A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein
“The key principle of all community organizingis this,” L.A. Agenda’s Anthony Thigpenn once told me. “You never hand over the completed cake. Instead, you invite people into your kitchen to collectively bake the cake.” The trouble with this principle is that most
meetings in most organizations work the other way around. You only call a meeting
once you have completed the cake and you want to cut it and serve it. There is a reason,
however, why people often shy away from convening conversational situations that are
more upstream, that start with the desire for a cake rather than with the completed cake.
Such endeavors require a special form of leadership. The leader must create or “hold a space” that invites others in.
The key to holding a space is listening: to yourself (to what life calls you to do), to the others (particularly others that may be related to that call), and to that which emerges from the collective that you convene. But it also requires a good deal of intention. You must keep your attention focused on the highest future possibility of the group. And finally, it takes a lot of kitchen gear. It requires you to be intentionally incomplete, to hand over the recipe, cooking tools, and ingredients rather than the finished cake. Yes,
you can talk about why this is a particularly good recipe, you can add some ingredients, and you can help mix the batter, too. You can even go first if you want to. But you must intentionally leave a lot of open space for others to contribute. That’s why building the U leadership capacity starts with the principle of incompleteness. You invite others to help plan the menu,, not to arrive after the dessert is in the oven.