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A Leadership Tribute to Kindness, and my Dad

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I have been thinking about kindness a lot this season, partly because it’s a season for thinking about such things and mostly because my dear dad who was 98 died peacefully in his sleep on December 18th.  My dad was the kindest man I know, unflinchingly so.  I described him to friends as a ‘salt of the earth’ kind of guy, and they all agreed.  I know my dad did not have an easy life.  At 98 he experienced the great depression, and great recession, and lost buddies in World War II as the commander of a ship (at the age of 24 which itself is shocking).  As a testament to his leadership he continued to get together annually with a group of guys from his ship for over 50 years while the group dwindled from 60 to two guys who were alive and could travel.  It would certainly have been the appropriate context for ‘command and control’ leadership and yet having been to more than a few of the tin can (the type of ship) reunions, I saw the deep affection among the men of all ranks and races and learned that my dad understood a lot about connected and adaptive leadership. I wish I had asked him more about that now and hope that I will continue to grow and be influenced by his leadership, and his kindness. 

As a tribute to my dad I would like to share one of my favorite poems about kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye:

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Looking Ahead: Results Based Planning and Experimenting with Form

Experimenting with Organizational Form

Last year, Miriam and I began a bold experiment.  At our 2015 April board meeting, as Natalia was preparing to move to Southern California, we asked if we could pause in hiring while we took some time to figure out what work was most important to us and what form would best support that work.  We wondered, as a learning network, what it would be like to be more network like.

We just completed a very fruitful board meeting and extracted some interesting lessons from our 7 months of experimenting with being more network like.  I would like to say that it was ingenuity but it was good part necessity as well.  Given that we had decided not to hire until we had finished this reflective process we were forced to work in new ways if we were to continue the same level of good work.  We are a dynamic duo and there is a limit to what two people can do.  We found ourselves doing more with partners, we were tapping our network to do the work.  In other words, we were staffing the work instead of staffing the organization

For example, Creating Space has always been a labor intensive venture for LLC staff.  This year we used the grant funds to support local partners who were hosting us.  A lot of our projects have been done with consultants from our network instead of staff.  This allows us to spread funds within the network while bringing people together on projects who don’t usually have opportunities to learn together.  A lot more of the content we share through webinars and our newsletter is being generated by you, the network, and less by us.  We have not quite found the sweet spot.  We are still working too hard, but we think we are on to something about tapping the network instead of building an organization with a lot of overhead. Our board is excited.

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Looking back: Growing Pains

Many of you followed with interest the joint series that Natalia and I published monthly about her promotion and our discussions about whether we should attempt a co-leadership model as part of our efforts to experiment with how to redistribute executive responsibility in ways that would be more personally sustainable for non-profit Executive Directors.  As the year closes, I have spent time looking back, and most important of all…learning! I thought I would share my reflections on our joint venture, and I hope that Natalia will add her thoughts now that she has had the time to settle into her new job in Los Angeles.
 

What Happened in 2014 and Lessons Learned

Context:

For those of you who may not have followed our earlier blogs, I thought it would be helpful to provide some context. In 2014, Natalia was promoted from her position as Communications Director to Managing Director in an attempt to create a new model that better distributes operations and program capacity that often both fall to the ED, creating a pretty unsustainable workload and expectations of an unusual combination of skill sets all wrapped up in one person. During the same period we decided to take advantage of the transitions of two of our long-term employees along with obtaining a number of big consulting opportunities to bring on 5 new, mostly junior staff, in a relatively short period of time. That is a lot of change to manage!

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You CAN Eradicate Racism Within Our Lifetime (Yes You!)

I am writing from the field from the Within Our Lifetime (WOL) Leadership Gathering.  LLC was invited to join this network whose goal is to eradicate the systems of oppression and racism that continue to thrive in our world; however they emphasize the urgency needed to do this Within Our Lifetime. The work which came out of an affinity group at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Healing America Conference has grown to encompass leaders working on tackling aspects of this throughout the US.  We invite all of you to join the WOL movement to strive to eradicate racism wherever you are and in all the ways you can within your organizations, networks, movements, families, communities, and your personal interactions. The lives of people of color are still being affected by today and every day by implicit biases and structural and organizational racism. It will take all of us to be able to heal and finish the work that was begun by the civil rights movement. You can make a commitment to educate yourself on your role in this problem as well as contribute solutions. We will be keeping you posted on the news and ways to get even more involved as the work of this network continues to grow.

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Leveraging Network Leadership within Organizations

The past two days with Within Our Lifetime have been incredible. I cannot describe how inspiring it is to be sitting in a room with over 50 people and organizations committed to living, breathing, creating social justice. The goal of the convening was to “elect” the next phase of leadership. Thus far, the network grew from the volunteered energy of an interim core leadership team. The amount of work and impact they’ve made to the field has been to bring implicit bias to the fore-front of the work and all in a short amount of time (4 years).
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How To Take Down A Government Through Facebook

Sometimes leadership shows up in the most unexpected ways. For instance, we post an invite on Facebook, meant only for our small group of friends, to show up and demonstrate for the Vice President to step down. Suddenly, that post goes viral and one person's frustration with government corruption echoes that of the of their fellow citizens and thousands show up. That is exactly what happened to Lucia of Guatemala. We invite you to turn up your speakers and listen to this podcast on Reply All where Lucia posted "Quit Already" and helped take down a government.

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GUEST BLOG: 7 Creative Tips for Managing Email and Email-Induced Anxiety by Vu Le

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This was originally posted on Nonprofit With Balls Blog and republished with Vu Le's permision. We share it for it's fun nature and because the tips are very useful with the holidays around the corner. - LLC
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Hi everyone. Happy Thanksgiving this week! You are a sexy and awesome unicorn. I’m thankful for you and all you do to make our community better. I hope that you take a well-deserved break. One that is unencumbered with the thought that while you’re spending time with your family, there are hundreds or thousands of emails in your inbox, and they multiply by the minute, each one important, and yet you continue to neglect them because you are a terrible human being and your colleagues are probably spitting in your direction when you pass them.

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Leadership & Mindfulness

In August I attended the Academy for Contemplative and Ethical Leadership in Stowe, Vermont.  I was invited (and strongly encouraged to attend) by one of several important mentors in my life, Sharon Daloz Parks, so I made the stretch to attend even though it was a significant commitment of time and resources.  The event, inspired by the Dalai Lama and hosted by the Mind and Life Institute, was described as an inquiry around three questions:

In this time of disruption--

  • Can we conceive of a (normative) understanding and practice of leadership that takes into account those who suffer most?  (The Dalai Lama's question)
  • Can we move the dial on shifting the leadership spotlight from a primary focus on individual leadership formation to moving the social field?
  • What is the (necessary?) role of contemplation in relationship to such leadership?

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10 Steps To Celebrate Failure Through Design Thinking

As the year comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting on my growth in the last year and what increases my own development. I believe that the way we as individuals and organizations do or don’t accept, appreciate, and even celebrate failures is highly linked to our growth. Errors, mistakes, and failures are all a part of life. However the way that we respond to these moments is what defines our development.
 

Some places believe that mistakes are a demarcation of irreparable failure. However, this is a misguided sense of what leadership is. Leadership is not perfection, but rather a process towards improving individuals, organizations, and communities. This process includes mistakes because these can be opportunities to learn, innovate, and grow.

 

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Talking about Networks and Power

Last month LLC held a Funders Learning Lab: Investing in Networks and Network Leadership. It was great to have people investing in networks, working with networks and leading in networks all in the same conversation about what we are learning.  We covered a lot of ground, much of which I am still mulling over.  Fortunately, we have very skillful partners and network sages, June Holley and Allen Frimpong, helping us to synthesize lessons from the meeting which we will be publishing soon.  In the meantime, I wanted to share just one of many provocative propositions that emerged from a fishbowl conversation.  Beth Kantor, LLC board member and well know blogger describes fishbowls in this article. The kick off question for the fishbowl that began with Curtis Ogden, Elissa Perry and Allen Frimpong as our first fish was, “How can network structures and ways of thinking and doing create social equity?”

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