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Deborah Meehan's blog

Blind Spots: The Role of Leadership Development Programs in Inhibiting or Contributing to our Progress Towards Racial Equity

Since Creating Space, I have been doing a lot thinking about the ways in which leadership programs often promote leadership models that reinforce the dominant culture. At Creating Space, Design Team Member, Elissa Sloan Perry, Co-Director of Management Assistance Group, shared a presentation on how white supremacist culture shows up in our organizations based on an article by Tema Okun and Kenneth Jones. We focused most of the discussion at Creating Space on organizational culture, which I later realized cannot be separated from leadership culture because after all, most leadership programs are preparing participants to lead in an organizational context.

 

I strongly recommend their article. They share thirteen characteristics of white supremacist culture, all of which resonated, and for the sake of this article and beginning this discussion, I chose three to share that I think are provocative and reveal leadership characteristics being cultivated in leadership programs that help to reinforce white supremacists culture. (In future articles I will share additional characteristics.)

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Reflections on Equitable Design

I felt honored to be part of the Creating Space Design Team with an amazing group of leadership development funders, delivery partners, network and movement builders and racial justice champions. I was eager to learn from the team about how to create an event that would deepen our learning about the ways in which our approaches to supporting leadership for racial justice need to shift.  I did not have to wait until me met in New Orleans to begin learning. I was struck by the fact that some of our conversations were filled with questions that people creating leadership development programs should also be asking, e.g. how would we honor the whole person and multiple ways of knowing; what does it mean to assume good intentions and look at impact; how do we hold space for courageous conversations; how are we thinking about power and whose knowledge is privileged; and how do we build authentic community?
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Leading for Racial Equity: The Reasons I Need to Be at Creating Space

I have been meaning to write a personal article about why I feel so strongly about attending Creating Space in New Orleans this year. I thought for a moment about a catchy top ten list and quickly realized that my spirit these days is anything but light. I was still reeling from Charlottesville while Hurricane Harvey ravaged Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast. Twelve years after Katrina, I am reminded how natural disaster also becomes a social and economic disaster with a toll that hits vulnerable communities hardest.

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Three Experiments and Lessons on the Network Path

Several years ago friend, colleague and network mentor, June Holley, reminded me that LLC was a pretty traditional organization and not very network-like. Given the extent of our writing about the importance and power of network approaches, it seemed like a good time to experiment and venture away from our default organizational behaviors. Some of our lessons were the fruits of intentional experimentation and some are reflections about serendipitous change. We hope that some of them will be helpful to you.

Three lessons about tapping the talents of the network to do the work:

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Mindfulness Matters: Fierce Love

I had the good fortune to hear two people, who I greatly admire, speak last month: first Mimi Ho from the Movement Strategy Center at the Bay Area Justice Funders Group, and then john powell from the Haas Center for Fairness and Inclusion at the Othering and Belonging Conference. What a treat. Their words converged to remind me of why mindfulness practices are so important as they both spoke about the tough leadership work we are being called to do. The anger and outrage over the attack on civil rights and the planet fuels my spirit of fight, but will only take me so far in understanding the deeper work that john calls us to recognize in extending the circle of belonging to include everyone. This is the work that calls for what Mimi described as fierce love, grounded in the love of humanity that is a powerful source of love and action.

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Leadership Development Equity Tip: Learn about and incorporate assessment tools

This month's Leadership Development Equity Tip comes from a recent conversation with Anita Patel, Leadership Programs Director at the Bush Foundation. She explained that every Bush Fellow takes the Intercultural Development Inventory, an assessment tool that helps individuals and teams assess and reflect on stages of cultural sensitivity. It can be used to increase self-awareness, encourage development and to provide a conceptual framework for discussing intercultural interactions. Bush fellows use the assessment to create goals. 

 

The fellowship is about how you strengthen yourself as a leader and how participants are naming that intercultural competence has to be part of it. The conversation reminded me that some programs use the Harvard implicit bias test and others introduce racial impact analysis tools developed by Race Forward. Assessment is an important starting point for improvement. Please share tools you are using to increase the equity competence of your participants and we can create a resource directory. Thanks Anita for the example and inspiration.

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Meet the Creating Space Design Team and Hear about Objectives for Creating Space

I am excited to introduce the Creating Space design team assembled by Patrick Brown our design team lead and facilitator. He has assembled a powerful team with depth in racial justice work, a passion for leadership development, a commitment to generative learning and spirit. I have an important job this year, to stay out of the way and make room for new approaches, ideas, and talent to craft an event that can shape and support leadership development practices that will unleash the potential of leadership development to contribute to greater racial equity.

 

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Welcoming LLC’s New Board Members

 

 

LLC is excited to introduce you to two new board members and to share our process of board development. There will be opportunities for you to plug into the process. First though, a big welcome to Uma Viswanathan and Linshuang Lu.

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Creating Space: Baking Equity & Justice into Leadership Development Work

Turn on the news and there is little doubt, equity is under assault... from attempts to repeal ACA, taxation proposals to cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy, to attacks on undocumented workers and Muslims. We need to build a new equity consciousness and set of practices into leadership development work to nurture our individual and collective resistance to stand up for social and racial justice.

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Experimenting with Leadership Development Action Learning Projects

Many leadership programs utilize some form of learning projects based on principles of adult learning and action learning. They are intended to strengthen the participant’s capacity to apply learning across different contexts. Of course, most action learning project participants hope to also deliver some value to the community beyond their own learning experience.  Donna Dinkin, an action learning specialist describes action learning:

 

Action learning is a process (often coach supported) involving a small group of people solving real problems while at the same time focusing on what they are learning and how their learning can benefit each group member and the organization and community as a whole.”

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