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leadership development

Six Lessons for Cultivating Leadership of Color in the Community Organizing Movement

By Ericka Stallings, ANHD's Director of Organizing and Advocacy

Non-profit organizing institutions have long struggled with the fact that their leadership is disproportionately white and middle class. We all know that our organizing will ultimately be more effective and more grounded in a true commitment to justice, if the primary actors are directly impacted people, those who come from the marginalized communities in which we work. Yet, for many reasons, groups in the Community Development movement too often fail to achieve this.

 

Cultivating movement leadership of color must include an effective approach for recognizing, attracting, and training new community organizers of color, then supporting them as they hone their skills to more advanced levels. But even here - or maybe, especially here - our movement falls short; we have seen that it is consistently difficult for people from marginalized communities to overcome the barriers to both entry and advancement in community organizing. Consequently, people of color and other marginalized people are grossly underrepresented in leadership positions . There are many reasons for this, including implicit bias and the glorification of mainstream career and educational backgrounds, both of which hinder the recognition of candidates from marginalized backgrounds. Consequently, our organizations often ignore or undervalue the critically important skills and experiences that directly-impacted leaders can bring to movement organizations.

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Vision, Hope and Liberation: Some Thoughts and Exercises for Visioning

Oddly, I don’t think I have written much about my own leadership development experience, which was profound on many levels. As I sat down to write about vision I found myself remembering two experiences as a participant in the Kellogg National Leadership Program that shaped my thinking and beliefs. The first was a week long, small seminar for 12 lucky fellows, self included, with Paulo Freire. His book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed was sacred text to me. I could write dozens of blog posts about that experience, but for the sake of focus I will go straight to one of many punchlines. On about day three, he walked over to me and kindly put his hand on my shoulder as he said, “Your problem is that you don’t dream.” He went on to explain that while power might change hands in the fight for justice, we will recreate systems oppressions without imagining a society in which we are able to reach our full humanity by liberating ourselves from oppressive relationships (either as oppressor or oppressed). read more »

Blind Spots (Part 3)

At Creating Space, Elissa Perry shared a framework on White Supremacy Culture from Tema Okun and Kenneth Jones as she invited us to reflect on the ways in which this culture shows up in our organizations. Since then, I have been thinking about how these characteristics are often the default in our leadership development practice as well. Today, I wanted to discuss the remaining characteristics which fall into two areas: how we value what we do, and how we address power and conflict.

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Response to "Blind Spots (Part 2)" by Lisa Miller Mattsson

Dear Deborah,

 

Thanks so much for the powerful theme and the questions being raised by “Blind Spots: Are Leadership Development Programs Contributing to Greater Racial Equality or Inhibiting our Progress?”  Lots to think about!

 

I just wanted to share a thought regarding “worship of the written word” as a means of support for white supremacist culture.  It is definitely true that there are many valuable and powerful ways to communicate other than in writing. Personally, I believe effective oration to be more a powerful form of leadership communication than writing, as a general rule.  Even negative leaders know this, and use the spoken word to move people.  Hitler, the iconic example of white supremacist leadership, comes to mind.  He utilized the power of the spoken word as a means by which to stir and mobilize people.

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Blind Spots (Part 2): Are Leadership Development Programs Contributing to Greater Racial Equity or Inhibiting Our Progress?

Last November on the heels of our annual national convening, Creating Space, I felt compelled to sharpen the discussion about the ways in which leadership culture can work hand in hand with white supremacy to reinforce the status quo unless we are vigilant in our collective efforts of uncovering the blind spots in our thinking and behavior.

 

I was inspired by Elissa Perry and Susan Misra, from Management Assistance Group, who described this process (referenced in part 1 of the Blindspot Series, “White Supremacy Culture” by Tema Okun and Kenneth Jones) of understanding how the 13 characteristics of white supremacist culture show up in their work. This is the rigor we need to upend white supremacy and enact equity across communities. In my last blog post, I took on Individualism, Paternalism and Urgency. This month I address perfectionism, objectivity and the worship of the written word.

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When Leadership Program Graduates Can’t Lead

More than once I have heard the complaint that leadership program graduates, excited to apply what they are learning, often find themselves thwarted by others back at work.  There are lots of reasons offered, bureaucracy, unsupportive supervisors, or lack of authority. There are also a number of remedies being tried...coaching, sessions on leading from the middle, and the recruitment of teams. These things may help, and yet until we address the most fundamental problem we are setting leadership graduates to fail, especially those from large institutions.

 

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Blind Spots: The Role of Leadership Development Programs in Inhibiting or Contributing to our Progress Towards Racial Equity

Since Creating Space, I have been doing a lot thinking about the ways in which leadership programs often promote leadership models that reinforce the dominant culture. At Creating Space, Design Team Member, Elissa Sloan Perry, Co-Director of Management Assistance Group, shared a presentation on how white supremacist culture shows up in our organizations based on an article by Tema Okun and Kenneth Jones. We focused most of the discussion at Creating Space on organizational culture, which I later realized cannot be separated from leadership culture because after all, most leadership programs are preparing participants to lead in an organizational context.

 

I strongly recommend their article. They share thirteen characteristics of white supremacist culture, all of which resonated, and for the sake of this article and beginning this discussion, I chose three to share that I think are provocative and reveal leadership characteristics being cultivated in leadership programs that help to reinforce white supremacists culture. (In future articles I will share additional characteristics.)

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Reflections on Equitable Design

I felt honored to be part of the Creating Space Design Team with an amazing group of leadership development funders, delivery partners, network and movement builders and racial justice champions. I was eager to learn from the team about how to create an event that would deepen our learning about the ways in which our approaches to supporting leadership for racial justice need to shift.  I did not have to wait until me met in New Orleans to begin learning. I was struck by the fact that some of our conversations were filled with questions that people creating leadership development programs should also be asking, e.g. how would we honor the whole person and multiple ways of knowing; what does it mean to assume good intentions and look at impact; how do we hold space for courageous conversations; how are we thinking about power and whose knowledge is privileged; and how do we build authentic community?
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How Leadership Development Programs Can Harvest Social Change Though Their Alumni Network (April 2017)

Earlier this month we announced, via email and social media, the finalists of our Action Learning Seed Fund. In case you missed it, our finalists are The WISE Network, Black Muslim Youth Rising - Intensive Leadership Retreat, and VigilantLove Creative Organizing & Healing Justice.

 

The Model

In January, the Leadership Learning Community announced it would disburse $25,000 in Seed Funding. It would be a small fund intended to seed work developing the leadership of people of color that could foster learning in the network to increase racial equity work. Thanks to you all we were able to engage hundreds of different people in this collective and networked process. The applications did not require a large lift for any of the applicants and reviewers were able to score each application on four criteria.

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Re-thinking Leadership: Deborah Meehan on Racial inequalities and Individualism By Sofia Trigo

Sofia Trigo is a student at Claremont McKenna College she published an interview with Deborah Meehan in the Kravis Leadership Institute publication, The Illumine.

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DeborahMeehan is the founder and executive director of the Leadership Learning Community where she works with a network of over 4,500 people on improving leadership development programs both nationally and internationally. In her presentation at the Kravis Leadership Institute’s 25th Annual Kravis-de Roulet Conference, “What in our Current Approaches to Leadership Development Contributes to or Undermines Greater Social and Racial Equity?”, Ms. Meehan explored how individualism and concepts of meritocracy permeate the ways we think about leadership and inequality. She also examined the influence race and racial tensions can have on leadership and leadership development programs. After her discussion, I was able to sit down with Ms. Meehan and continue discussing leadership and its current relationship to individualism and race.

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