The themes of the 2022 Honors Leadership Conference were: Building Community, Being a Scholar, and Presenting Yourself. In my opening remarks to our first-year honors students, I focused on values-enacted leadership and the importance of cultivating intentional habits of authenticity and wellness in leadership practice.
To begin, we paused together to take a deep breath.
In Holding Change, adrienne maree brown reminds us of the power of breathing to focus our attention and settle ourselves into the present moment. This practice of breathing, of slowing down and settling back into ourselves, reconnects us with the core values at shape our purpose.
That purpose, for me, centers around a commitment to performative consistency, the alignment of who one is with what one does. James Baldwin expresses this idea eloquently when he writes:
Performative consistency requires intentionally enacting your values in every encounter you have, every decision you make, every action you undertake. Performative consistency builds trust; and where there is trust, there is the possibility of transformative growth.
Values-enacted leadership is rooted in performative consistency.
Putting Values into Practice
Each theme of the conference is connected to values that must be put into intentional practice. For the purposes of my opening remarks, I have identified one value for each theme and connected that value to a specific practice.
For building community, one value is connection, and an important way to enact the value of meaningful connection is through practices of ethical imagination – the capacity not only for empathy, but the ability to imagine the position of another in order to discern and enact the just conditions for mutual flourishing. Community rooted in true connectivity recognizes the degree to which all flourishing is mutual.
For the theme of Being a Scholar, I identified wisdom as the value, and attention as the practice. The Ancient Greek root of “scholar” is scholé, the free time one needs to pursue activities that are valuable in and of themselves. Scholarship involves this liberated time to focus on deepening our understanding of the world through careful attention.
For the theme of Presenting Yourself, I emphasized integrity as a core value, and ethical candor as a practice that cultivates integrity. Integrity is rooted in practices of self-reflection that reconnect you with your true self. My daughter, Hannah, and I call, our true selves our “alone selves.” Your alone self is most intimately connected with your conscience. Regular practices of self-reflection open spaces of quietude in which you can hear the voice of conscience that holds you accountable to what you know to be true.
Flowers of Wisdom
In 1709, Giambattista Vico, an Italian philosopher, was concerned about the division of education into specialized disciplines. While he recognized the depth and sophistication of disciplinary knowledge, he pointed to the dangers of losing a more organic, holistic, and humanistic understanding of the world we inhabit. In On the Study Methods of Our Time, he advocates for a more holistic approach, emphasizing that wisdom is rooted in a cultivated sense of the whole.
The flowers of wisdom will not bloom if students focus exclusively on disciplinary expertise. The practices of ethical imagination, attention, and ethical candor empower you to come to a deeper understanding of yourself and a more holistic understanding of the world.
Finally, I concluded with two passages, one from adrienne maree brown that define authenticity as integrity between what you say and what you do, that is, in terms of performative consistency.
The second passage is from an interview with Toni Cade Bambara, who asks us to consider how serious we are about being whole, since being whole is, as she says, “quite a responsibility.”
Values-enacted leadership cultivates authentic communities in which each person is empowered to put their values into meaningful practice in ways that support mutual flourishing in a globally interconnected world.