Exploring Leadership With Rhonda Magee

Exploring Leadership With Rhonda Magee

Exploring Leadership is a series of conversations hosted by Kathryn Goldman Schuyler in which she introduces viewers to leaders who dance with possibility and whose creativity, depth, and vision bring leadership to life — people from many arenas whose lives add vitality and meaning to our planet.

In this episode of Exploring Leadership, Kathryn Goldman Schuyler interviews Rhonda V. Magee, Professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law and author of The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming our Communities Through Mindfulness.

Rhonda Magee is among a small number of thought leaders who have been powerfully speaking out about how mindfulness and other contemplative practices need to be part of leadership development and part of all professional development. I was fortunate to be able to speak with her in person just before the pandemic, and am happy to now release the video! Now is an optimal time to listen to her talk about her work and its importance. It is especially relevant as we, as a society, consider the impact of the murder of George Floyd and other Black men and women and the anti-racist work we must all do to achieve racial justice.

A longtime professor of law and meditation teacher, Rhonda’s latest book provides a theoretical and practical reframing of mindfulness. She offers profound insight into how racialized experiences can be made visible and changed through awareness practices that she labels color-insight. In our conversation, she describes how she has brought together teaching the history of law in America with awareness training and methods from contemplative pedagogy. A sociologist by training, as well as an attorney, she draws on her integration of these and other sources, including Buddhist teachings and what she learned from her Christian grandmother.

Our conversation provides a context for what is happening in our cities right now and supports all of us in seeing how mindfulness is not simply about one’s own body and mind, but also about awareness of the society in which one has been acculturated. As we talked, I gained new insights into how the very individualized American mindset may have contributed to the individualistic focus of much current mindfulness teaching.

Leadership educators may see comparable value in their field to what Magee sees with regard to the law: just as mindfulness meditation can be a way to support law students looking at painful parts of legal history, mindfulness and compassion practices can help students be less bound up in whatever they have learned in the past, so they can be open to perceiving the current world and its need with fresh eyes. 

Kathryn Goldman Schuyler

Kathryn Goldman Schuyler has many years of experience in leadership development, organizational consulting, research, and somatic learning. She has helped hundreds of executives to cultivate healthy organizations and is Professor Emeritus of Organization Development at Alliant International University. Kathryn has published widely on leadership and change and is the author of Inner Peace – Global Impact (IAP, 2012) and the lead editor of Leading With Spirit, Presence, and Authenticity (Jossey Bass/Wiley, 2014), and Creative Social Change: Leadership for a Healthy World (Emerald, 2016).

Her recent research focuses on awareness and mindfulness at work: her published work in this area highlights how being fully present enhanced participants’ connectedness with others and with the natural environment and renewed their sense of purpose in their work. She has studied mindfulness and awareness with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Mingyur Rinpoche, Lama Tharchin Rinpoche, and other masterful teachers of meditation. Kathryn and her husband, a composer, live overlooking San Francisco, a view that encourages them to pause and appreciate gleaming sunsets and foggy mornings, the calls of ravens and the circling of hawks, and the sparkling city lights.

Rhonda Magee

Rhonda V. Magee (M.A. Sociology, J.D.) is a Professor of Law at the University of San Francisco and an internationally-recognized thought and practice leader focused on integrating mindfulness into higher education, law, and social change work. Born in North Carolina in 1967, Rhonda experienced a childhood of significant trauma and challenge. Yet, she was gifted with the insight that through a life of caring engagement, self-development, and service with others, she could find a way up and out. She has dedicated her life to healing and teaching in ways that support others in a journey to wholeness and justice. A student of a variety of Buddhist and other wisdom teachers, including Norman Fischer, Joan Halifax and Jon Kabat Zinn, she trained as a mindfulness teacher at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness. A former President of the board of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, Professor Magee is a Fellow of the Mind and Life Institute, where she recently completed a two-year term on its steering council. She is a member of the board of advisors of the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness and chairs the board of directors for the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute.