Where is Our Visionary Leadership?
Since before the start of the Transforming Together campaign to benefit A Woman’s Place (AWP), Bucks County, and our shared community, I have been obsessed with trying to capture my own feelings about transformation. How have I transformed myself? How have I contributed to transforming my community? What transformations do I believe need to happen and what am I doing to bring them to fruition?
Transformation is bold and compelling. It requires fearless innovation and willingness to unleash ones creativity and passion. Can I begin to claim to have reached such lofty heights with my life and how I am living it?
I must confess some might consider me a nerd, although I would challenge this classification based on the dictionary definition of the word. I neither consider myself single-minded nor stupid. I challenge myself to participate in my life and my community in an intelligent and informed manner and seek to understand the viewpoints of others. I recognize that my world, at times, may be very small despite every attempt to broaden it and thus I strive to educate myself and not only listen to others, but really hear them.
I have been transformed by experiences in my life. I have been transformed by people I have met and with whom I have interacted. I have been transformed by the events and occurrences in my local and global community. I have been transformed because I consider transformation a core value and remind myself to respect it and remain open to it, whenever or wherever it may occur.
And thus, I want more.
I am a proud graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Class of 1995. I frequent the college’s website, Facebook page, news feeds, and more, eager to remain connected to what was a transformational experience in my life. In reading the recent commencement address delivered by Martha Craven Nussbaum, I was reminded of Founder Mary Lyon’s statement, “Go where no one else will go, do what no one else will do.” It is a clear and simple call to action that I can confidently say, in retrospect, defined my experience as a student and transformed me. My liberal arts education, a style that frequently comes under attack for its supposed lack of earning capacity or suggested uselessness in building economic security, helped to transform me into a global citizen that, as Nussbaum shared, “accepts no belief as authoritative simply because it has been handed down by tradition or become familiar through habit, that questions all beliefs and accepts only those that survive reason’s demand for consistency and for justification.” Experience, academia, and life have transformed me into a global citizen who insists on thinking for herself rather than simply deferring to authority.
I recognize that many may read and understand that to mean that I defy authority or refuse to conform and only challenge, but I reject such a simplification of my transformation. Critical thinking is a gift that should be encouraged and nurtured in all and I am transformed because others saw fit to invest time in doing so with me. As a result, I am actively becoming a responsible citizen who not only sees but cherishes the ties that bind me to other human beings.
Maya Angelou said, “I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.” At the risk of seeming to challenge the great Maya Angelou, of who’s gifts I will forever be in awe, I would take that a step further. I can be transformed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it. I seize the opportunity to take what happens to me and relish the transformation that results. I challenge the naysayers, those who insist on pervading the world with their pessimism and limited thinking, to present me with opportunities for such transformation. I will not be reduced. I will be transformed.
Still, I must challenge myself and ask again, how have I contributed to transforming my community? Am I meeting my responsibility as a global citizen called to go where no one else will go and do what no one else will do? Or am I part of the poverty of leadership that slows progress to achieving a world of justice and peace? In The Leadership Challenge written by James Kouzes and Barry Posner, Alan Keith of Genentech is quoted as saying, “Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.” Again, clear and simple.
I struggle to identify the individual transformations that I believe need to happen in our shared global community and return again to the poverty of leadership. Without question, I acknowledge those stand-out leaders that have answered the call, accepted the challenge, and dedicated themselves to creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen. I know and sincerely believe that they exist and applaud them for facing herculean challenges head on. But they can not succeed on their own. Visionary leadership requires an inspired constituency that also answers the call and rises to the challenge; an inspired constituency that shares transformation as a value and honestly opens itself to all that may come.
What transformation do I think we need? A transformation of truly visionary and inspiring leadership intent on creating a world defined by justice and peace and populated by vibrant, robust, critically-thinking citizens who will embrace all of their passion and creativity and demand conversations about what truly matters and action to achieve justice. And I will dedicate each and every day to such transformation.
Ifeoma Aduba, AWP Associate Director