There is no doubt that leadership is critically important. Often, the quality of leadership in an organization, community and classroom determine both its direction and significant outcomes. However, we are constantly reminded of the hierarchy of leadership in Western culture. The symbols of power, from where people sit in a meeting to who gets called by a title vs their first name, are sometimes subtle reminders of who is in charge and who is not. It is a short leap to see how this might play out in systems rife with patriarchy, racism and bias. In light of this, the Circle itself is not only something that can build relationships and help solve challenges, but it can be a space for equity and social justice.
For those of use committed to both creating environments and communities of restoration and empowerment and dismantling systems of oppression, the circle is a symbol and tool for action. Regardless of the content of the circle, which can range from focusing on business goals for the upcoming week to reintegrating a person recovering from addiction back into the community, the structure and nature of the Circle, when practiced with a Restorative mindset, promotes equity and inclusion. Here is how:
First, the shape itself. There is no head of the circle, everyone can be seen and there is equal access to voices and information shared.
Second, when we implement the best practices outlined in parts 1-3 of this series, then the facilitator becomes the ‘guide on the side, not sage on the stage.’ Their role is primarily to facilitate collective participation and a restorative process.
Lastly, when these first two things happen, the magic in the Circle encourages participants to authentically share, thereby helping others to see their humanity.
The Circle can be a microcosm of the kind of organizations, communities, classrooms and families that we want to create. These are the spaces where misogyny, bigotry and racism can’t breathe or are confronted head on. Imagine environments where your positional authority doesn’t determine the value of your contribution, but even the quietest voices are given space to be heard.
Leadership is critically important, especially when leaders help create environments where they are not the most important voice in the room. The Circle helps us do just that!