by Dana Higgins

Called to attention by Tibetan bells, we began the last day of training with Search for Common Ground.  It was a very introspective day, focused on the qualities of leadership and how personal characteristics affect our ability to lead.  Susan Collins Marks and Serena Tripathee led us through a variety of exercises to find personal strengths and purpose in life, including an extensive session of meditation and visualization.  After sharing personal stories of successful leadership with partners, an impressive list of qualities (ranging from unconditional love to the ability to say no) exhibited by participants was compiled.

My partner in the exercise shared a truly moving story of demonstrating leadership with her family.  Many years before, her father became very sick.  Though she had never even been grocery shopping on her own, she bravely took care of her family’s needs while battling her own sorrow over her father’s sickness.  From this experience she gained not only a new sense of independence, but she also demonstrated that she could rise to the challenge even if it required her to step far from her comfort zone.  Such characteristics make not only a great leader, but also a beautiful person.

Further discussions involved expectations we had for current global leaders and the difficulty of balancing differing interests in our lives.  Bringing us back to kindergarten, we used crayons to represent our personal style of leadership as we discovered throughout the day’s exercises on large sheets of paper and shared them with the group.  The lesson of the day is best summarized by a statement from Susan Collins Marks: “Leadership is about knowing who you are and your impact on others.”