A small cadre of brave leaders, part of a project called The Elected Leaders Collective is doing leadership differently. Taking radical responsibility and looking inward. The stresses of our jobs are immense, and the old tools no longer work. Too many of us are dropping out. There is a new path being tread. If you take it, you can stay in, and change the system. It works. Consider this story:
He was bright-eyed, energetic, with a keen intellect and servants’ soul. Passion oozed from his altruistic core. A voracious reader, he had consumed endless books on policy, learned every theory, and studied the greats. He had learned in the field, volunteered for campaigns and causes, became a delegate, and taken leadership seminars. He had done all the external work – the lot. He could now apply those talents running a statewide race at just 23 years young. He would change the world.
Then reality came. Someone tried to sell a senate seat, moral decay. Social media screamed at him, public hate. Entrenched interest in his party slowed progress, nihilism. A can’t do attitude pervaded, apathy. Ward bosses resembled Tony Soprano, toxic culture. Privately he battled his own demons, years of childhood trauma ran the programming deep in his brain. He experienced all this, pointing his finger at others, blaming them for the world’s failings. He numbed the pain with workaholism, food, alcohol, and drugs.
The liquid of ecstatic possibility turned to cement. The world was conspiring against him.
Though he did not know it at the time he could not hold his toxicity and that of the system. He dropped out and took with him his passion, zeal, and force of change. All the books had been for nothing. The light at the end of the tunnel of democracy dimmed if imperceptibly.
He was bright-eyed, energetic, with a keen intellect and servants’ soul. Passion oozed from his altruistic core. Eight years he spent healing, conquering addiction and reforming his relationship with food, alcohol, work, and sleep. Two years more he looked inward, understanding the lessons of his traumas. Like an archeologist, he uncovered his life’s purpose and operationalized structures, boundaries, and a community to support it. He had started his internal journey – and understood it never ends. He could now apply these learnings, having been elected as a City Councilperson at 32 years young. He would support his community.
Then reality came. Hate poured in on social media, he listened to understand. The newspaper traded in misinformation, he spoke the truth and cultivated personal advice. People confronted him at the farmer’s market, he met them with kindness. His staff distrusted him, he turned conflict into creation. Colleagues’ sought incrementalism, he trusted in the collective wisdom and supported them. Working two jobs, he experienced stress and overwhelm, he met them with curiosity and cultivated mindfulness. He experienced all this, taking radical responsibility and asking, “what can I do to alleviate the condition I claim not want?”
The cement began to liquefy. The world conspired for itself.
Having met his toxicity, he could hold for the toxicity of the system. He stayed invested, his passion, zeal, and force of change became contagious. All the books now meant something. His community passed generationally transformative legislation. Systemic toxicity started to displace, and the light at the end of the tunnel of democracy brightened if but slightly.
I know these stories. They are mine. Both of them. As the inspirer of the Elected Leaders Collective, I have lived this journey.
One me had done the deep internal work to clear my own blocks, my own trauma, one had not. One me had learned through practice and cultivation how to use every moment as a teacher, one had not. One me invited with curiosity and connectivity the spirit of co-creation and partnership, the other did not. One me takes radical responsibility, the other did not.
I was me – equally impassioned with the same IQ and an identical servant’s heart, yet the outcomes for my community and myself were diametrically opposed. One me has begun fostering meaningful change in my community, the other me dropped out. The difference is how I prepared myself for reality.
Which you do you want to be?
During COVID I committed my life to “healing our politics”. I founded the ELC. We help heart-centered leaders of all kinds find their transformation. A collection of over 100 elected leaders across the country we co-create safe, sacred, confidential space for mission-driven public-sector leaders.
We built “The Pride” a group-coaching cohort community. We started courses and workshops. We work in groups and one-to-one. We serve elected officials, and are starting programs to support our staff, administrators, campaign, and non-profit workers. We do this because it works. Because we have no time to waste. Because our politics are toxic, and they need not be. We are the proof. Science confirms the work works. Our lives are improving, and we are healing our politics by healing ourselves.
During the great resignation, we aren’t dropping out, we are dropping in, and the world is shifting around us. We are experiencing a decline in stress and anxiety. Our feeling of connectedness and trust is increasing. We are becoming more effective.
This is the beginning. From our tiny nucleus in “The Pride”, a new political universe is emerging, slowly, can you feel it? You will. You can be part of this co-emergence. You can be supported in a trusted community, your Pride. You can reach your highest potential of service. We welcome all heart-centered leaders. Diversity of all kinds, including thought, is celebrated.
About the Author:
Councilmember Skippy Mesirow from Aspen, CO.