Generating ideas, connections, and action

Deborah Meehan's blog

MAR-L: An Innovative Approach to Recruiting Fellows

Several years ago LLC had the opportunity to evaluate the Mesoamerican Reef Leadership Program (MAR-L). It was an important evaluation that laid some groundwork for a research project we initiated the following year to explore the topic of ‘Leadership and Large Scale Change.’  We were inspired by MAR-L. MAR-L set itself apart from many other leadership programs because they were not content to simply focus on building the leadership capacity of young entrepreneurial conservation leaders, which itself would have been an important endeavor. They were also willing to ask tough questions about whether the investment in young people and their projects was making a difference in the health of the reef. Ultimately, most leadership programs are serving some larger purpose, and because of the challenges of understanding the contributions of their leadership development work to larger scale changes, most programs focus primarily on the ways in which participants of programs believe they have benefited. This is starting to change, and we are excited to be part of evaluating programs that tell a different story about the ways in which leadership development programs are supporting changes in the lives of people, and the planet.

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Mindfulness Matters | The Tree of Contemplative Practices

If you missed our interview with Patrick Brown from Greenlining last month please check it out. He described the way in which as the Director of the Leadership Academy, he brings a number of contempletive practices into all of their leadership work. He described the benefits of different practices to those engaged in leadership. We are including another resource as a complement to Patrick interview.  The link to the Tree of Contempletive Practices creates a scheme for understanding the different types of practices with more detailed descriptions.  We hope you find it helpful.

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Following Up On Transforming White Privilege: A 21st Century Leadership Capacity

We were heartened by the response to the “Transforming White Privilege: A 21st Century Leadership Capacity” webinar with over 540 registrants.  This is even more significant after a year of divisive elections in which fear or anger was expressed and generated towards whole groups of people based on religion, race, sexual orientation and gender. There can be little doubt that we are profoundly in need of leaders who can bridge these divides with an understanding of why and how opportunities have been historically distributed in this country in ways that have unfairly disadvantaged people of color and low income white people. Leadership programs have a historic opportunity to help leaders build their confidence and capacity to see, name and address the underlying white privilege and its consequences, opening up a different kind of society based on belonging, fairness, and equity.

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Five Suggestions About the Kind of Leadership That Will Move us Forward

I find myself looking for inspiration these days, and thankfully it’s not hard to find. I draw inspiration from the protectors at Standing Rock who are standing firm in the face of freezing temperatures and violent assaults. Serendipitously, as I was driving home I also found myself recently listening to Congressmen John Lewis in an interview recognizing his work in the civil rights movement. In response to comments about his sacrifices and courage, he humbly reminded listeners that there was only one choice if you wanted to be on the right side of history. His comments resonated because this does feel like a historic moment where we are in danger of losing ground in gains made over the past decades, or where we will stand against injustice and hatred and usher in a new era of increased equity and humanity. This is a big charge that calls for leadership, but what kind? Like many of you, we have been trying to figure out where we can make the most important contributions to thinking about leadership and the practice of leadership that will help to move us forward as a society. This will be a long process and for now I have five suggestions to share and would appreciate your feedback. read more »

Mindfulness Matters | An Interview with Patrick Brown

I was especially excited to interview Patrick Brown, Director of the Leadership Academy at Greenlining Institute, for our Mindfulness Matters column when I learned that he, as someone who directs a leadership academy with multiple programs, also has a strong personal meditation practice. I expected to gain important insights about the ways in which mindfulness practices support leadership development from Patrick. I did and I am sure you will as well.

 

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How to Scale Your Leadership Development Work: Three Lessons from Experiments with Delivery Strategies

When I reluctantly read the newspaper these days, I am sadly reminded of how desperately we need leadership (and lots of it) that can bring us together to heal the divides, close the wealth gap, and stop our destruction of the planet. Although there are thousands of social sector leadership programs in the country we reach and support only a small fraction of people who want to lead.

 

I like ‘what if’ statements, so here it goes. Most of us are working on problems of such magnitude, we have to operate from the frame that all we can do is ‘our part’ and we hope that if we are strategic about it that our piece of the work, along with the efforts of others, will get us where we are hoping to go. I get this. And, I also wonder how we are going to change the world, one leader at a time, reaching thousands when we need to mobilize millions. What if we were to individually and collectively challenge ourselves to figure out how we can support and unleash the energy of everyone who wants to take action with others to make the world a more equitable, sane and sustainable place where all can thrive? read more »

Another Take on Leadership Development Action Learning Projects: Could a Network Seed Fund Approach Work?

‘Hands on’ learning and application are important principles of how adults learn, so many leadership programs incorporate a learning action project. Maybe yours is one of them. There are different names for these projects that require the leadership participant (and sometimes teams of participants from the same program) to come up with a project through which they will apply what they are learning. These projects usually align with the leadership program’s larger purpose. For example, if the leadership program is focused on health equity, the learning action projects would be intended to contribute to improving health equity in addition to providing an opportunity for participants to hone their skills as they put them to use on the project. There are several inherent challenges often expressed by leadership program participants:
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How to Keep Learning and Strengthen Your Program : Lessons for leadership programs from an evaluation perspective

I enjoy doing leadership development evaluation and getting into the nitty gritty of how program staff think about and implement their leadership development efforts. Some of the most important work of evaluations happens upfront and it’s work that programs would benefit from doing themselves. In the spirit of our former board chair, Eugene Kim (Faster than 20), I found myself thinking about how to share some of what we are learning more broadly to give programs a leg up in clarifying program goals, design and expected change. I am not suggesting that it’s not useful to have an outside perspective and new eyes on the program, but let’s face it, a lot of programs don’t have the resources for external evaluations. So for the DIY folks here are a few ideas:

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Reflections on Leadership and Love on the Occasion of My Marriage

In other posts on leadership where I mentioned love, I quickly offer the disclaimer that I am not talking about the ‘romantic kind of love.’ Well, today is different. On Sunday, July 24th, I married the love of my life after twenty-five years of being mostly single so I have had ample opportunity to think about love and this rather momentous occasion. And yes, not everything has to be about leadership but I couldn’t quite help myself.

A couple of weeks before the wedding a friend and former board member asked why we decided to get married instead of just continuing on as a solidly committed couple. I appreciated the opportunity for reflection, one that brought me back to a leadership value that is fundamental to the way I think about leadership and life, interdependence. We chose the ritual of marriage as a way to celebrate not only our union but the union of our communities as we brought people from all strands and times in our lives together as a full reflection and celebration of who we are as individuals, who we are together as a couple and who we are in community. I was so happy to be surrounded by people who brought us to this moment with their encouragement and support and who will carry us forward. We are capable of so much more together than alone. And it was a beautiful and sweet celebration of love. Love was in the air, in an infectious way that is kindled by weddings. One person hugged me and thanked me for the chance to step away for a moment from all that is hard in the world right now and to be lifted up by love. 

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Leadership, Time, and Mindfulness

Here is a sad confession. I meditate in fits and starts even though I know in my soul that it’s a good thing on so many levels, and for reasons that others writing for this column have articulated better than I can. To add to the irony, I think I can’t make time for meditation.  It reminds me of a story I heard relayed by Thich Nhat Hanh. He described arriving in Boston where he was picked up by a woman who had to stop on the way to get flyers and then on to a dry cleaning store to pick up something else and then a quick stop to pick up food for the event. Not an unfamiliar story for many of us.  He asked her about how she managed the pace of her activities. Her response was, “You don’t understand, if I did not run around like this I would never have any time for myself” and his response? “It’s all your time!”

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