The COVID-19 pandemic presents the leadership field with the challenge of both responding to the crisis in our communities while learning to operate in fundamentally different ways. It also offers us the opportunity to reimagine how leadership in a Post-COVID-19 world could look. The “new” normal doesn’t have to just replicate the imperfect and inequitable old normal. It would be a missed opportunity, and a disservice to our communities to just go back to business as usual.
In the midst of all of the fear, anger, and anxiety I, like perhaps many of you, am experiencing right now, I’ve been pushing myself to focus on appreciation for areas of abundance in my life. I’m thankful to have my health, a safe and healthy family, meaningful employment and an amazing network of friends, colleagues, and friend-colleagues (frigues?), who have reached out to connect with me during this scary time. I’ve felt fortunate to be in relationship with them, to share virtual space with them, and to have the opportunity to continue to learn from them. Every webinar, conversation, internal LLC conversation, virtual coffee or brunch I’ve joined in the last few weeks has really helped me think about how leadership can adapt to the new reality precipitated by COVID-19. What has struck me is how generous folks are with their amazing ideas, rather than proprietary.
Given the fundamental shake-up COVID-19 has done to the world, one of my amazing friend-colleagues, Stephanie Yazgi, has been encouraging folks to consider “reckless reimagination” as a way to think about what our work and world could be like. This has inspired me to begin recklessly reimagining leadership. As I have been talking with folks and thinking about what leadership could look like, three questions arose:
A Virtual Leadership Development Resource:
As everyone is scrambling to adapt to a rapidly changing COVID environment many leadership programs are asking how to move their work online. A week ago in partnership with LLC friend Marian Urquilla who asked us this question, we hosted a virtual session to tap your experiences, wisdom and creativity in charting new territory for leadership development work. Close to 140 people attended the session, deeping questions and offering recommendations that have been synthesized in this google doc so that anyone can continue to contribute ideas and recommendations. Thanks to those of you who contributed already and to those who will share ideas and resources.
LLC has been a completely remote organization for several years, so the move to social distancing, work from home practices to slow the spread of COVID-19 hasn’t changed the mechanics of how we work, but it has most certainly changed the feel of our work. We are all concerned about the welfare of our families, friends, and communities. We contemplate the contributions our work can have in these times, and the role of leadership during a crisis like this one.
Reflecting on the impact of COVID-19 has made me re-connect with LLC’s mission, underscoring why equity-centered, networked, and collective leadership working to advance justice really matters. It has illuminated the need for connection and collaboration, care and compassion, reflected in the thoughtfulness of many in our communities who are working hard to support others. This crisis has further exposed the huge number of people in our country, and in the world, who have been marginalized, the gaps in our safety nets, and in too many cases, weaknesses in our leadership.
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How can we support those who are leading in wildly different and difficult times?
The need for leadership is more pressing than ever in the current COVID-19 pandemic and there have been some interesting conversations about the kind of leadership needed...and lets keep those ideas coming, but what about the “How? How can we provide leadership support virtually as we practice social distancing. Luckily, a number of leadership practitioners have been experimenting with virtual learning for a while and some folks have been experimenting with virtual communities of practice and networks as vehicles for supporting and developing leadership. No doubt, some of you have already come up with innovations in the past week. Let’s bring all of our experiences together, the good and the bad, so that we learn more quickly together about how to best support those who are leading in wildly different and difficult times.
Amidst the daily bleak news and suffering around the world, I am heartened by action being promoted and taken on behalf of shared responsibility for our collective health. Most people who have passed by a TV screen or looked at the news are now aware of the need to #flattenthecurve. We all have to change our behaviors and practice social distancing if we are to slow the spread of a very contagious disease in order to limit a spike that would overwhelm the medical system. This means that even people who are low risk need to adopt behaviors that require some sacrifice so that they are not spreading the disease. If we are to reduce the spread and mortality of Covid-19, we need to take a hard look at the cost of individualism and inequity that are ingrained into life in the U.S.
LLC is happy to welcome Tamitha Walker McKinnis to the team as our new Senior Project Manager. Joining us from St Louis, Missouri, Tamitha brings with her a wealth of knowledge from her impressive and varied career path as a trainer and facilitator, grantmaker, researcher and most recently, as a consultant.
In addition to the professional skills she will add to LLC, we are also excited to note the great values alignment between LLC and Tamitha. When asked about what values are most important to her, Tamitha quickly listed “transparency, collaboration, diversity, trust, shared power and leadership, and centering equity.” These are values that live at the heart of LLC. It appears this connection is also clear to Tamitha who said, “I knew I was in the right place, with the right set of folks when the first conversation I entered on my first day prompted me to respond to questions about shifting the dominant narrative and building power.”
During this morning’s staff check-in I confessed to having Super Tuesday jitters. I can say, without expressing specific political views, that I felt it was a ‘high stakes’ primary and I have been sitting with that for hours, and really the irony of it. For many years now I have been haranguing against the ways in which individualistic culture has corrupted our understanding of leadership and how change occurs…. and it’s not through the ‘heroic, white male leader’ out front leading the charge!
I have been reminded of several things by my discomfort! Oftentimes, in my movement work I have been more motivated by what I was against, what I loath, and not nearly enough by a clear vision of what I am standing for. This is not to say that the season has not raised important issues, and indeed, I am for free quality health care and free education for everyone; and when I say everyone, it’s with recognition of who is denied these things in this country and why. So, yes, the fight is bigger and way more expansive than what is happening this year.
Pondering Liberatory Leadership Development
By Ericka Stallings
Throughout the Creating Space 2019/2020 multi-region conversation series, we’ve explored what it would take for our Leadership Development work to center equity and shift power for justice. In each conversation, at some point, we explored what a liberatory future could look like, and how our work fighting for equity and justice could help us make this future real. To further dig into these questions, the Bay Area convening Co-Facilitator, Patrick Brown, explicitly asked a panel of Catalyst Speakers to explain how they think about liberation, specifically how they distinguish between equity and liberation (For more on this conversation see Deborah’s blog entry here).