Generating ideas, connections, and action


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 »

XTreme Collaboration in the Nonprofit Sector


Bookmark and Share

Many years ago at Creating Space, we held a session called Xtreme Collaboration. We were trying to figure out how we might test the assumption that we were in competition with each other for limited financial resources. The implications of this prevalent thinking are huge, i.e. the more closely your mission work is aligned with another organization, the more you are competing for resources within a limited niche. When you get right down to it this is pretty paradoxical, and downright sad. This is why at LLC we often talk about the hazards of “organizational sustainability” and how things might change if we began to talk about the need for mission sustainability. Or better yet, we could talk about interdependence. john powell of the Kirwan Institute talks about the need for a new social justice paradigm based on a profound recognition of our interdependence.

  read more »

Van Jones: Leadership and Race


Bookmark and Share

Several years ago at Creating Space, we invited Meg Wheatley to initiate a discussion around communities of practice. She described four key ways that young leaders in South Africa were being supported as a community of practice: naming, connecting, resourcing and illuminating. A young African American man immediately stood and expressed his concern that in this country, calling attention to your leadership as a person of color could put you in peril. I have thought about his comments repeatedly over the last year with the unprecedented number of threats against President Obama during his candidacy and then as president. The outrageous attacks on Van Jones by Glen Beck are another reminder of the perils of being African American and leading. Anyone who has attended a Farmer’s Market in the Bay Area has probably signed more than one petition in support of initiatives on any number of issues that could also be attacked as ‘un-American’. In fact, living in the Bay Area is probably un-American to the likes of Glen Beck, so it’s pretty disheartening that so few have seen or called out these racial attacks for what they are. read more »

Leadership Tip: The Continuum Exercise


Bookmark and Share

Our leadership tips have focused on how to create a community of learning among leadership program cohorts.  Understandably, many programs want to offer their participants the benefits of skills building activities or exposure to field experts.  At the conclusion of the formal program it can be hard to shift participants from a primary role of recipient to one of contributor.  But when participants are engaged continuously as contributors, they are more likely to remain active and to experience the enduring benefits of peer learning and collaborative problem solving.  read more »