On Sunday, I hosted a reunion brunch with a handful of folks who had participated in a program called “What’s Next.” It’s a program for EDs, and as the name suggests, it’s for EDs who think that they may want to leave their organization in the next 5 years to help them think about managing that transition. I participated in What’s Next for a number of reasons: I did imagine leaving LLC within 5 years, not necessarily because I am done with leadership work or really going to retire, but because I know that LLC needs to be led by people of color to solidly center equity in the field; I also wondered if I might be able to inject a point of view that the transition of leadership provides an opportunity to bring an equity lens to diversifying leadership of the non-profit section (and I tried); and truth be told, it was being held at Chaminade with gorgeous views of the pacific and yummy food.
The program provided some interesting materials on transitions that were both philosophical and practical. I know that folks in more traditional organizations found the materials useful. One of the folks at our brunch mentioned that he has shared them with his board and staff. There was a lot of talk about ‘when’ and ‘how’ you tell your board, your staff, and your community. I found myself feeling especially grateful to be part of an organization like LLC where we are able to have transparent conversations about leadership and who needs to be leading.
As you probably know, LLC hired a fabulous Co-Director, Ericka Stallings. The impetus for this conversation was not, as some people suspected, a way to ease in my replacement as I headed off to retirement. For us, the driver was conversations about what kind of leadership we needed to advance our mission in this current environment, and there were two answers; 1) that we need to experiment with more shared leadership models that are aligned with our views of leadership (and also more sustainable), and 2) that the work needs to be led by people of color who bring a strong equity lens to supporting leadership, especially of those most impacted.
I want to give a big shout out to Kelly Bates from IISC for her recent blog, “Stepping Back to Let Others In.” It’s a great reminder. ‘while you stay in your position you are not ceding or sharing power’. Thank you for calling the question about when it may be time to leave your position and why you should leave. Ericka is building out a powerful vision for LLC’s work, and in that process will have a sense of what she is looking for in the next LLC Co-Director. In the next year, it will be time to make room for another great person to step into leadership with Ericka, and for me to find other ways to contribute to the work I love.
So back to brunch, as I munched on bagels, and listened to cohort mate’s stories, I wished that more organizations were experimenting with shared leadership as a way to cultivate within their ranks, and that transitions were being embraced as an opportunity to bring forward the leadership of more people of color who have been excluded. Then I went back to the TSNE MissionWorks website, and was delighted to learn that the “What’s Next” program is now being facilitated by Sonia Manjon and Safi Jiroh of LeaderSpring. In their capable hands, the opportunities presented by transitions to diversify the sector will not be missed.