Radical Vulnerability

This post was take from a discussion string on the Burning Man Global Leadership Summit with the written permission of the poster Gustav Josefsson and one of the respondents Jered Floyd. This was an important post of people in leadership roles:

Last year at the GLC I was at the Saturday night dinner, when me and the guy next to me from Oregon coined the term: “radical vulnerability”.

I’ve thought about this concept a lot, context of community leadership, and I would like to find a way to address this at the GLC. I think that vulnerability is a core ability in being able to lead a participatory community such as ours. More than that, I think it is going to be essential in the emergent network based leadership of the 21st century.

1423704446I’m not interested in just talking about this conceptually, but rather to get the opportunity to share the things that I am personally battling with other community leaders and hear and discuss their personal issues as leaders.

For you to understand more what I’m looking for, I’d like to share with you a list of issues that I’m personally battling with. These are just my list, and I’m sure that others will have different ones. In my mind, a session should be a facilitated session of sharing, with little set content. I’m just listing these now to give an idea of what kind of issues I’m trying to get at.

In my role as a community leader, I feel uncomfortable when:
* Everyone knows my name and I feel bad for not knowing theirs.
* People I don’t know come up to me to give me (what I feel is) undeserved credit, projecting the work of others on me.
* I hear of people in the community talking shit about me around my back.
* I have problem feeling connected during the event, because I’m worrying about the well-being of others.
* Some participants have a hard time approaching me, because they think i have better things to do than talk to hem.
* Sometimes I’m tired or lazy and I feel like I don’t contribute, so I try to hide it by pretending to be busy.
* I love being in the center of attention, but at the same time afraid of using my position as a leader to satisfy my ego.
* Someone puts me on a pedestal, making it hard for me to connect with them. When this illusion of a perfect me breaks, I’m met with disappointment.
* When I am stressed out and would need someone to calm me down, I tend to scare people off by seeming “busy”.
* Issues in my personal relationships affect my performance as a leader, and vice versa.

How does these things resonate with you? Would anyone else like to be a part of sharing thoughts and feelings on this? – Gustov

In my capacity with Queer Burners over the years I have tried to provide this service to my community with any fanfare. While I hope to do it and inspire others to help out, I found that I related a lot to the words he wrote and wanted to to share it with Queer Burners.

Boston Area Regional Contact and Queer Burner Jered Floyd [Facebook] posted his reply and I thought it was a really concise and thoughtful response:

The fact that you have these worries shows that, as a leader, your heart is in the right place! These are concerns common to leadership roles, and amplified in ones that are volunteer-oriented.

These feelings are normal and widespread across volunteer leadership, and dealing with them falls squarely in the category of reducing stress and preventing burnout. One key is identifying and following positive coping strategies for volunteerism-related stress, and avoiding negative ones.

1151004_10151507192887315_1201687110_nIt’d be great to have a “community leader support group” session, especially if we can find a facilitator who is trained in positive coping strategies – any volunteers? 🙂

As a start, I’d say that you have excellent self-awareness. For each of your items, look if there’s a way to address it in a positive light. For example:
– People I don’t know come up to me to give me (what I feel is) undeserved credit, projecting the work of others on me.
+ I appreciate being recognized for helping catalyze our community, and have the opportunity to direct attention and appreciation to other makers and doers.

  • Some participants have a hard time approaching me, because they think i have better things to do than talk to them.
  • I work to be approachable and friendly, and talk to new people when I can.
  • Sometimes I’m tired or lazy and I feel like I don’t contribute, so I try to hide it by pretending to be busy.
  • I can’t do everything, and I should keep time for myself for things I want to do, or even nothing at all.

This isn’t about just feel-good affirmations, but rather recognizing your worries as valid, identifying the good things that you do that show why they aren’t serious, and choosing specific steps to take if you want to improve further.

Your list absolutely resonates with me; I’m happy to discuss this further, or at the GLC. – Jered

I have not met a single leader in this community that puts this kind of effort into various projects in order to receive personal recognition. The work I do is sincerely to make events, productions, spaces and more better for all participants. My sense is that it is much the same for all of you.

There was a lot more to the discussion than what was posted above including my own responses. Mostly personal accounts from other Regional Contacts best left there. But at a recent leadership gathering in San Francisco the subject came up in the conversation and there was interest so I thought I would share it here.

1 thought on “Radical Vulnerability

Leave a Comment

Skip to toolbar