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LLC: Looking Forward, Looking Back - So Where Are We Now?

Quite truthfully, we are struggling with an important tension. We have learned a lot in our 7 years of experience looking deeply into a number of programs and looking broadly across the leadership development field. What we have not yet done is synthesize the learning into a more definitive analysis of where we think the leadership development field needs to be heading and the implications for leadership development. We frequently get calls from folks asking for more direction, e.g. “What are the most important innovations we see?” The tension for us is one of how to put out a point of view based on what we are learning in a way the continues to invite learning and contributions from individuals and programs that have a different idea. We have very intentionally attempted to cultivate an environment in which there was a comfortable, safe and free marketplace of ideas. We still value a rigorous exchange that encourages all ideas and provides stronger leadership to the field. The costs of operating from old paradigms demand a shift in our thinking at a field level and we feel called to help. This is the juncture between learning and leadership and the “so what” of our learning. We want to provide leadership to the leadership field in a way that generates even deeper learning. We hope to engage you in the synthesis project and look forward to your input and involvement.

In October 2007, LLC had a board retreat. In preparation we created a draft of a history wall to help us take stock of where we have been and where we are headed. The wall, along with a our 5-year evaluation completed in 2005, helped us to understand trends in the work, core strengths, challenges, and learning and development opportunities. We appreciated the quality of learning relationships that have developed among individuals and organizations, in fact, 90% of the respondents in our evaluation survey felt that LLC had created a new cultural framework of abundance and generosity that encouraged openness and sharing. The website was described in the evaluation as a goldmine for the field and feedback on the new beta site has been uniformly encouraging. We continue to grow in our learning methodologies and have been impressed with the productivity of learning labs. Our love affair with wiki technology has radically improved our ability to capture and disseminate learning as it occurs in the circles and labs. We have produced a number of learning products through circles and consulting work that we believe can contribute to strengthening leadership practices. According to participants, Creating Space 2007 was our best yet and we shamelessly agree. In case it sounds like we were getting a little bit too full of ourselves, believe me we are not. We continue to grapple with principles of self-organizing, especially as it relates to how to support the work of regional learning circles. The Community Seed Fund (which we will be doing again this year) supported three important learning contributions and launched one new circle, Change Agents in the American South. While we are excited about this, we haven’t figured out any formula (if one exists) for the right amount of support that helps circles to sustain themselves without replacing the initiative of members. This year we are experimenting with a partnership model in Washington, DC and Washington state where two member organizations, the Institute for Educational Leadership and the Center for Ethical Leadership have stepped up to take on circle facilitation for a year to help stabilize the work in these regions by cultivating a shared sense of vision, purpose and focus from which circle leadership can continuously be cultivated. Like many organizations, we also continue to struggle with issues of financial sustainability and are hopeful that we may see a breakthrough in the next year with the support of a very active Development Committee. In the year ahead we will be developing a business plan to build out our project management model and diversify our revenue streams while strengthening our fund development plan. We look forward to sharing all of our learning about leadership development, learning, sustainability, self-organizing and more. We hope to engage you in the synthesis project and look forward to your input and involvement. If you have participated in three or more LLC learning sessions within the last several years and would like to receive more information about participating in the synthesis project, contact Elissa Perry.