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Leadership in These Times

By Peter Wrinch. Posted on May 26, 2020 in Stories + Recipes

The pace of change through this pandemic is startling. I know each one of you have been navigating your own spaces of change, and I wanted to share some of the changes at Hollyhock.

The Experience

Over the past ten weeks, I have found myself (and almost everyone I know) moving through a cycle of certainty and uncertainty. Some people have called the pandemic the “great accelerator,” in that it is accelerating change that was present in ourselves, our organizations, and the world much faster than in the period pre-COVID. I find that especially true when it comes to leadership. The older models of authoritarian and bureaucratic leadership are crumbling miserably in this time (as so well evidenced politically in places such as the USA and Brazil). The pandemic moves so quickly, that these styles of leadership with their prescription, tight power hierarchy, and inflexibility cannot react — and it shows. Alternatively, leadership styles that prioritize collective wisdom, emergent strategy, and data-driven decisions are thriving in this time.

At Hollyhock we have leaned towards “emergent leadership” in this time (although, it is easier to write about than to do). We are often reminding ourselves to lead with our organizational values: Open, Inspired, and Wise. It is a hard thing to do when you feel scared, uncertain, and confused. As Charles Eisenstein writes in The Coronation:

“Let us be aware of two contradictory tendencies in human affairs. The first is the tendency for hysteria to feed on itself, to exclude data points that don’t play into the fear, and to create the world in its image. The second is denial, the irrational rejection of information that might disrupt normalcy and comfort… How do you know what you believe is true?”

The hardest part of our work right now is to hold the truth of the uncertainty for ourselves and our greater community. I have often had to remind myself that given the uncertainty, this is the greatest leadership challenge in my lifetime (and one of the great challenges in the history of the organization/world). It is OK when we don’t have all the answers.

The Work

We have postponed our season opening until after June 29, and we are currently reviewing a number of items to decide how we will move forward from here. We are considering a host of factors including our specific programs, safety, border closings and travel restrictions, operating at a much lower capacity, and the opinions and wisdom of our board, staff, presenters, and community.

In the meantime, we have been moving ahead with a variety of virtual offerings. I am proud of our program team for making the pivot to virtual really quickly. Within a month of the pandemic hitting, we had already run a profitable virtual conference (SVI Virtual) and started a weekly free web series (Sheltering in Community). Those early forays into virtual illuminated that our model for convening people is special and can be translated online. Since those first days, we have launched ‘HOCKSHOPS (free mini-interactive ‘how-to’ workshops), Activate Live (free 4-week series for progressive digital change makers), and Living the Climate/COVID Emergencies: Apocalypse or Awakening? (a topical program this weekend with our very own Karen Mahon Carrington and Matthew Fox). We invite you to join! Learn more about our virtual programming here.

Our campus team has also been deeply involved with the Cortes Community. Our garden team has converted much of the garden to food production and we have been providing veggies to all our island staff, including those who have been laid off or were unable to start their season with us. The garden is a clear symbol of hope, tranquility, and resilience for our team and for the island.

We are heartened by the support of our community throughout this time; we would not be able to do any of this work without you. I am excited to announce that we are planning a very special day-long Solstice Hollyhock benefit event on June 20th. You wont want to miss this one! Please save the date in your calendars.

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