Leadership… Personal, Professional AND Political
Posted over at The National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture’s “Leading Creatively” Blog Series

In reading the questions offered to shape this blog series, I was struck by the question “what are the challenges of managing the boundaries between our personal and professional stories?” Something in it – something only clear in my peripheral vision that becomes fuzzy when I look at it directly – harkens back to a particular time in my life in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Newly armed with the words of Audre Lorde, Judy Grahn, Pat Parker, and Gloria Anzaldúa, with the examples of brave honesty from Marlon Riggs and Essex Hemphill, and with a brand of bravada that I thought was my own, I embraced the phrase “the personal is political.”

Now the professional and the political are not exactly the same thing and yet I suspect that we are still trying to manage what is an artificial boundary. Who says that that the personal and the professional have rigid boundaries or need them? Are we drawing lines within ourselves that hamper us rather than furthering us, our organizations and our causes?

Even if we decide these boundaries do and should exist, are they feasible in today’s hyper-connected world? Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, said in his address at 2008’s Supernova conference in San Francisco in reference to transparency and social media “the loss of control you fear is already in the past.” So I ask the questions: what is it that makes these boundaries desirable? What needs to shift in our culture and in our leadership culture to allow all of us to be more fully human? What can we do in addition to modeling a different way of being in our organizations and in our relationships with one another to make that shift possible?

Thirteenth-century poet Rumi wrote that love is the way that the Great Mystery tells us things. I contend that art is the way we tell each other. Leading for art – for those sacred messages we tell each other – requires an honesty and a fullness of humanity that is not neatly divided and perhaps even actively resists being bound.