Generating ideas, connections, and action


Guest Post on Pegasus Blog: "Lessons from Healthcare Reform: The Need for a New Leadership Mindset"

Author: Deborah Meehan

Date: 4/14/10

Original Post: Pegasus Communications Blog

As the debates raged over healthcare reform in an attempt to break the political gridlock on Capitol Hill, I wondered what had happened to "yes we can." The election of Barack Obama was an energizing time that mobilized high levels of participation across the political spectrum. Change was a big theme. Presidential candidate Obama's rallying cry reminded many of us that we were a part of making change happen.


During the campaign, tens of thousands joined meet-ups, used online tools for campaign organizing, and contributed small donations. But what happened to this active engagement among Obama supporters once he was elected? While there is much to learn from the 2008 campaign about how to create the conditions for self-organization and how to leverage social networks, I would like to focus on how our mental models about leadership are limiting our ability to achieve breakthrough change. read more »

Modeling Exercise: Exploring Complex Questions While Having Fun


I am always eager to try out a different approach that will help us, as a learning community, get somewhere new in our thinking – and what better time than when dealing with a topic as big as “what needs to change in the way we are thinking about supporting leadership for social change”? And what better guinea pigs than the board of a learning community? I had heard a lot of buzz about modeling and as a recovering left brain person I was having trouble picturing how it would work, but with folks I respected like Otto Scharmer doing it, I decided it was time to take a leap of faith. Here is the story of how we used a modeling exercise to reach a breakthrough in our thinking about leadership.

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Collaborating to Develop Community Focused Health Leadership


In March 2007, the Leadership Learning community (LLC) held a Health Leadership Learning Circle retreat near Napa, California. The retreat gathered 30 health leadership development funders, practitioners, and evaluators to share resources, tools, information and successful approaches to supporting, developing and connecting health leadership. Ginny Oehler and Tracy Patterson were both at the retreat. read more »

A New Leadership Mindset for Scaling Social Change


This is a draft of the framing piece for the Leadership for a New Era (LNE) collaborative research initiative.  This piece is currently being collectively developed by a variety of LNE partners.

To download the document please click here.

Current Leadership Thinking

Over the past 50 years our thinking about leadership, whether in communities or board rooms, has been heavily influenced by heroic models of leadership. We traditionally think of leadership as the skills, qualities and behavior of an individual who exerts influence over others to take action or achieves a goal using their position and authority. read more »

What attracts and sustains your participation in leadership networks?

This is one of the questions the Boston Learning Circle will be exploring in an upcoming Conversation on Leadership and Networks.  I started to reflect about my own participation in leadership networks, about what attracted my participation and why I remain committed. In 2000, when I joined Deborah to establish learning circles among practitioners of leadership development, I invited evaluation practitioners to form a network to co-evolve our practice together, and collectively influence the field of philanthrophy.  We formed an unlikely alliance since we often competed with each other for work. These were the days when evaluation contracts were more substantial than they are today!  I was attracted to form an evaluation learning circle by the unparelled opportunity to learn with colleagues I respected.  I knew we all had gifts to share with each other, that would push our collective capacity forward.  We became a community voice in the fields of evaluation, leadership development, and philanthropy.  read more »

Shared Leadership Case Study: DataCenter


In October 2009, at a Leadership Learning Community (LLC) Bay Area Circle, Miho Kim and Celia Davis of the DataCenter shared their learning about the “Shared Leadership” model adopted by the Center in 2006.  The two hour meeting was very well-attended, raising many questions, which as a result of the time constraints went unanswered.  The high level of interest and participation in the topic appears to reflect the degree to which many in the nonprofit sector are beginning to explore different models and ways of working together.  Miho Kim generously agreed to a follow up conversation with me to flesh out some of the questions raised at the convening (this piece is a synthesis of our interview and the Bay Area circle convening). read more »

Modeling Board Leadership

This month marks the third anniversary of my first Leadership Learning Community board meeting. My memory of what transpired at that meeting has gotten hazy, but I vividly remember what I felt: warmth. Those of you who have met LLC staff or board members know that hugs are standard currency here. I'm not talking about the corporate man hugs that I'm most comfortable delivering. I'm talking genuine, "I'm so glad you're here," embraces. Donna Stark, the board chair, opened the meeting as she opens every meeting: with a welcome and a smile, the virtual equivalent of the LLC premium-special hug. read more »

Rethinking Leadership Networks of Program Graduates


Over the years we have talked a lot about leadership program networks. In leadership program evaluations we often hear from program participants that relationships formed with others in the program are one of the most valuable and enduring parts of their experience. We have heard stories about these relationships fostering collaborations, providing an ongoing source of consultation and advice and as an information resource exchange network. It’s no wonder that leadership programs are eager to leverage the impact of these relationships by building sustainable networks of program graduates.

The network buzz over the last several years has inspired leadership programs to imagine new possibilities for vibrant networks of their program graduates. The good news is that we have an opportunity to learn from a growing field of network organizing strategies. The bad news is that this field of work does not support conventional thinking and approaches to building alumni networks. read more »

On Collective Leadership: From People Who Are Doing It.


It’s important to learn about collective leadership from people who are doing it.  Over a year ago the Leadership Learning Community held a two day Learning Lab, “Learning about Collective Leadership” with 30 community activists who were part of the Kellogg Fellows for Community Change.  The KFCC program focused on building collective leadership capacity within communities. The group came from rural and urban regions all over the US.  We have attached the summary of work done by this group that describes lessons and questions that emerged over the two days and demonstrates the ways in which many of the tips that we have shared over the past several months were put to use to stimulate a high level of collective learning. read more »

Leadership in the Social Sector: Why We Need Change


Inclusive, networked, and collective approaches to leadership are vital for the development of the social sector, for its power to influence public will and public policy, and for the personal survival of leaders in the sector.


At present, the social sector leadership system privileges the exercise of leadership within organizations. An assumption exists that organizations are the most efficient and accountable way to deliver services and advocate for change. read more »