The whisper of truth

(How to find and use your talent)

Where the first module of our leadership course was about “sources of leadership”, this module was about getting to know yourself and reflection. And there is no better place to explore this than a monastery or abbey. We went to Saint Willibrord’s Abbey in Doetinchem for three days and really experienced abbey life. A little out of my comfort zone, back in the chapel pews hearing the monks sing & preach, meditate & practice singing some psalms in canon myself under the guidance of Abbot Henry.

As with the first course, we had five external speakers to inspire us or make us think: Rabbi Soetendorp, An Verlinde, Kader Abdolah, Wil Derkse and Erwin van Lambaart. They brought us really different perspectives, but as said, the link was (self)reflection, because you really have to start with knowing yourself if you want to be a leader, or if you want to connect.

I list a few of my observations / learnings here:

  • Can we believe in the “whisper of truth”? That a small but honest action can lead to something big or set something big in motion? And that the small and the big are somehow connected? (See Rabbi Soetendorp’s lecture on 4 April, he referred to this a few times, about amplifying the whisper of truth.)
  • That a true leader lets someone take a place in his/her/their dream, and that she/he/they really see you. The example Rabbi Soetendorp gave was a personal experience he had with Martin Luther King. I will not repeat it here, but refer to another great sentence MLK often used in his speeches: “I have decided to stay with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
During our walk of silence in Doetinchem.
  • That you can discover a talent in a person, even if you hardly know someone, and that this person sometimes does not realise that she/he/they had this talent. (Erwin van Lambaart could do this because of his great casting experience, and showed his skills by practising it with us).
  • Good positive stories have the following elements: Room (space) / Rhythm / the Right direction (and I have added an extra “R”, which is Rest).
  • Working from your own motives means trusting your moral compass, needing guts to do this, being able to connect to have an effect & finding the right environment or form. And as An Verlinde told us, many organisations have become detached from the values from which they were created. One’s own moral compass is therefore a precious commodity. She experienced this herself during her (20 years!) period at the Vatican.
  • We heard a beautiful story about a parrot in a cage (you can find it in one of Kader Abdolah’s books, “de reis van de lege flessen“) and how the parrot found a creative way to get out of its cage. So who decides? You decide: you can break out of your cage, if you want to. Kader Abdolah taught us that it helps to have “a sentence”, perhaps a kind of whisper, that you can even speak out loud. He only really got going here in the Netherlands when he realised that he could be / become a Dutch writer instead of the Persian writer he had always dreamed of. During our “walk in silence” almost all of us came back with such a sentence, our own whisper of truth.

What you seek is you

What you seek seeks you

  • To learn from the Benedictine style is to serve as a leader. To realise that in order to set people in motion, you yourself must be in motion. That credible behaviour is a better term than example behaviour. Wil Derkse read to us from the Benedictine Rule, especially chapters 2, 3 and 64 and we will receive his book: “Benedictijnse stuurmanskunst – Leiding geven in dienst van de gemeenschap“.
  • Go for the dolphin (sensitive, social, intuitive, protective, flexible, creative), and not for the carp or the shark. This book was tipped by Erwin van Lambaart: Strategy of the Dolphin, by Lynch / Kardis.

The steady trickle erodes the stone.

Wilma van Wezenbeek

12 April 2022

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