Discomfort with Leadership
by Rebecca-Aced Molina
Originally Published in Coaching for Transformation
Here is an example of how Embracing the Shadow supported an emerging leader to find her unique leadership style. Lucia is in her early 30’s, a Latina woman from an immigrant family, the first in her family to go to college. She is a new Program Director in a large non-profit organization, grappling with creating sound organizational systems without losing the organic grassroots feel of the work.
Lucia: I’m not comfortable being in a leadership position. I’ve always been so critical of leaders. I don’t have any good role models really. Many of the leaders I’ve observed have been very divorced from the work on the ground.
Coach: How would you describe a positive leader, practicing leadership in ways you could feel good about?
Lucia: It is really important to me to set goals and make sure our actions are moving us toward accomplishing those goals. But I don’t want to be a dictator.
Coach: It sounds like there is a part of you that has some clear ideas about how to lead an organization and another part that is resisting.
Coach: Let’s hear from both of them. Would you be willing to allow each voice, the organizational leader and the resistor, to speak from their own perspective?
Coach: Let’s both agree that when we hear from each voice, no matter what they say, we won’t try to make one right and the other wrong. Is that okay with you to put our judgments aside?
Coach: Okay. So which part would like to speak first?
Lucia: Let’s start with the organizational leader.
Coach: I invite you to get up out of your chair and find a place in the room where you can sit or stand as the organizational leader. How are you standing or sitting?
Lucia (Leader): Standing really straight. I kind of brushed off my pants and lifted up my chin.
Coach: Great. And what’s important to the organizational leader part of you?
Lucia (Leader): Wow! I just realized, I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am. I’ve studied and worked hard. It is really important to make Lucia’s parents proud.
Coach: Okay. So you are realizing you want some recognition about how hard you have worked and that being in this position is a source of pride.
Lucia (Leader): Yes, and I have great ideas.
Coach: Okay. Come back to being Lucia. Why don’t you take a minute and honor the organizational leader part. Tell her how much you appreciate her. Do it silently and let me know when you are done.
Coach: How was that for you?
Lucia: Pretty amazing. I feel more open to her. She isn’t doing anything wrong and I realized how much I have been judging her. I definitely want to let go of some of that.
Coach: Great! So let’s hear from the resistor part. Why don’t you move to another place in the room and sit or stand like the resistor. (pause) You there?
Coach: So what do you notice about the resistor part?
Lucia: Well. I’ve got one hand on my hip and my other hand is waving a finger saying, “Don’t forget where you came from!”
Coach: I am going to speak to you as if you are this resistor part fully right now; okay? You can answer in the first person, fully embodying this part of you. Resistor part, “What do you care deeply about?”
Lucia (Resistor): Just that I have been through hard times, my parents have been through hard times, and that those struggles are a part of me too.
Coach: What are you resisting?
Lucia (Resistor): Well. I believe in honoring my elders and being humble. It is part of my culture. It just feels weird to assume I am at the center of anything. It is just not how I was raised.
Coach: What do you need to feel okay about Lucia taking on leadership?
Lucia (Resistor): I just need her to know that her purpose as a leader is to build up the community as a whole and that she’s not going to lose sight of that.
Coach: Okay. Thank you, resistor. I can see you have a lot of insights to offer Lucia. Let’s come back to Lucia. After hearing from both parts, what are you more aware of now?
Lucia: Just that it makes sense now! I see why I’ve been having such a hard time. And I also realize that I don’t need to get rid of either of these parts. In fact, the opposite is true. I need to embrace both of them.
Coach: Wonderful. I would encourage you to take some time to journal and express to both these parts what you appreciate about them. How does that sound?
Lucia: It sounds great. I can’t wait!
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