The weekend of June 2-4, 15 high school youth and 5 adults visited the Isle of Palms for the inaugural Diocese of Atlanta Steps to Lead Retreat. Bishop Wright, Professor Mary Hooper, Keith Dumke, Monika Wiley, and Easton Davis led our young people, focusing on purpose and passion and how young people can step up and lead today. Grace Church’s Delaney Williams was one of the youth selected to attend and she has written about the experience below.
“Leadership is the capacity to mobilize people, to address tough problems, especially problems they would rather avoid” — Bishop Rob Wright
Imagine you’re standing on an outdoor basketball court. The concrete is burning beneath your feet and there is no break from the merciless sun beating down on your back. You are blindfolded and clutching a thin rope like your life depends on it. You’re surrounded by other leaders in the same situation and the group’s objective is to make a perfect square with the rope. Suddenly someone shouts above the confusion and starts to direct specific people in specific directions, and then another voice adds to the process. Two people have regained their sight, but they soon fall silent. They can still see but are now unable to speak. Fifteen frustrating minutes pass. You are instructed to lay your rope on the ground and remove your blindfold.
Last weekend I attended the inaugural Steps to Lead leadership retreat. The exercise described above, appropriately referred to as the blind square exercise, was one of many experiences meant to inspire contemplative questions about true leadership. I wish I could tell you we succeeded, but to be completely honest— we failed. Sure, we were close with a crooked rectangle; we had four straight sides and four angles, but it wasn’t perfect. We were a group of natural leaders, all at a leadership conference to learn how to be better leaders, and some of the most important lessons we learned were about knowing when to be the leader and when to step back and let those who have an advantage take point in order to achieve your goal.
When we met at the Cathedral Friday morning to travel to Isle of Palms, I had no expectations and I didn’t know anyone. It was intimidating, to say the least— but looking back almost a week later, I can honestly say it was one of the most impactful weekends of my life.
Lessons like the ones we learned during the blind square exercise were abundant throughout the weekend. We talked about purpose, passion, and problems. We talked about what leadership looks like, and how to apply what we learn to our own lives. We went on beach walks where we analyzed meaningful moments in our lives and how the patterns could reveal what we deemed important to our characters.
Throughout it all, we were constantly challenged to find the answers to our own questions. We were asked our own opinions on subjects, and we were invited to defend them. Steps to Lead wasn’t about having someone tell us the answers, it was about discovering the answers ourselves — and I think that’s why the retreat was so meaningful.
This experience is one that I will carry with me for a long time.