notes from the virtual art of leadership at rockwood

this is a write up of all my insights from my may 10-14 2021 experience at the virtual art of leaderhip at the rockwood leadership institute. big shoutout to CSS for the professional development funds to take this training. and extra props to bernice, my supervisor, and ratema and anna, for encouraging me to do it even when i thought the timing was bad.

the week was organized by the six rockwood leadership practices: purpose, vision, partnership, resilience, performancce, and pesonal ecology. each practice had 2-4 activities and we went through them over the 5 day training in a non-linear way. here are some of my personal takeaways/highlights from each section.


we talked about the sources power and which ones of them we are comfortable iwth using and which ones we want to explore. i am comfy using personal, co-power, collaborative, expert, cultural, referred, ideo,ogical, and transcendent power. iwant to explore using positional, obstructive, institutional, and structural power.

we also discussed the adult learning cycle (graphic here).

takeaway: often people stay and/or cycle between plan and act. when people don’t spend time reflecting and discovering, this eventually just becomes react.


definition: to live and lead from taht which gives our life meaning.

“a man who takes away a man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred…” — mandela

i don’t actually hav a purpose statement. i have a vision and values but a purpose statement isn’t something i’ve ever spent time developing. i love the way they describe purpose: purpose isn’t something external to you; it’s inside of you and you discover/uncover it as you live.

during the activity, i landed on this purpose statement for now:

my purpose is to hold space for transformation.


definition: to create and articulate a clear and compellinig picture of our desired future.

we did a 2-minute vision stand exercise. we did it on day 1 and then again on day 5 to refine it given some of what we’d learned over the week. i worked with the league of revolutionary uncles both times and it was a dope.

voice memo here

POP: we did a purpose-outccomes-process exercise and while i definitely am in the practice of using POPs, i realized that i’ve been using them somewhat mechanically. it was refreshing to see and think about POP as more of a mindset than a specific tool or outcome. obvi, it’s that, but it’s truly a way to move through work in a way that clarifies your vision for others and can allow folks to engage in your work in colaborative ways.


the trainers said something that truly blew my mind. engaging in courageous conversations, conversations that are open, honest, and direct is a way to build the leadership of folks around me. when i withhold information and feedback about the work and performance of folks around me, i am, in a sense, holding us back collectively. my capacity to create opportunities to direct feedback is linked to the rate at which our movements grow (this is super related to the johari window).

helen kim, one of our trainers, said we should each be engaging in 1 if not 2 courageous conversations per week. if not, it’s very possible that the work we’re doing is being significantly blocked. i am DEF not doing that. i think i want/need to step my game up here. exciting and scary, though.


definition: to enhance our capacity to produce results taht further our vision.

this section of the training is the (infamous?) 360 evaluation. you get ten people in your work life to fill out a survey of approximately 40 questions describing your performance and impact in the world. ~35 of the questions are behaviors you exhibit measured on a likert scale, 1-10 (1 = almost never, 10 = almost always). the last few questions are open-ended questions about strengths and areas of improvement.

one thing a trainer said in our crew was that performance could also be called “impactful action.” which reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

“we can be extremely active and busy without creating movement for social change.” — norma wong

working on my capacity to have impact, not just be busy, gave me a great, grounded reason to actually take the time to invest in myself and my leadership. i know i could/should have been thinking investing in myself was valuable anyways, but now i feel very clear about a specific reason why.

anyway, most of the juice of this section was in the 360 so here some personal insights from digging in:

personal ecology

the most significant part of this section for me was the urgency index assessment. it’s another one of robert gass’s excellent tools and it really surprised me! it’s another likert scale quizzes, this time 0 = never, 4 = always, and it has 20 questions. your cumulative score puts you in one of three mind-sets:

0-30: low urgency mind-set 30-50: high urgency mind-set 51+: urgency addiction.

my score: 51

i was shook. particularly because i don’t see myself as addicted to urgency.

as i went back and reflected on all my questions, i see that i am really good at not being urgent in ways that are apparent to others. i’m also pretty good at not being urgent in the ways that our dominant narratives tell us what urgency looks like. for example, i am really good at being present with what is happening at a given moment or in a meeting. i am very present with people who are in front of me.

my urgency exists in the parts of my life that people don’t see. for example, here are a few of the questions i answered “always” to:

some of those things i didn’t even realize could be a problem… it’s that deep fam! 🤯

of course, wanting to move things forward isn’t necessary a bad thing. but it’s the fact that that’s often what’s most important to me as what i see the potential for growth around.

my big takeaway from this section: even though it isn’t apparent to others, i do have an addiction to urgency culture and i want to work on shifting that to deepen my leadership. i want to learn this so i can better embody the things i teach. i also want to learn this so i can be a better teammate.

i also love this poem/quote that was in the workbook in this section:

“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.” ― Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander


in the resilience section, my biggest takeaways were about what triggers look like and how to recovery to a state of groundedness after being triggered. they provided an excellent list of triggers in the workbook and also guided us through a pathway for how to acknowledge that you’re triggered (hint: the body will tell you if you listen), make space for not reacting, state shifting, and then responding from a non-triggered, new state.

we also explored anchoring techniques and i adopted a new visual anchor. when i need to state shift back into a regulated place, i will imagine this image on a wall or in space out in front or me or behind me and then imagine the imagine moving closer to me until it is a part of me and i am a part of it. i will imagine myself having all of the attributes of this image. this, i think, is also deity practice?

there were also a bunch of dope quotes on a collective resilience page:

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” — Audre Lorde

“If we carry intergenerational trauma (and we do), then we also carry intergenerational wisdom. It is in our genes and in our DNA.” — Kazu Haga

“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” — Toni Morrison

leading forward

the final section of the training was time to get connected with a peer coach and make plans for what one or two things from the whole training to try and work on. i really appreciated their stance of “you can’t do everything. in fact, trying to do everything will likely mean you will do nothing or at least nothing well.” they asked: what leadership challenge or skill do i want to develop/work on?

i chose skillfully managing my workload and time. it was one of my lowest scores in the 360 evaluation (8.8 - still pretty high but there’s always room for improvement). here’s my POP for this

purpose: i want to work on this to disrupt patterns of workaholism in my life and lineages. i also want to see what happens if i give myself more and more space to go deep in a fewer number of areas.

outcomes: i will have spaciousness in my schedule. i will have sufficient time to rest, play, work, learn, be in ritual, be in community, and spend time with family. people will know me in community as someone who sets realistic timelines and goals for projects and encourages others to do the same.

process: i will check in with four different folks about this: nadav, eroc & luana, and maureen. i hope to have some measurable performance indicactors by jan 2022 and will ask folks who i’m close to if they’ve noticed any differences by the time i do my august 2021 personal retreat.

i am writing this all publicly (a) so i can come back to it from anywhere (b) so i can share it with my peoples and (c) because i believe in working out loud.

thanks for following along with me on this journey!

words / writing / post-processing
2271w (but i took some out and moved them to another blog post) / 10min/day for 7 days / 30min