Over the past five days, I have been deep in the process of co-hosting the Art of Participatory Leadership in Oaxaca, Mexico. We were a gathering of community organizers, indigenous leaders, educators, environmentalists, artisans and farmers, representing a beautiful diversity of Oaxacans from both the rural and urban contexts. We came together at La Calera, an old limestone factory, which after 27 years in abandonment was converted into a space for art and community. In this rustic, creative space of re-invention, we dove deep into a process of conversation and embodiment that brought to life a model for leadership that the world is asking for.
We created the conditions for people to experience what it’s like to work together in ways that harvest the collective wisdom of the group, because we are wiser together than we are alone. We are living in a time of history when we can no longer rely on individual leaders to solve the complex problems at hand, we need all of our voices and perspectives working together with a shared purpose. And this workshop was all about how we can create the conditions for that to emerge. We shared tools for hosting conversations that matter in organizations, communities, and wherever we are.
As hosts, Aerin Dunford, Sergio Beltran, Megan Martin and I came together wanting to make this art of hosting different. We really wanted to sink into what it looks like and feels like to be authentic leaders. In nature, the most thriving systems are the ones with the most diversity. This is the case for organizations as well, which need different kinds of people and leaders working collaboratively for creativity to bloom. The more in alignment we are with our unique approach to leadership, centering our strengths and gifts in service of the collective, the more powerful we are, together.
The art of hosting conversations that matter, like any art, is a practice. Breathing and being present is the base of this practice. When we are truly in the present, we can listen deeply, and open to what wants to emerge. Working with Theory U, we began practicing opening the mind, heart and body, to be truly awake, and aware of the possibilities that are available to us, but that we cannot perceive when we are closed.
What thrilled me to no end, was that we integrated the body into every step of the journey. Woven into the fabric of our design we created the conditions for body to be engaged alongside conversation. We moved through breathing, conversation, play, movement and storytelling in a seamless flow, allowing us to deepen our connection to Source, embodied wisdom and each other.
In our closing circle full of laughter and tears, there was no doubt that the past five days have been deeply transformative for each one of us present. We felt the power of the human spirit and what we are capable of when we truly come together with a shared purpose. We each connected to a deeper part of ourselves, expelling limiting belief systems with more clarity of how to re-forest as we continue to journey from the heart.