Bridghe Vallelly at The School for leadeership Inaugural Conference

The Mastery Foundation's
School for Leadership


Background

The idea behind the School for Leadership is to provide greater access to the education we offer and to do so beyond the years of the tenure of those who began the Mastery Foundation in the early 1980s. Several events over the past few years led us to this. Many of our original board members and workshop leaders have reached or are fast approaching retirement age. And the loss in 2005 and 2006 of two long-time board members, Basil Pennington and Jesse Watson, and Mary Breslin, our Northern Ireland coordinator, was an even harsher reminder that none of us will be around forever.

Additionally, as a small, volunteer operation, we have not felt the need for nor wanted to build a large organization with a management staff and structures. No matter how large an organization we could build, it has always been clear to us we could never offer enough programs to enough individuals to make the difference we are committed to making.

Building a school, however, seems a way to create an organizational structure that allows for the ongoing fulfillment of concerns at the heart of the Mastery Foundation.

A school, as we envision it, is a living, adaptive structure that can both house and multiply the work and results begun by the founding generation of the Mastery Foundation. Indeed, as an educational institution it can far surpass the difference already made through our transformational programs and networks of common commitment.

Under the umbrella of the Mastery Foundation, the School for Leadership will train and develop grassroots community and religious leaders committed to transformation and reconciliation so that they can then train and develop those with whom they work.

Over time, it will offer participants the chance to learn, apply, and build on a unique body of distinctions that are proven to make a powerful and lasting difference and provide a place for their continuing empowerment and education.

The October Conference

A diverse group of 62 people gathered outside Dublin for three days in October to explore the questions:

The conference participants came from Israel, Northern Ireland, Ireland, and the United States and represented those who have participated in and contributed to the success of the Mastery Foundation and have a stake in our future – volunteers, program leaders, sponsors and Board Members. Many of them also face the challenges of what legacy they will leave behind when they retire in their own ministries and work. A smaller and younger group represented the leaders of the future. But what everyone shared was a concern for leadership called forth by a commitment to empowering and enabling individuals and communities and a concern for bringing the gifts of those on the margin to the center.

The Heart of the Matter

Before getting into the possibilities and practicalities of the school, we spent time looking at the challenges that get in the way of our own leadership and working with others. Certainly, one of the inescapable issues of leadership is doing what you say you will do, no matter what your position in the group.

So working from a research paper of which he is one of the authors, Werner Erhard proposed a new model of integrity as a state or condition of being whole, complete, unbroken, unimpaired, sound, perfect condition. Rather than tying integrity to moral values and ethics, this model asserts a link between integrity (honoring your word), workability, and performance, saying that as integrity in individuals or groups declines, so does performance. In other words, "Without integrity, nothing works."

In this model, integrity is distinguished for an individual as a matter of that personís word, and for a group or organizational entity as what is said by or on behalf of the group or organization. In this context, integrity becomes honoring oneís word.

Honoring your word, as it is defined in this model, means you either keep your word (do what you said you would do by the time you said you would do it), or as soon as you know that you will not, you say that you will not and clean up any mess caused for those who were relying on you keeping your word. This kind of integrity is the route to creating whole and complete social and working relationships. It also provides a pathway to earning the trust of others, which is an important element of workability.

Obviously, when you cannot rely on what is being said, you significantly reduce any foundation for producing results. And however you may compensate for a lack of integrity, it clearly impairs both workability and performance.

Werner went on to carefully distinguish what was meant by "your word" – including not only what one said, but also what one knows to do or not do, and what one is expected to do or not do.

The entire group worked with these ideas over the first day and a half of the conference, testing them against their own experience and the situations they deal with, as well as using them to create a foundation for the School for Leadership

Beginning to Build the School

In creating the Charter for the School for Leadership, the board of trustees had already defined a great school as one that provides potent access to transformational leadership and whose content and methodology leaves participants able transfer what they have learned to others. In addition, they had said that the school would exist within the Mastery Foundation for the sake of those whose work is ministry and service to others and the reconciliation and healing of divisions by bringing those on the margins to the center of community.

Now the conference participants aligned on the areas to be addressed in building a school that could do just that. The six areas are:

Working with Peter Block and using his ideas and practices in developing community, the conference participants self-organized by choosing one of the six areas to work on. Then each group chose a steward to be accountable for supporting the group conversation as they worked together. They discussed and created a shared declaration of what is possible in their area. Finally, within each group, individual participants wrote down their declarations, promises, offers, and requests. (These and other documents will be posted at the new website www.schoolforleadership.org)

What happens next?

Needless to say, we left the conference with more questions than answers. While we have defined the areas in which to work, there is so much overlapping, it is difficult to know what to work on first.

Toward the end of the conference, Werner asked the question, "Where is my word when it comes time to keep my word?" As part of that discussion, he used the example of promising to exercise each day. When the time for exercise exists as simply a task to do — Go to the gym and exercise — it is difficult to find the interest or enthusiasm for doing it. But when you can constitute your promise as a purpose or an accomplishment — I have a healthy energetic body that supports me in completing my commitments — exercising shifts from being just another bothersome thing to do to being something that empowers you and gets you moving.

In the same way, each of the groups from the conference — Management and Administration; Enrollment; Robust Financial Future; Faculty and Training; Content, Curriculum, Methods, and Research and Development; Proliferation — is crafting a statement of accomplishment that transcends our lists of tasks and questions, a statement that empowers and calls forth the accomplishment of the future we are creating.

The group called Robust Financial Future has a start on this in their choice of the name for themselves. Wouldn't we all rather work on creating a robust financial future than work on fund raising? And the Management and Administration group also has the beginnings of an empowering statement of purpose in their maxim "Nothing missing, nothing extra."

At the January meeting, the Board of Trustees will align on the results to be produced in the coming year that will take new ground in realizing the School for Leadership as an accessible, affordable, and effective way of making the transformational education we offer much more widely available.

There are several areas within the School for Leadership that allow for and invite your participation. We welcome your contribution, your input, your expertise and your support. If you are interested, please contact Lynne Richardson at lrichardson@masteryfoundation.org.