When I was still active as a minister in the Catholic Church, I did not enjoy very much presiding at weddings. I had an inkling of the reason at the time, but now I can admit clearly that I was jealous. I didn’t want to bless someone else’s sacramental union as much as I wanted to be in a sacramental union.

I had another, similar insight while participating in an Emerge workshop last weekend. Emerge is a leadership program created by Kathleen O’Brien. After many years as a writer, teacher, and consultant in the sustainable building field, she and her partners devote their time, energy, and considerable talents helping others in the building field find a new way of leading—a sustainable way of leading—leading from within. Or as Kathleen says, “leading from any chair”.

The insight came during the part of the Emerge workshop where we form teams and work out how to solve a sticky problem. I won’t go into the details. You have to experience it. But I realized something very important about myself. I recently helped my family prepare for the funeral of my father. I talked with the priest/presider for two hours. He knew my Dad pretty well from serving in Dad’s parish for many years. But I wanted to fill in some details, like my Dad’s connection to the Navy, and his use of Navy lingo when talking about family. “Every time one of you went through the front door,” he told me once, “I worried about you. I didn’t want anything bad to happen to you under my watch.” (He felt the same way after my brothers and sisters and I moved out of the house too, like he was always “on watch.”)

It was, in my opinion, the best funeral ever. It was a celebration of my father’s life, and the beginning of letting go his physical presence in the life of our family. We were held gently by the ritual that we all know so well, and the music put sound to how we were feeling—a mixture of joy and a deep sense of loss.

Did I say I didn’t enjoy weddings? I didn’t enjoy presiding at baptisms and other celebrations with my family either. Not as much as I enjoyed serving my family through my knowledge and skills as a former minister, from within the family, and not from outside of it. When I was the presider I worried about the details of the liturgy. I wanted everyone to feel welcome and included. I was nervous about my homily. And I missed being a part of the congregation outside the sanctuary, outside the formal language and liturgical vestments.

Some people love serving their families as a sacramental minister, and they are wonderful at it. I wasn’t one of them. There are lots of ways to lead. I know that my leadership will have more to do with talking with people one on one, or sharing my stories in writing, and in front of a group, than being a leader in a more traditional sense. I doubt I will ever have a “CEO” after my name, but one never knows.

I do want to teach some of you some time how to write poetry! I think it would help you bring life to the imagination of your customers and clients; technology is not enough. We have to offer a vision of a more sustainable life, and more sustainable buildings, before we can ask people to take the risk in letting go of the way they have always done things. But there are many ways to tell our stories, to lead by changing how people view their homes and businesses. Maybe your story is about the first post-retrofit utility bill for your customers; the light bulb going off over the heads of your clients when they finally get the house as a system; or your contribution to a conversation with your peers about the future of home performance. It would be great if you could share some of the ways you “lead from within” in this forum.

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Comment by Debra Little on November 13, 2013 at 9:33pm

Jim Gunshinan, thanks for yet another expression of your attuned discernment, your beyond the here & now vision & its concrete resonance in personal terms. Your own story & nudge for us to tell ours.  I really liked  "We have to offer a vision of a more sustainable life, and more sustainable buildings, before we can ask people to take the risk in letting go of the way they have always done things."  Folks need help to SEE.  Stories that connect the dots.

I'm working towards this with a project "See A Home Like Yours", a searchable collection of video stories of home energy upgrade projects.

I attended Emerge Leadership workshop last year. Kathleen O'Brien, Ann Edminster and team, lead an excellent, interactive weekend of leadership training with home performance as foundational structure, and as you wrote so well " a sustainable way of leading—leading from within."

Comment by Dick Rome on October 11, 2013 at 8:19am

Jim:

 

Wow.  Thanks for giving us an opportunity to get to know who you are.  That is leading from within.  It is so important to live and share Home Performance in order to have others adopt and enjoiy the results.  My wife and I had a deep energy reduction retrofit done on our house over a year ago, not quite 1000 Home Challange level and are enjoying the comfort, indoor air quality and over 46% energy reduction without PV and not weather normalizing.  Living it the new environment every day has us be able to share and lead from within.  Dick Rome,  Stockton, Caliofornia

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