Friends, Leading Organizations to Health has graduated Cohort 11, the Class of 2020.
Ten months ago I started at my Hogwarts, the leadership training program that has definitely made me a better leader. But more importantly, it made me nine amazing new friends and a much better person. Today, on the last day of the last retreat, it all came together in the most beautiful way, and I am beyond grateful.
These ten months were the best elective educational experience of my life—they really gave college and med school a run for their money. We immersed in a curriculum dense with abstract concepts of interpersonal communication and organizational change management. We then translated the theories into tangible skills in an experiential learning lab, applied to specific challenges brought by my 7 cohort mates and me. Over four in-person retreats and monthly Zoom calls, we shared, supported, and coached one another in the tenets of relationship-centered leadership.
We bonded in a similar way to residents on call: Gathered for training, bringing different backgrounds and perspectives, participating in a common curriculum but each with a unique learning path, eventually to disperse and practice in different settings across the country. We eight now share a connection of stories and struggle that nobody else can know. We are a tribe.
Thus, I grieved the goodbyes long before we arrived in Loveland this last time. But I also trusted our master facilitators to help me manage this, by both their loving and authentic presence and the very structure of the program, which is founded on contemplation and self-awareness. I also felt an abiding faith in the friendships we all grew this past year. As with my best friends from college and medical school, I knew we would maintain contact and connection, just in a different way. We can’t stay in the nest forever—now is the time to fly.
In thoughtfully constructed journaling exercises and discussion groups, we reflected, consolidated, and synthesized ten months of learning. We also examined our personal and professional evolution over this time, growth and movement in fluidity and complexity. We explored aspirations and imagined the future state of this work in our natural habitats. Finally, we sat in a closing circle. Having each shared our own reflections, the group offered each friend observations, affirmations, and well wishes in what I can only describe as the most loving communion. Each person’s strengths were articulated and amplified. We acknowledged one another’s challenges. We celebrated each other’s engagement, perseverance, contributions and triumphs. Finally, sustained mutual support was extended around the circle, wholeheartedly and without qualification.
In my opinion, we formed the kind of community that we all want to lead. Tony and Diane led us all by example, deliberately, artfully, and mindfully. They live the principles they teach; they lovingly and patiently showed us the way. In the end we discovered our own capacity to each write our own next chapter(s). By making us feel seen, heard, understood, accepted and loved these ten months, our teachers inspired us to do the same for others. And that is the strongest foundation for building our houses of positive change agency.
Now we go forth. We’ got this.