On October 24, the 2019-2020 cohort of Rockefeller Leadership Fellows welcomed The Rev. Dr. Nancy Vogele ’85 in an evening session titled “Naked Leadership.” Vogele currently serves as Rector of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Goffstown, NH, continuing her 20 year-long history of commitment to Episcopal parish ministry. She was also previously the Director of Religious and Spiritual Life at the William Jewett Tucker Center at Dartmouth College. Vogele prides herself on building bridges with others, and combines her passions for the religious professions and social justice through spiritual leadership and strategic program development.
Vogele began her session, dressed in her clerical garb, by speaking about her relationship with religion and the way she leverages her spiritual expertise by using religion as a toolbox for effective and reflective leadership. She imbued her presentation with quotes and examples from religious leaders and texts, and through these, worked to emphasize the duality of the external and internal work inherent in being a leader. The external work, she noted, is in fostering a collectivist style of leadership. “The lone ranger leader,” Vogele said, “no longer works.” She also highlighted the importance of inner work, of reflection, and of savoring the present moment. Vogele underscored this work’s importance with a quote from one of her mentors: “The more you put on outwardly, the more you must take off inwardly.” That is, the more leadership positions and responsibilities you accumulate, the more vital this inner work – mindfulness, reflection, and spirituality – becomes.
Towards the end of the session, Vogele asked all of the Fellows to sit up straight, breathe deeply, and close their eyes. She guided the group through a meditation from Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Blooming of a Lotus. It reads:
Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.
Breathing in, my breath grows deep.
Breathing out, my breath goes slowly.
Breathing in, I feel calm.
Breathing out, I feel ease.
Breathing in, I smile.
Breathing out, I release.
Breathing in, I dwell in the present moment.
Breathing out, I know it is a wonderful moment.
Present moment. Wonderful moment.
There was silence in the Class of 1930 Room as Fellows breathed in, soaking up Vogele’s calm voice and Thich Nhat Hanh’s words, and breathed out, hopefully releasing the stress of the uncertainty and mixed emotions inherent in their senior year at the College. While Fellows are building meaningful relationships with one another within the RLF cohort, the program has made a conscious effort to also highlight the integral role that mindfulness and personal reflection plays in leading effectively.
There is often insufficient emphasis placed on a leader’s relationship with oneself. Traditional leadership programs focus on the interpersonal skills inherent in managing teams, holding difficult conversations, and making key decisions for an organization. Vogele’s session acknowledged the importance of these aspects of leadership and dove deeper, striving to impart to the cohort the value of taking a few minutes each day to sit with oneself, to reflect, and to savor. This is how we become the most effective leaders we can be: by leading from within. It is this – Vogele’s ability to impart her unique wisdom, based upon years at the intersection of spirituality and social justice – that allowed the Fellows to breathe in, breathe out, and know that the present moment, that of the sixth session for the 2019-2020 cohort, was truly a wonderful one.
-Written by Jessica Campanile, Class of 2020 Rockefeller Leadership Fellow
As Rockefeller Leadership Fellows, seniors gain a better understanding of the qualities and responsibilities expected of leaders. As Fellows take part in the workshops, dinner discussions, and team-building exercises, they examine their skills, qualities, and attributes as leaders and analyze how these influence teamwork and achieving goals.