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Guest Blog Post by Odin Zackman on Being a Member of the Leadership Learning Community

Submitted by: Natalia Castaneda on Feb 16th, 2011 at 2PM PST

I recently had the opportunity to engage with the Leadership Learning Community through two events, and was again reminded the tremendous impact LLC has had—and continues to have—on my work in the world.


In a Bay Area discussion on Leadership and Networks, the combination of research, community-building, learning, and dedication to social change that LLC exemplifies was evident as I entered a room where there were no chairs and participants were engaged in an experiential activity to illustrate the dynamics of networked systems. We did actually get to sit down after this introduction, and were treated to an overview of the work on network leadership LLC has been undertaking collaboratively as one element of the Leadership for a New Era initiative.


As someone who works in the arena of supporting and connecting networks around issues of sustainability and social change, such research in the leadership arena provides both the intellectual foundation and an applied approach for this work. Perhaps more importantly, it is modeled by providing opportunities for engagement with peers exploring similar issues in different fields. This approach is supported by other thinking—from the fields of ecology around systems thinking and resilience to the arena of organizational effectiveness through recent work framing the promise of collective impact.


I also was invited to a smaller gathering of LLC colleagues by LLC’s Board as attempts to model new forms of leadership appear not simply in LLC’s research topics, emphasis on collaboration, learning methodologies, and convening format but also at the heart of the organization. LLC’s Board is exploring the idea of what networked leadership would look like for an organization—and how LLC might open its governance structure to the broader community. In small group conversations with Board members and others, we were able to challenge our thinking around the possibilities and practical considerations of such an innovative approach, along with raising questions of what this means for organizational identity. One reflection that I took from this experience was the enormous inertia we are fighting around current structures which might not serve to facilitate the kind of transformation we are seeking in our organizations and communities. At the same time, this is coupled with significant hope seeing that there are organizations and individuals wrestling with these issues and developing solutions that can lead us forward supported by the knowledge that we are in a time where many of the ways in which we’ve been working won’t continue to work.


This is the power of an organization like LLC and why I appreciate being a part of this community. Whether I am engaged regularly in activities and events, or simply am reading a recent newsletter or a new post on the Leadership for a New Era wiki, I feel supported by the focus of the work LLC holds and connected to an incredible community of peers who are co-learners and co-leaders in the work of exploring and implementing leadership for social change. I have been involved over the past decade with LLC, from my time directing a leadership development program focused on sustainable communities in the early 2000s and serving on LLC’s Board, to engaging in an LLC-sponsored project on sustainable leadership networks and remaining connected through my broader work supporting leadership, partnerships, and community-building for sustainability and social change. LLC has been a consistent contributor and source of community support in the ways in which I think about and conduct my work through an incredible combination of resources, passion and a community of like-minded individuals with whom I can learn.


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Odin Zackman works nationally catalyzing sustainability and social change efforts through his work with DIG IN. He lives in Berkeley, CA and is a member of the Leadership Learning Community and their Bay Area Learning Circle.