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Deborah Meehan's blog

LLC MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Milano Harden of The Genius Group

We are very excited about our partnership with Milano Harden of The Genius Group.  I first met Milano at Creating Space in Baltimore, when he was involved with one of our community seed fund projects (small grants we made available to support collaborative learning projects) on Emerging Leadership in the American South.  I thought he was creative, innovative and cool.  I have to confess I a little bit taken aback by the "genius" part of the business name until I was humbled by its real meaning, more on that later. 

I was excited when I had the chance to be part of an Advisory Group with Milano for a new leadership endeavor, the National Leadership Academy for the Public’s Health.  Milano brought a lot of expertise to adult learning and the virtual learning components of the programs and well, a whole lot more.  I always value fun and positive energy, which he had in abundance, but I was even more taken by his ability to create a container for some difficult conversations and his ability to turn conflict into powerful learning moments.  I knew then he was a Creating Space kind of guy and that as the facilitator, he would artfully bring together an amazing team to support our work for Creating Space this year and we are off to an amazing start. 

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A Norway Send Off to Claire

Claire is about to get a well deserved break as she heads for Norway with her husband Rick, who will be on sabbatical from Brandeis (of course Claire deserves her own sabbatical but we know how that goes in the non-profit sector).  Claire thought this would be an excellent time to transition from her role as senior staff to senior affiliate consultant.  We have all been paying more attention these days to what we like most and how we want to devote our energies. Claire acknowledged that her passion is really for evaluation research and consulting work, and not so much with the work of managing a non-profit which goes with being a senior staff member.  When she returns, we will be working with Claire as a senior consultant and boy will we miss her while she is gone, but of course not in a begrudging way.


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Would You Know It If You Saw It?

I was on a panel many years ago about whether leaders are born or made.  Thankfully I think this question was put to bed long ago.  I will let my daughter respond to the absurdity of the question by sharing her response when she was ten years old and heard this ‘born or made’ question on the answering machine.  She looked a little alarmed and asked, “Are there leaders who were not born?”  One of my fellow panelists answered by saying, “Yes, leaders are born not made.  I can’t tell you what a leader is, but you know one when you see one.”  In our Leadership for a New Era Series, we explore the hazards of this line of thinking.  We see what we are looking for and for years that lens has led us to seek out and convey responsibility for significant changes to individuals, often missing the work of many.  As we explain in the publication Leadership and Race, this has been especially harmful to people of color, who may reject the normative leadership model and express leadership in ways that are more aligned with collective and relational cultural values. 

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LLC MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Leadership and Networks Team of Writers, Co-authors, and Editors


How fitting, in the spirit of collective impact, that this month we would like to shine a light -- not on one partnership -- but on a mighty group of collaborators who pulled together to help produce our new report, “Leadership and Networks.”  It was truly a group endeavor, and as you might imagine. The process of collaboratively writing on a public wiki can be messy and requires patience, wisdom, endurance and trust.  Our team demonstrated all of these qualities and more. 

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Three Lessons About Leadership Transitions

Last month, in my post "Passing the Baton," I talked about my intention to transition from my current role at LLC.  I also explained that I am committed to sharing what we are learning along the way.  After all, transition and succession planning are widely recognized as big leadership issues.  So this month I want to share 3 lessons from month one of transition planning:

1. Know what resources you will need to accomplish your goals

2. Be true to who you are

3. Innovate when it’s called for

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Who Decides What the Big Result Will Be?


The Leadership and Collective Impact report makes a strong argument for the importance of putting a stake in the ground about the ‘big result’. The ‘big result’ is the result in the world that you hope your leadership work will make a contribution to, e.g. improved quality of life for members of a specific county, or improved community health.  The LLC Bay Area Circle convened today to talk about the report and one member offered a provocative question that took our exploration in some interesting directions, “Who gets to decide what that stake will be? People in a leadership program, the leadership program staff, or the funders who support the leadership program?

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Passing the Baton: The Leadership Olympics


I surprised myself during the summer Olympics by getting hooked on the relay races,  intrigued that in spite of talent and speed it often came down to the smoothness with which the baton was passed between runners.  It is a metaphor for another topic that has been on my mind, leadership transitions…and more specifically mine.   

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Social Connectedness as a Philosophy, Strategy and Result

Lessons About Leadership and Social Connectedness
from the Work of Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Minnesota

I was honored to join the BCBS MN board several years ago because I am a big fan of their social determinants of health and health equity work.  I was invited to help the board think about how to integrate leadership into their program work.  I hope that they have benefited even half as much as I have from this relationship. Their commitment to social connectedness as a critical strategy for improving health outcomes has taken my thinking about leadership in some new directions.
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From Talking to Doing: The “How To” Series


For the past two years LLC has been talking about the need for a fundamental change in the way we think about and practice leadership and leadership development. We have highlighted examples of innovative approaches in our newsletters, blog posts, and webinars that we believe demonstrate the potential to increase the reach and impact of leadership development work when we move our focus from supporting individual leaders to supporting leadership as a process that engages many people in aligning their leadership action.  As the next frontier of supporting this change in practice, with the generous support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we have produced a new how -to series that goes one step further, translating what has worked for others into practical advice for leadership development practitioners.  read more »

What If…

I lead a session during the summer at Leadership Chautauqua that brought together funders, program staff and researchers who care deeply about community leadership.  The venue integrated arts, deep conversation, catalytic ideas from researchers, not to mention food, music, fun and even a great big tent.  It was a refreshing meeting that reminded participants that learning can be rejuvenating, fun, and peer driven.

My session was formally titled, “Changing Paradigms,” but the subtitle of this session was “What If?”  Participants were invited to come and be prepared to ask the wild “what if” questions that challenge assumptions about “what is” and expand imagination about “what could be.” The session started with a game show format -- the leadership development results version of “Three Truths and a Lie.”  Four leadership results scenarios were described to participants and they were asked to pick the one that was a lie.  There were prizes, but no one won.  Most thought the example of the ReAMP energy network stopping the production of 30 coal plants and passing some of the toughest emission standards in the Midwest was a lie. It wasn’t.  We talked about how it was accomplished and began to wonder if maybe this might not be a great example of leadership development, even though nobody called it that. After all, they convened a group of 17 people together periodically over a year and supported them with facilitation and training in systems mapping and understanding themselves in the context of a larger system.

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