Be the Change You Want to See

When Andr? Carothers started working as an activist for
Greenpeace 20 years ago, he was motivated by the same desire that
brought lots of other young people to that organization: He wanted
to change the world, to make it more just and humane. But after
many years working with a dozen progressive nonprofits, he realized
that real social change depends as much on helping activists change
from the inside as it does on campaigning for change ?out there? in
the world.

Grounded in Gandhi?s idea that you need to be the change you
want to see in the world, Carothers founded the Rockwood Leadership
Program, which offers training around the country to managers of
social change organizations. More than 400 people have graduated
from Rockwood?s Art of Leadership program, a two-and-a-half-day
workshop based on the premise that self-examination and improved
communication skills are essential to creating a better world.

What is the relationship between leadership and social

?Our training encourages activists to look inside and find out
which part of them is contributing to their political and social
goals, and which is not. There is an assumption among progressives
that correct political analysis is the Holy Grail. But you can?t
get a group to work together successfully without taking care of
their hearts and souls. People on the left tend to be very smart,
very analytic, very devoted to parsing out the whys and wherefors
of what we?re doing at this point in history. The downside of that
is that it tends to leave the people factor out.

?Part of social change work is making a personal appeal about
how we should treat the world and each other. But if the movement
doesn?t ?walk the talk,? then we can?t expect the general public to
join us. One of the reasons progressive organizations are
vulnerable to the critique that the right levels at them?which is
that they care less about humans than about animals and other
things?is in part that they haven?t exercised the heart muscle in
their work. For reasons that are hard to describe, the general
public can tell.?

Have you been criticized for this approach?

?Some argue that this focus on the internal aspects of
leadership is a diversion of some kind, but that?s partly because
nonprofits are starved for time and money. So it is natural that
activists think that anything that doesn?t smell of political
action is a diversion. We just make the opposite case. Our training
is political action. You can?t do successful politics without
attention to the heart, soul, and skill of the operation.?

What are some basic things we can do to make
conversations easier, particularly with those with whom we may
disagree on key points?

?First you ask, ?What am I here for? To be right? Or to connect
with people and get something done?? Once you?ve established that,
take a deep breath and listen really carefully. Put yourself in
their shoes, imagine what it?s like for them to be with you at this
moment. After you are sure that they feel heard, deliver your truth
in a way that is easy for them to hear. You want to position
yourself in a way that moves a person toward you. That is rarely,
if ever, a combative position. It?s always this welcoming position.
So if you can keep yourself in this welcoming posture, you can talk
to anyone, and have a humane and intelligent conversation rather
than an oppositional one. People don?t get moved through being
persuaded. People get moved through being aligned.

For more information about Rockwood Leadership Program and
the Art of Leadership trainings, visit, or
call 510/524-4000.

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