Leadership, Adaptation, and Relevance
“ADAPT. PIVOT. TRANSITION. TRANSLATE.”
These are the words that have been ringing through my mind of late. If you are in a position of leadership, some version of them has probably been on your mind lately, too.
These words, along with the following reminder:
“REMAIN TRUE TO YOUR MISSION.”
Change and remain true at the same time. This is the challenge that we are all facing together — the dynamic interplay between our identity and our relevance. How do we identify ourselves as people and as organizations? And is that self-description sufficiently relevant in this present moment?
These are not easy questions to ask. They are even harder questions to answer. They threaten to unnerve us at our best, to undo us at our worst. But this is the call that all leaders must answer in these challenging times. Who are we, as leaders and organizations? And what is it about our mission that remains critically important in this season of upheaval? What about our mission now seems shallow or trite? And do we have the courage to own the fact that history may be calling us, for a season, to become a different version of ourselves for those whom we lead?
At RiverWise, we are trying to be honest and public about how these dynamics are playing out within our organization. We’re being honest and public because our organization has always worked to be transparent and forthright about the challenges that come with visible leadership. But we are also being honest and public because we need your help sorting out what this present version of RiverWise should become.
Rest assured. We are not radically reinventing ourselves. We are still all about dreaming, learning, and collaborating together. We are still about encouraging civic participation, about telling stories that disrupt prevailing narratives that limit how we view ourselves. We are still focused on forging a regional identity that demonstrates our capacity to celebrate what is common and hopeful among us. Yes, we may be humming that tune in a different key for the foreseeable future. But the discerning listener can still hear a very familiar melody laced throughout the song we are now performing.
Now, more than ever, we need leaders who understand what has changed and what must remain the same, what can persist and what must adapt. As leaders, we cannot stand still and wait for others to address the challenges we must face. The challenges are too many, and the messiahs too few.
We must lead with boldness. Adaptive and relevant boldness. None of us will get there perfectly. But we must be on our way.
Executive Director, RiverWise