Comment: We need more warriors for the human spirit

There has been a lot of buzz about leadership during the past month. The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce hosted its business awards, and most recently Leadership Victoria hosted its Community Leadership Awards. Congratulations to all the winners and finalists, and to these organizations for leading the charge.

Let’s not forget our elected officials; they are often characterized as leaders too. Mayors, councillors, school district trustees, and the list goes on. It begs the question – what makes a great leader?

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Leadership can be described many ways. I’m a big fan of author Margaret Wheatley, and tend to lean towards her ideas about leadership. Her last book, Who Do We Choose To Be: Facing Reality – Claiming Leadership – Restoring Sanity, really nails it.

Wheatley says it is possible for leaders to use their power and influence, their insight and compassion, to lead people back to an understanding of who we are as human beings, to create conditions for our basic human qualities of generosity, contribution, community, and love to be evoked no matter what.

Wheatley suggests that for those of us that are up to the challenge we can become “Warriors for the Human Spirit.” Sounds like a tough gig, and her book lays out the pathway and helps us understand why we should accept an invitation to the nobility of leadership.

She writes that “it is possible to find a pathway of contribution and meaning if we turn our attention away from issues beyond our control and focus on the people around us who are yearning for good leadership and engage them in work that is within reach.”

It’s become blatantly obvious that while there is no shortage of leaders in every community, that we could use more warriors. When we continue to colour within the lines or stay in a box, things get old pretty quick, and optimal outcomes are limited.

When we consider community safety at the neighbourhood level it becomes more manageable – more localized. There are certainly warriors at work there – grassroots people that have a strong desire to make a difference, and go beyond the traditional solutions we have become so dependent upon – more police and security.

However, these people need reinforcements, and soon. Our neighbourhoods should not be in the turmoil that they are, and we can help empower them.

My wish has always been that the pathways Wheatley speaks of can lead directly into our neighbourhoods. We need more of our citizens to transform themselves into warriors for the human spirit.

There has never been more urgency than right now. Our police services are tapped out in so many ways, officers struggling with PTSD, injuries, and stress-related trauma. Sure, it’s their job and that’s what they signed up for so let’s help shoulder some of their load.

Some people ask, “Where have all the leaders gone? But if we worry that there’s a shortage of leaders, we’re just looking in the wrong place, usually at the top of some hierarchy, says Wheatley.

It’s no shocker that what slows down most leaders, and elected officials is all the red tape and politics. Some of the best laid plans are often found collecting dust on someone’s credenza or tucked away in a filing cabinet. I believe it was Adam Kahane who suggested that people act, plans don’t.

Paul Coelho writes in his book titled “Warrior of the Light” that “All the worlds roads lead to the heart of the Warrior; he plunges unhesitatingly into the river of passions always flowing through his life. The warrior knows that he is free to choose his desires, and he makes these decisions with courage, detachment and – sometimes – with just a touch of madness.”

Just think of the possibilities if we were to mobilize with those on the front line, the boots on the ground folks working at the neighbourhood level, and collaborate with other warriors, community associations and residents that are invested in their homes, and their neighbours – in creating safe and healthy communities.

Steve Woolrich is a crime prevention practitioner and the principal of Rethink Urban’s collaborative focusing on community safety and well-being.

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