Question 1: Feminist process for organizational management and decision making involves concepts of shared leadership and relational communications. How do you see feminist process influencing your work as UUA moderator?
Tamara Payne-Alex, member, First Unitarian Church of San Jose, CA
Jim Key:Earlier this year, I was asked to write words of encouragement and support to the trustees of four district boards gathering for retreat, a retreat to strategize for a "great awakening" of liberal religion in New England. I honored them for their collaboration, covenant, and courage, I believe these are synonyms for shared leadership and relational communications.
I encouraged those district leaders to imagine a growing, vibrant religious movement bound by common values of inherent worth and dignity of every person, freedom of conscience, and mutual interdependence. These values draw on the wisdom and experience of all souls to establish communities and systems that allow all people to flourish. These, too, are words that echo feminist process.
In a blog post about what I've learned from a lifetime of work, I focused on two overarching lessons: relationship building and governance as leadership. The Three Basic Beliefs of IBM became my business grounding as well as my personal credo. Those Beliefs challenged all employees to: treat everyone inside and outside of the business with respect, equity, and compassion; understand customers' needs and exceed their expectations; and approach everything by doing our very best while thinking about how to improve the process the next time around.
These, then, are the ideas that will shape my service as UUA Moderator. I look forward to being in covenantal relationship with you and all other groups making up our diverse Association, and I will work strenuously to maintain right relationships with all.
Tamara Payne-Alex:As Moderator,I will apply feminist processes concepts to the work environment of the Board, relationships among Association leadership, and efforts to share power and build capacity for a more participatory and engaged governance.
I learned that leadership and communication style can be affected by cultural context and identity early in life. I was born into a multi-racial family. Complex experiences of identity, power and privilege as I grew up led me to study psychology in college. I was intrigued by the intersection of oppressions and focused my psychology coursework in feminist thought and minority studies.
Following college, I consulted with corporations and government agencies to decrease discrimination, build for effective diverse teams, and create more inclusive work place environments. I observed that the communication and leadership styles most often present in our dominant culture discourage full engagement and participation by those outside the dominant culture. Many folks in leadership roles, including women and people of color, had internalized the dominant culture values at the mid and upper levels of management. They used their power to invite others to the table, but power and access continued to be channeled through them. So, in many ways these pioneers were breaking barriers, only to perpetuate the power paradigm once in leadership.
When I began volunteering with the UUA on the Black Concerns Working Group, I was exposed to systems theory through the lens of a power analysis. I connected these concepts with my knowledge of feminist thought. I began to take a new approach in building diverse teams and coaching managers. An approach that was grounded in feminist concepts of shared leadership and decision making.
As Moderator, I will continue to apply concepts of shared power that reflect feminist processes -- intentionally making space for others, creating practices that shift the locus of power to the community or group, and including conscious attention to social and cultural transformation.