Leadership, Community and a Non‐Anxious Presence

by Robert Broesler

In this new year, with 2016 characterized by so much turmoil, anger and fear I am moved to share with you a very hopeful story. It is about an unknown hero who, every day, offers steady, patient hope to a community in Wilmington.

This person is a police officer whose “beat” is one of the community centers in the inner city. Because he is an outside the box thinker, he has expanded his “territory” to include the eight square blocks surrounding the center, walking that area and talking to people as often as possible.

His job description is to build community, prevent crime and confront crime whenever it does occur. His message to the young people among whom he works? “It is all about the basics. Show up on time. Be respectful. Listen more than you speak”. He is a gifted public speaker (though he was surprised when I told him so) whose is not afraid to name the truth. “Who here wants to die”? he asks when invited to speak with kids. “Which one of you want to give up fifteen or twenty years of your freedom?” When he gets the expected reaction, he asks “So let’s discuss the choices you make?”

I must say, however, it was not his message I was most moved by. It was his presence. Strong, calm humble and determined. No drama. No anger. No extremes. He embodied a “non­anxious presence”. Like a step down transformer which lowers the electrical charge, he takes the high energy of frustration/fear/anger and replace “lowers the voltage” with quiet and calm.

I share his story to offer you two things. First: hopefulness. As we begin a new year, so many events invite us find the hope that tomorrow will be as good as and even better than today. As you read these words consider that there are countless millions of caring, kind and patient interactions occurring in every town, suburb and city. People of good will, including you, are part of the fabric of a healthy civic community.

I also share this story to suggest that this kind of non­anxious, calm yet firm presence is the type of leadership most systems thrive on. Neither passive, nor aggressive, it is needed at home with our children, at work with our staff, in our neighborhoods, faith communities and social venues. When we are among people who are struggling with the stress, fear or anxiety that work or family or finances or just plain LIFE often engender, the person who remains strong yet calm becomes the de facto leader and “step­down transformer” of our emotional systems.

My invitation this new year is to seek the presence of such people even as you seek to be such a leader. I suspect you already are, in ways you often do not realize. So let me end by saying “Thanks”.