Leading Vulnerably

By Sana Saeed

Sana Saeed

“To be in community is an act of vulnerability, to risk being misunderstood for the sake of understanding. To be vulnerable is to be permeable, porous to life, to our body and feelings, to others. Rather than standing apart and distant, we allow ourselves to be affected, to be open, and to connect. Community asks that we risk breaking our heart open, that we risk speaking and trusting.” - from Hope Leans Forward: Teachings from a Black Buddhist & Quaker by Valerie Brown.

As we navigate this spring, some of us may be navigating a difficult end to this congregational year with difficult decisions on the horizon. Some of us may be preparing to end things on an appreciative and hopeful note with bountiful picnics. Some of us may be preparing to take risks for transformation. We see you and recognize the ways you are navigating leadership in our congregations. Being in community and especially in leadership in spiritual communities is a vulnerable experience. It’s why some of us have strong emotional experiences in leadership positions. I’ve had several lay leaders mention recently that they’ve found themselves crying in congregational leadership whereas they never leaned into emotional experience in their work spaces. Spiritual communities are places where we navigate vulnerability by laying down our burdens, receiving pastoral care, navigating healing, deepening relationships with friends and family. It’s okay to lead with vulnerability.

Valerie Brown speaks to how “the heart of brokenness is not a weakness” and states that vulnerability is something essential in our work. As Brene Brown says “The uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose”.

As we navigate this spiritual work of leading our congregations, I invite you to engage in blessing each other. Knowing that some of us are leading congregations through various situations, I invite you to participate in creating this menti cloud with words of blessing for those lay leaders steering their congregations through difficult and messy times right, so they know they’re not alone.

For those of us who need these blessings, please take time to dwell on this menti cloud as you navigate your congregational year. See the blessings in the menti cloud.

I also invite you to engage in thinking about the ways you're managing your own emotional awareness before, during and after meetings. Think about creating a self-care plan for your leadership role that helps nourish you when your cup begins to run dry. Think about what you will do to prepare for meetings. This can include meditation. What about after meetings especially if they’ve been difficult? Make a list of people you can talk to, for example: a therapist, a spiritual director, a list of trusted friends or family members. You could also make it a goal to go outside for some fresh air to process what you heard. You could listen to music afterwards. For those who may need it, here is a playlist for leadership & healing.

Against a blue sky, a bright red spiral of roller coaster track carries yellow cars of passengers, who are suspended upside down.

My last invitation, but not the least. If you’re thinking about deepening your leadership especially when it comes to leading in times of change, I invite you to engage this UU Institute Course on Leading Change in Changing Times. It can help you to explore healthy boundaries, conflict situations, but also navigate our own anxiety and emotional awareness in leadership.

As I always remind you, we’re here for you as primary contacts. Please reach out to talk, process a meeting, brainstorm or to learn more about resources.

May you be held in gentleness as you lead our congregations, may you have sweet moments of appreciation and gratitude for your leadership, and may there be moments of deep nourishing rest on the horizon for you.

Rev. Sana Saeed

About the Author

Sana Saeed

Rev. Sana Saeed is the Congregational Life Staff for the Central East Region of the UUA since July. Previously, she was an Intern Minister for UU Ministers Association (UUMA) and was the President of Diverse Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM). She’s a graduate of Harvard Divinity...

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