Lennon Flowers had a lot on her plate. She is co-founder and Executive Director of The Dinner Party. It’s a new national organization forging community for people in their 20s and 30s to share their experiences of loss and vulnerability – by sharing their stories over a potluck dinner.
Lennon felt the burden of heavy demands and an urgency to make a difference.
“This startup year was a challenging one,” Lennon said. “I felt consumed by endless to-do lists, worries about money, and the gnawing sensation that whatever I was doing wasn’t enough. I was perilously close to burnout.”
Lennon hadn’t made space for her own renewal. Instead she was questioning her every move.
Lennon attended the Courage to Lead for Young Leaders & Activists retreat in Atlanta in December 2014. Young people in positions of leadership don’t have a lot of spaces where they can be vulnerable, she said.
“You’re expected to present a strong face and have all the answers, and bring your team along, being a constant cheerleader,” said Lennon. “We need spaces to reflect on and name the unsolved or unanswered questions, personal and professional.”
“Courage to Lead gave me renewed faith in my own inner voice and a chance to silence the noise,” Lennon said. “It was deeply reassuring to be among people whose interest was in asking better questions and equipping participants with the space and tools to find their own answers.
Lennon is weaving Courage & Renewal practices into the very fabric of her organization—thanks to advice from previous Courage to Lead participants and monthly mentoring calls with C&R Executive Director, Terry Chadsey.
She also engaged Courage & Renewal facilitators to lead retreats for The Dinner Party hosts to learn about creating safe space and asking open, honest questions.
“Courage & Renewal has had a catalytic impact on our work,” Lennon said. “The Courage & Renewal Touchstones reflect the kind of spaces we want to grow in the world, and its practical techniques have been deeply instructive.
“But from a personal standpoint, the retreat was renewing in the truest sense of the word for me.”
“Courage to Lead shouldn’t be just a once-a-year or once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Lennon. “It was a really powerful experience in December and something we wanted to sustain.”
Lennon has continued to meet monthly with several Courage to Lead participants. They have a monthly date on the calendar to talk on Skype video chat.
“We now have an increased level of intentionality and self-awareness. We say, ‘Is this question I’m asking an open, honest one? What would Parker say?’
“It’s helpful to have an open space where we can be sounding boards and question-askers and space-holders for each other.”
You can stay tuned to Lennon and her nonprofit’s progress at The Dinner Party blog.