“Justice is love on legs spilling over into the public sphere.” – Cornel West

To write without ceasing is the continuous undercurrent of my life. The text may take many forms – in my body, on trees that have been sacrificed to be born again for what one can only hope is a sacred purpose.

Some times there are long stretches between words, phrases, stanzas, paragraphs, chapters. The windows of this market, gallery, meeting place papered over. Remodeling, will reopen soon.

And I amass black type in great piles, images in smooth curves and harsh angles, bringing us sacred messages. Rumi said love is the way the great mystery tells us what’s important. Art is the way we tell each other.

The sacred is what’s possible when we all have what we need to show up in purpose and to return to it when we are drawn off center. I am a call to the sacred in everyone.

None of us have lived in the world we are creating, this is all faith-based work this speculative fiction. These stories are our stories. These stories are love. Treat them tenderly.

If you see what springs forth from this in the library down the street, in your minds eye, in the eye of your neighbor on the train…you have seen a bit of justice – a bit of love in public.

Thank you Stewart for the request that I post this.

by David McSpadden

by David McSpadden

We operate in a time of increasing complexity, where we frequently cannot control or predict what will effect change, where dynamic forces affect the broader movement ecosystem, and where interdependent relationships are vital to our work. To progress on the long arc of justice we need to get much smarter about how to engage the leadership of all who care about justice. We need to transcend the futile search for the one or two best leadership approaches and understand a spectrum of leadership—to know what kind of leadership is required by a particular context or task, and to create the conditions in people and systems to flex across these approaches to leadership. (Read more at MAG)

photo by Michael Thomas Alleman

Okay.  So it’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve updated this space.  Six months to be exact.  In that space a lot of incredible work, fun and learning has been happening. Where to begin?  Well I’ll start with where I left off.

Doug Paxton and I c0-led the inaugural iteration of the Leadership & Values Peer Coaching Program through the Leadership Center at Saint Mary’s College with six incredible participants.  We learned a lot, were really honored to be among an extremely diverse group of people all ready to do the inner transformation work necessary to do the external transformation work, and had some fun too!  So much so that we are doing it again starting March 21st.  (There are still a few spaces available as well as partial scholarships).  Also at Saint Mary’s we launched a Social Justice concentration within the MA Leadership Program in the School of Liberal Arts.  Amy Scharf and I co-designed and taught the first Leadership and Social Movements course in the program.

I also had a great time blogging as a fellow for ArtsFwd (a project of EmcArts).  In this space I got to talk with Melanie Cervantes of the Akonadi Foundation and John Killacky of Flynn Center for the Performing Arts.  Topics included considering arts in the social justice ecosystem, applying our learning as artists to our leadership and the coach’s stance.  Check me out!

In my own art practice, Everything Indicates, the anthology I edited with Tamsin Smith and Ben Davis celebrating the Bay Bridge, was released and we had readings and parties in several places including City Lights Books and Bissap Baobab.  The audiences/co-celebrants of the Bay Bridge at these events were really quite interesting and ranged from appreciators of poetry and photography with no connection to the bridge to employees of Caltrans who were toll takers and administrative support and quite overjoyed to see people expressing reverence and appreciation for this marvel hiding in plain sight.

There are several new connections in my life as well including a new relationship with Coaching for Justice, which unfolded in the last few months.  I survived the vetting process and am now officially an affiliate coach with C4J!  I also have a new professional home base with the Network Leadership Innovation Lab as the Program Catalyst.  I have only been in this half-time role for a month and have already been able to both learn and contribute in a way that feels quite good and useful.  Stay tuned for a lot more on this project in the coming months!

All this while continuing to partner with clients on personal and organizational capacity building.  It’s been full and it’s been wonderful!  Hope to re-connect with many of you in some of these circles soon!

Exploring Your Values and Making Your Personal Plan

Feeling pulled in many worthy directions?  Falling just short of where or how you want to be in multiple areas of your life? Interested in getting clear about your priority values and developing a plan and practice to help you stay focused on what matters?

Join me and Doug Paxton for an 8-week workshop that combines values exploration, coaching from accredited faculty, peer coaching and the development of a personal plan to help you distill your purpose and go forward with clarity, support and a plan. The workshop series begins and ends with an evening workshop on a Thursday and includes phone and web-based exchanges in-between with optional additional face-to-face time.

Doug & Liss in faculty regaliaThrough the Leadership Coaching Program you will:

  •  Identify your highest values and priorities
  •  Design specific goals and actionable plans to move forward
  •  Have access to executive coaching in a cost-effective manner
  •  Benefit from individualized, values-based coaching from Saint Mary’s faculty
  •  Participate in a learning and practice peer coaching group
  •  Develop and hone coaching skills to integrate into your leadership practice

The new group begins September 20, 2012 and runs through early December, 2012.  See the detailed Program Description for more information and to sign up! Some partial scholarships are available, access the Program Description for more information.  Hope to see you on the 20th!

“If someone is trying to impact an organization or impact what’s external without having done any internal work or without being open to changing internally, we can’t do it. So transformative leadership is really the key.” 

“…being imperfect is a requirement to lead…”

Early one winter morning I was interviewed by the fabulous Rajkumari Neogy (scroll down for Raj’s bio) of the Queer Leadership Institute. Her questions were great and some of my answers still felt good and made me think or smile or say hmmm, all these months later. It’s not too cringe-worthy! A few winces and some useful points, at least for sparking more learning and conversation, if I may say so myself.  Take a listen and let me know what you think!

Dale Nienow, and Miguel and Francisco Guajardo gave a great presentation through the Leadership Learning Community on the Community Learning Exchange. The learning across community and the particular attention to story and lifting up and connecting the wisdom of a place was powerful.
Learn more on the LLC Webinars blog.


On July 31st the Alliance for Nonprofit Management will be presenting yours truly (and a possible special guest!) in a webinar on Shared Leadership.

Here’s the blurb:

Shared Leadership – What It Is, Why It Matters, and What It Takes

July 31, 2012 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
All times are EST

There are many buzz words around leadership as exercised by more than just the one person (or few people) with the most authority in an organization.  Phrases like collective leadership, distributed leadership, and collaborative leadership have been used to connote manifestations of leadership that share power, authority and responsibility to a group at greater levels than has been the norm in most organizations.  No matter what we call it, all of these phrases and approaches describe a way of sharing leadership in the direction of a common purpose or vision and put forth sharing leadership as an effective way of developing and leveraging capacity with more impact toward that vision.  In this webinar we will present practical information that summarizes current thinking and discusses experiences and lessons from developing shared leadership in nonprofit organizations and social change initiatives.

Register now!

I was a member of the leadership team at Leadership Learning Community for 6 rich and learning-filled years. I still get to work with them on interesting and fun projects that further the thinking about and practice of leadership for social justice. And this month I’m the featured member!  Check out the piece here http://bit.ly/JCVf9F!

Since the time I time I taught at Ida B. Wells high school in San Francisco, I have been interested in and connected with, both closely and loosely at different points, eduction reform.  I understand the crucial roles that arts and science and math and physical education and reading play in learning and development.  I am pro-data and pro-accountability.  AND I have long been leery of the rally call to data-driven this and data-driven that especially since those seeking and calling for the data most often have a very limited idea of what data looks like and which data are meaningful when it comes to developing healthy, well-adjusted, critical-thinking young people.

I’m glad to see that Stanley N. Katz director of the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School is talking about the connection between philanthropy and policy in his article “Big Philanthropy’s Role in Higher Education” on the The Chronicle of Higher Education site.  We need more conversation and most of all more transparency about the relationship and what responsible philanthropy means in a democratic and pluralistic society if we really are interested in quality public education for all.

A New Leadership Development SeriesDoug & Liss in faculty regalia

Doug Paxton and I are offering an action-learning-based leadership coaching program focused on getting to the work that matters to each of us and supporting one another through peer coaching to keep our attention there. This Leadership Coaching Program combines coaching from accredited Saint Mary’s faculty and with peer coaching and is for anyone who is seeking clarity about what is most important to them and wanting support to stay focused on that work.

Through the Leadership Coaching Program you will:

  •  Identify your highest values and priorities
  •  Design specific goals and actionable plans to move forward
  •  Have access to executive coaching in a cost-effective manner
  •  Benefit from individualized, values-based coaching from Saint Mary’s faculty
  •  Participate in a learning and practice peer coaching group
  •  Develop and hone coaching skills to integrate into your leadership practice

The new group begins March 2012 and runs through June 2012 and costs $1200 (some partial scholarships are available).  See our Coaching Program Calendar, the detailed Program Description, and sign up!