The Practices of Adaptive Leadership (2009) pages 28 & 31