It is strange, this life-journey we are all on. Regardless of our desires, inputs, meanings, and intentions to be leaders, what you put into the world and what you are focusing on has a way of injecting itself into your life in ways only you can manifest.
Last week I expressed frustration with feeling overwhelmed with the sheer amount of "go-get-it-ness" that seems to be requisite in leadership potential. And while I've been presented with social opinion that I am a leader, or possess leadership qualities, it has always felt to me that no matter how hard I try, or how many relevant things I fill in my life, I didn't possess the stamina to keep up the pace. I was always exhausted, depressed, feeling like my art and skills had no purpose in the world, living on menial stipends for upwards of 40 hours per week. The exhaustion was permeating everything I did, and even the employers I found myself serving.
And the beautiful thing is...this week I experienced a complete shift in what I will fight for, and what I wont.
In my experience with theatrical productions, a scenic designer leading teams of crafts people and technical directors, I have experienced several instances where the collaborative environment was toxic and dominated by a leadership structure that bred psychological terror. A systemic issue, these leadership structures operated on minimal, stipend based salaries for designers, a show-must-go-on mentality, hyper-masculine tropes, and a director's absolute ability to veto anything a designer/craftsperson had spent hours creating "in the service of telling the greater story". Often, the tight deadlines bred a culture where boundaries were not honored or respected, hours of work was discarded and trashed, directors behaved like dictators becoming really great at executing the singular task at the expense of the team, and nobody felt comfortable coming to the table with leadership issues and abuse.
Imagine my surprise when the blogs I chose to follow for Creative Leadership addressed these very issues in larger contemporary leadership, and problems I was experiencing so acutely in my current events actually extended past the theatrical sphere.
Granted, theatre is a microcosm where great social experimentations in collaboration begin. The ideal is with a common goal, and a team dedicated to the vision, you can accomplish anything. But after cyclical abuse cycles where I was called upon to put all my vulnerability into art that may or may not get cut because it didn’t fit into a specific vision a director enjoyed, I became disenchanted with collaboration as a leadership style at all.
There must be a better way to do this. There must be a better way to reside in leadership styles other than those remaining in Independent stages, in silos suspicious of other’s visions and talents. There must be a better way to witness a moment of transformation from speaking to a room, to for a room.
This week, as I transition into a recovering scenic designer, I look to the future with exhausted, but hopeful eyes as I rediscover my why. I have immense potential to change the world, to lead in the ways that I find important, to know that Interdependence is a valid way of collaboration. To not give up, and look forward.