Leadership and Uncertainty: The Necessity of Discomfort

If I am not willing to be personally uncomfortable, do I have the right to claim that I am listening? (In conversation with Arielle Kayabaga, Tracy Langelaan, Patrick Rhone, and Javeed Sukhera.)

In this conversation with Arielle Kayabaga, Tracy Langelaan, Patrick Rhone, and Javeed Sukhera, we explore some of the discomfort and self-evaluation inherent in the act of meaningfully listening to (and actually hearing) others. Recorded on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, amid the unfolding protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd eight days prior.

This conversation left me pondering the superficial ease in which ’empathy and listening’ is often described in leadership jargon and solidarity circles. The ‘textbook’ definition of empathy is one thing — the real-world act of hearing another person can be a whole different thing altogether. It takes some emotional labour and an upending of one’s padded regime of comfort to glimpse or absorb even a fraction of another person’s suffering. How can this process not be inherently uncomfortable?

So, if we are not diligently opening the door to our own discomfort, are we even listening in the first place?

Arielle Kayabaga (@ArielkeK) is an active public speaker, having worked with London Black History Committee and Regional HIV Aids Connection. Balancing her roles as a single mother, City Councilor, community activist and passionate city builder, Arielle’s story is one of breaking barriers, overcoming adversity, and defying expectations.

Tracy Langelaan (@tlangelaan) is the Principal at H. B. Beal Secondary School. She is passionate about ‘relevant’ & ‘innovative’ approaches to education & shared leadership.

Patrick Rhone (@patrickrhone) is a writer, speaker, and author of 6 books living in Saint Paul, MN with his wife and twelve-year-old daughter. Through his writing, he tells personal stories and explores ideas about living a life of mindfulness, compassion, introspection, and truth.

Javeed Sukhera (@javeedsukhera) is an Associate Professor in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, and is cross-appointed to the Department of Paediatrics. He is also a Scientist at the Centre for Education Research and Innovation at Western University.

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