Off with the Leadership Mask

kitchen office space

I spend a great deal of time thinking about leadership. Specifically how it ping-pongs from rewarding and inspiring, to terrible and deflating, often within the same hour.

For me, the past year has illuminated the wonderful and awful importance of being an authentic leader. The kind of leader that takes their mask off to be a whole, vulnerable person.

There’s an unspoken lie floating around that leaders need to have it all figured out. That we need to keep it together so everyone else can keep it together. Sure, we need to bring steadiness to the storm. But sometimes you gotta read the room. 

Rewind to late-May 2020…

We were months into what we thought would be a two-month pandemic, my organization had just gone through a staff reduction and our country was literally ablaze as we tackled racial injustice with a fervor our generation hadn’t before seen.

On top of this, my dad had been alone in the hospital for weeks, my aunt just passed away from an aggressive cancer, my friends and family … Read the rest

In with the Eyeball Books

I generally hate reading. I love the idea of reading a book, and have a tower of them next to my bed, but am not compelled to open and consume them. Audiobooks – very yes. Eyeball books – very egh. 

In my college Comparative Literature class, a fellow student/pal was giving me a hard time and announced to everyone, “Jenna is a book hater! She hates books!” It’s been like 20 years and I still remember the scene. I can hear his words and see my TA’s face melt into disappointment as she wrinkled her forehead and said, ‘Jenna…why?” The hurt on her face would make it seem like I killed a member of her family.

Fast forward a couple decades…My bestie has made a tradition of giving me books on birthdays and holidays. You might think, “Wow, what a terrible friend to give you books when she knows you hate reading.” On the contrary. She knows how much I hate reading and gives me books in spite of this. She knows exactly when I … Read the rest

In with the Bold

As part of my winter solstice ceremony, I wrote four pages of things I wanted to release from 2020. Disappointments, bad memories, behaviors that no longer lined up with the person I’m becoming.

After two hours of sun salutations, meditation and writing, I ripped the four pages from my notebook, took them outside and flicked my lighter onto their bottom edges. The flame started small and brightened quickly. I threw the flaming pile onto the ground and watched it disappear. I stared as the embers twinkled and faded. When the very last ember burnt out, my chest deflated in relief. Two seconds later, one of the embers re-lit itself. 

You know that feeling when you’re walking away from someone after a hard goodbye and you turn around to look at them one last time? That’s what my flaming pile did to me. That last ember of 2020 turned its head, gave me a half smile with sincere, regretful eyes and walked away.

The things I gripped too tightly, the closure I never received from … Read the rest