Generating ideas, connections, and action

Deborah Meehan's blog

How Can Leadership Development Programs Make a Difference in the Challenges of Tackling Racism?

There was no business as usual at our first staff meeting since the Trayvon Martin verdict.  We all needed to talk about the issue that had weighed heavily on us through the week and process our sense of grief and outrage. We asked ourselves the question, “How can the work we do (leadership development) make a difference in something as persistent and ugly as racism? The staff had lots of thoughts about what we could do as individuals or even within LLC as a team and we decided to channel our despair into a call to action, a call to ourselves and our community. We will be reaching out to folks who do leadership development in the Bay Area to help us host a conversation about our roles as leadership development practitioners and funders in undoing racism. Please stay tuned for details of the meeting and additional blog posts from LLC team members who will be sharing perspectives on this important topic.

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Transition Process: Month 7 and Lessons about Collective Leadership and Transparency

By Deborah Meehan and Natalia Castañeda


Natalia has fully taken on the role of Managing Director with enthusiastic support of the community (thank you all for your heartfelt congratulations at Creating Space), the board, and the staff.   As part of the process we each rewrote our job descriptions to reflect how we would divide up the senior level leadership responsibilities.  We have included our job descriptions for anyone who might be interested in that level of detail.  The work we have been doing has given us a chance to think more about and experiment with how to tap the collective leadership of the team.  This work has taken several forms and generated some interesting issues and proposals.


Balancing individual and collective responsibility.  One of the issues that we have struggled with throughout our history of promoting shared leadership is understanding how all of our parts are contributing to the whole and especially, how the sum of the of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  To accomplish that, we have tried out different approaches: read more »

LLC Members Spotlight: A Special Shout Out to LLC’s Open Board Meeting Guests

Over the past year LLC has been experimenting with a networked board strategy by tapping members of the network to bring their expertise to open board meetings.  We wrote about this experience in an earlier blog post: Bringing a Network Mindset to our Nonprofit Board.  Over the past six months, the LLC board has been discussing our 3 year goals.  We see ourselves as part of a larger leadership development ecosystem of others doing leadership research, working at the intersection of leadership and networks, funders who are investing in leadership and believe that all of these perspectives are important as we assess our direction and goals for 2017.   In this spirit we invited a number of highly respected colleagues and partners to attend an open board meeting following our national meeting, Creating Space X.

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A New Leadership Development Mindset: Leadership Development Hiding in Plain Sight

New Collective Leadership Mindset

Over three years ago, LLC published an important thought piece, “A New Leadership Mindset.”  In the article, we point out that most of our thinking about leadership has focused almost exclusively on leadership as the behavior on an individual influencing others.  We believe that our culture of individualism has permeated our leadership thinking causing us to look for and elevate the role of individuals in the change process missing another important dimension of leadership, i.e. leadership as the process by which many people align their efforts to take collective action on behalf of a common purpose.  We don’t negate the role of individuals in the leadership process; in fact, we believe that even more is required of individuals to take successful action with others. read more »

LLC MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Stacy Kono, Rockwood Leadership Institute

LLC Member Spotlight: Stacy Kono, Rockwood Leadership Institute

We are excited this month to be highlighting our partnership work with Rockwood Leadership and in particular with Stacy Kono who is Rockwood's Fellowship Director. We have had a long standing relationship with Rockwood and more recently converged more through our work.  Through our partnership with Social Policy Research Associates, LLC had the opportunity to help evaluate the impact of the leadership development component of the Community Leadership Project.  Rockwood, one of the leadership providers for CLP ran leadership programs for people of color.  I was moved to sit in a circle with Stacy and a couple of Rockwood participants as they talked about the power of the experience.  One woman who talked about doing work in a community where tritip, football and Jesus are the background went on to say, “To have a space in beautiful place to talk about feelings was beautiful.  I am hurt and need to heal and want to heal others.  It was a gift.”  We are huge fans of Rockwood and all of the folks over there and are happy to have the opportunity to appreciate Stacy.

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Breaking New Ground in Leadership Development: What’s Money Got To Do With It?

In keeping with the theme of Creating Space X it seemed only appropriate to be on the lookout for innovations in approaches to supporting and developing leadership.  Linetta Gilbert of The Declaration Institute, called a session on how to reach people who are being left behind.  I was intrigued and moved to attend.  I believe that everyone has leadership potential but I am not sure that we have begun to wrap our minds around what it would mean to reach everyone who wants to lead (or maybe in their words, “make a difference in their community” and provide them with the support and resources they need to succeed.  I am very carefully avoiding the terminology of “leadership development” which for good reason always sparks some good controversy, but which is a topic for another blog. 

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Leadership Restructuring: Lessons from Month Six

Promoting Leadership Within Our Organizations is a Big Win!  Why aren’t more people doing it?

Yay!  The board whole heartedly endorsed Natalia to be the new Managing Director for the Leadership Learning Community on May 8th.  Because getting board buy in is important, I think it’s worth explaining why this was a seamless “no brainer”.  Board members have been able to experience firsthand the improvements that Natalia has brought to LLC in her role as Marketing/Communications Director.  For example, Natalia has consistently (and persistently) professionalized LLC’s communications internally and externally.  You can thank her for our excellent monthly webinar series and robust monthly newsletter.  Having good ideas and resources won’t amount to much unless you can get them in front of people and Natalia definitely has; we have gone from a community of 800 people to 3,500 under Natalia’s leadership.  She also took the lead in an operations audit that introduced many new project management tools to LLC; time tracking tools, capacity projection tools, budget development tools, timeline tools and….she likes this stuff!

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LLC MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Rahsaan Harris of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy

I met Rahsaan Harris, the Executive Director of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, at the Independent Sector meeting in San Francisco last April.  I knew instantly that Rahsaan was a kindred spirit as we joined a round table conversation about the IS initiative on Leadership Talent in the sector.  I was excited by conversations with Rahsaan and his colleague Kate Seely about network leadership and the contributions of next generation leadership.  After the meeting I had additional conversations with Rahsaan and Kate about how to be intentional about our partnership and collaboration.  Rahsaan walks the talk when it comes to acting on what we all know are good ideas but sometimes get to bogged down to follow up on.  I was very enthusiastic when Rahsaan asked me to share some of LLC's thinking about collective leadership at their national meeting and we are equally excited that he will be attending our national meeting, Creating Space.  We are happy to be spotlighting Rahsaan’s authentic partnership spirit which we know is a precursor of great things to come.  

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Thinking about Collective Leadership

I was flattered to be invited to speak about Collective Leadership at the recent EPIP conference in Chicago since I am a fan of the organization.  I also saw it as an opportunity to get feedback from people who are more hardwired for collective leadership.  Research by the Building Movement Project suggests that younger people are generally more collective in their leadership styles.  In research conducted by LLC for the Annie E. Casey Foundation about why there are not more people of color in leadership of the sector, we heard stories from people who were getting great results by inspiring their teams and were still given feedback that they needed to be stronger leaders, or at least stronger by the normative cultural standards.  The ways in which our culture of individual has become embedded in our models of leadership renders invisible leadership happening all around us in a more collective form.  I wondered if folks from EPIP might shed some light on this so off I went to Chicago.  I would like to extend this conversation to all of you. 

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