This year’s BLI’s Fall Speaker Event which was hosted in collaboration with Student Life MLEAD and the Ginsberg Center set out to explore the incredible ways that one can begin to practice empathy and interconnectedness in leadership through an interactive presentation by the admirable and very accomplished, Rebecca Irby.

    Rebecca Irby is the founding partner and president of the PEAC Institute, a nonprofit that establishes educational projects to forge connections with marginalized youth and art expression. The NGO recently received Special Consultative Status with the United Nations and is also partnered with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). In her interactive presentation, Rebecca was able to thoroughly incorporate many notable aspects of her work surrounding peace, education, art, and communication (PEAC) by taking a deeper dive into the concept of ‘Heart-Centered Leadership’ and finding one’s North Star.

    During her in-depth discussion on the concept of finding and understanding one’s North Star, Rebecca was able to convey the importance of using the North Star as a guide to making life decisions. Through her expression of the importance of self-reflection on what drives passions, the concept of staying grounded and feeling one’s passions also emerged. Rebecca revealed her own personal ‘ethos’ which was her dedication and passion for activism and world peace and spoke on her insight towards the value of ‘universal influence’ and being able to ask the universe for one’s wants and needs to help turn goals into reality. Rebecca mentioned her own battles with decisive hardship paralysis (the inability to make decisions due to ‘over-thinking’) especially when thinking about her future career with a high-paying yet unsavory marketing job and expressed the incredible value in striving towards passions rather than financial gain to ensure that one’s journey to their North Star is ultimately achieved.

    As well as her introduction to the concept of the North Star, Rebecca also touched on the value of understanding the concepts of ‘Revolutionary Love’ and ‘Wonder’ in the way that we connect with our social environments and express empathy and compassion. Her dialogue surrounding Revolutionary Love highlighted the importance of “loving your enemies, but not as a detriment to yourself” with an emphasis on the notion that love is ‘fierce’ and that advocating for one’s self as well as others is crucial for spreading love and compassion to others. Her inclusion of the Declaration Pledge on the topic of Revolutionary Love spotlights, “We declare our love for all who are in harm’s way. We declare love even for our opponents. We declare love for ourselves.” With this concept in mind, Rebecca also clarified the influence of ‘Wonder’ and having openness to others’ thoughts, pains, and life experiences. By “inviting Wonder into the present moment” not only can we begin to understand those that are not like ourselves but also welcome our own personal wisdoms into how we view the world and navigate interpersonal connections.

    Through this insightful event and the wonderful collaborative activities that Rebecca provided, not only was the true value in practicing 'Heart-Centered Leadership' made apparent, but through her personal experiences and vulnerability in conveying the importance of one’s North Star, Revolutionary Love, and Wonder, Rebecca was able to leave the audience with a unique appreciation for these practices and a solid vision of how these practices can shape the way that we impact the world.

Dare: Do you believe there is a difference between wonder and curiosity? How would you differentiate the two? Are there certain values that you believe could go with either or both?

Rebecca: I would say that they are different. They can be used in the same way, for sure. I think the idea of wonder and the way that it’s being used is as an introspective tool. With curiosity, we can be curious and go and explore, but with wonder I see it as something that you sit and do yourself. It’s very introspective. It's inward, while I see curiosity as outward. When you’re doing a wonder exercise, you’re wondering about its inner workings.

Dare: How could we begin to navigate balancing feelings of failure and the ability to lead through the concept of Revolutionary Love and the advocacy of one's self when others may be triumphant?

Rebecca: We don’t learn unless we fail. I like to think of it as ‘mistakes.’ I’m also a yoga instructor and I always talk about how we need to make mistakes. If you're not making mistakes, that means you’re not trying, and that means you're not growing and learning. Mistakes are critical. If you think about it in that way, as opposed to failing, failure sounds so complete. There are always bumps in the road and opportunities, it has so much to do with mindset. It’s about being open and not calling it ‘a failure’ but just seeing it as a bump in the road that you can overcome.

Check out season three of our collaboration podcast, Break Away, featuring a two-part episode conversation with Rebecca and BLI director Ram Mahalingam as they discuss surrounding Heart-Centered Leadership and finding your North Star.

The Break Away podcast, presented by the Michigan Leadership Collaborative, offers an anthology that magnifies and reinforces the challenges that leaders face today in developing healthy habits that fuel the mind and body. 


Darica (Dare) Brazier is a senior in the College of LSA, majoring in psychology and minoring in entrepreneurship and sociology of health & medicine. She has many career interests in the fields of psychology, the arts, and business administration/marketing and is very excited to work for BLI to help her visualize and develop her ultimate career goals and passions. She loves to watercolor paint, cook, and go on nature walks in her free time and is incredibly excited to be a part of the BLI community with all the fun and professional development that the Barger community wholesomely welcomes.