‘Standing on your own sacred ground’ is a phrase I heard Brene Brown use to describe the challenge of showing up as the leader you want to be, especially when in the grip of vulnerability and uncertainty. Her words were: ‘Don’t puff up, don’t shrink down, just stand on your own sacred ground.’

How hopeful it has been to see New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern standing on her own sacred ground and leading with grace and dignity this past couple of weeks.

Many, many words have been written about Ardern over the past fortnight, and rightly so. Whilst the terror attack in Christchurch is truly horrendous, what an inspiration Ardern has been. Through her presence and leadership:

  • We’ve seen a leader who knows exactly who she wants to show up as.
  • We’ve seen a leader who has the courage to show up aligned to her values
  • We’ve seen a leader who has the humility and the willingness to ask others ‘What do you need?’
  • We’ve seen a leader who has the compassion and vulnerability to stand with others in their pain, and simply be there, without needing to ‘fix it’.
  • We’ve seen a leader who invites and inspires others to join with her in providing strength and solidarity.
  • We’ve seen a leader who has bravely called on other leaders to demonstrate more compassionate action.
  • We’ve seen a leader who has clearly and determinedly stood by what she believes to be right and has challenged others, including wealthy global corporations, to accept responsibility for their role in streaming the horrendous events that occurred.

We’ve seen a leader who knows and leads herself in order to know and lead others

In her Making Positive Psychology Work podcast series (episode 136) Michelle McQuaid and her guest Jon Berghoff talk about an invite-and-inquire approach to leadership.

McQuaid explains that ‘the invite-and-inquire approach ‘… comes from a place of humility and a willingness to step into your interactions with an authentic intention to listen, learn, and understand where others are coming from and what alternative answers might arise to what you’re facing, rather than showing up with the goal of convincing others of your opinion….’

Jacinda Ardern has shown herself to be an invite-and-inquire type of leader. One of her first actions after the violence in Christchurch was to inquire: she asked Muslim community leaders ‘What do you need?’ A simple question, but a courageous one. To inquire is to show vulnerability, a willingness to learn and an open admission that one does not know everything.

We need invite-and-inquire leaders who have the courage to be vulnerable, who have a clear vision to guide them and to share with others, we need invite-and-inquire leaders who are not too important to roll their sleeves up and lead the way practically and who have the guts to call out behaviours and actions that are unacceptable and offensive.

We need invite-and-inquire leaders who know their own sacred ground and who can stand and lead from that spot, especially when the going gets tough

I invite you to reflect on your leadership and consider:

  • How you might bring more invite-and-inquire to your leadership and interactions with others
  • What does your leadership ‘sacred ground’ look like?