Leadership and Succession Review Group
May 23, 2004
The Leadership and Succession Review Group gathered for a conference call on Sunday, May 23, 2004.
Culture of leadership
The discussion highlighted the importance of organizational structures, leadership training and clear succession processes.
Rona Wyatt, from New Zealand, expressed the importance of working within the culture, as well as the life cycle and size of centers when developing leadership structures. At her center nearly everyone is involved in everything. Decisions are made in an organic manner through a lot of dialog. She described the leadership model that New Zealander’s can relate with, saying that they don’t do well with directive leadership. Hierarchy that emerges out of the natural order of things, as opposed to one that is institutionalized is much more effective. We all agreed that this is what we aspire to.
Lennart Krogall, from Halifax added that empowering people and at the same time representing the Sakyong and the mandala is the key, that natural order flows both ways. This arises and is nurtured through our own practice and path. Each of us has our own immediate and internal connection with the Sakyong, and at the same time an external connection. Leadership training and organizational structures can enhance the external connection. We have to repeatedly remind ourselves of the importance of practice.
This reminded Lennart of the history of Shambhala leadership styles over time. He said that after the Vidyadara died, one of the older students would have an idea, which would rely on the enthusiasm and commitment of that person to carry out. For example, the Wednesday evening Open House in Halifax was started by someone in the late 80’s and became an institution. The Land Center at Dorje Denma Ling came about because of how 3 people had an idea, found the land, got some things going and then gave it to the mandala. In Bhutan, the form of government includes the royalty, but at the same time, there are villages that are run by the community. There are no homeless, because in times of hardship, the community takes care of those who need help. An elder or two work like Dekyongs, carrying community concerns to the king/queen and returning with information for the community.
Leadership experience, training
Those of us on the call have had similar experiences of being drawn into leadership quickly, not as a result of any formalized plan, but more a matter of personal and sangha karma. As centers form, there’s generally nothing structural, no curriculum. People simply find themselves thrown into the situation. We do what we can. As things grow and become demanding, the challenge is in working with and empowering people. It becomes critical to keep a sense of central seat, of representing the center of the mandala, and empowering the local sangha at the same time.
Lennart, who works to develop curriculum for training during encampment, is interested in adapting that training for leadership development. He told us that the Sakyong sees encampment as the best leadership training. Lennart has offered to put together an outline of using encampment principles in non-military ways, even outside of the sangha, working with body, speech, mind, and atmosphere.
Jane Arthur, of Boulder, expressed her interest in helping people become good leaders. She wants to repay the kindness of the many people who mentored her, expended energy to helping her and were willing to work alongside. She’s interested in mixing the wisdom of older students who have these teachings in their DNA in working with younger, hungry, inspired students who have more energy, but less experience with the path. Older students could help younger students focus the energy. In this model we would always be “doing and passing on.” We could look to sangha members who have been developing leadership programs. The basis would be warriorship and leadership. This is the path of being leaders in our own lives, seeing ourselves as leaders rather than us vs. them. This is a matter of complete commitment to the path for everyone in the sangha, not just the identified leaders.
Jane expressed the need for good beginnings and good endings to roles as leaders. Clear and transparent processes in choosing leaders gives those leaders the best possible shot at doing a good job. As Jane said, we need to make the selection process clean because the karma of that process follows the new leader. She also pointed out that taking vows makes our intention explicit and could be included on the list of questions to directors. Something like, “do the director and council take vows upon assuming roles and retirement oaths when they leave a position?”
As for length of terms, she remembers the Sakyong telling her that 3 to 5 years is best.
Reflecting on the experience of the conference call, Rona said she was inspired to contact people in her area to get feedback on how their process is working. She said it could also be a way of documenting their history. This is the power of this process!