leadership


People and organizations paying attention to storytelling are all over the place – in Stanford Social Innovation Review and at the Haas, Jr. Fund for example – and yet issues like poverty, health care and education (especially of brown and black kids) continue to challenge us as a society.

I commend these efforts and admire these initiatives to elevate positive voices to as Parker Palmer put it, “point and shine a bright light.”  Stories are everywhere, and we are learning to bring a multitude of them to the fore with the variety of tools and sources available to more of us than ever before. At the same time, I am ashamed to admit but am going to say it anyway, that lately my eyes have begun to glaze over when organizations begin to tell the story of this little girl’s success or that man’s triumph.  I am able to pay attention longer when the subjects are telling the stories themselves but only sometimes.  On the most recent occasion, I wanted to stand up after the lights came one and say sarcastically “yeah, and now what?” I know, awful, but I didn’t actually say it.  That feeling stayed with me though.

It stayed with me through the planning of an organizational retreat for a client who values storytelling and as a result we worked on identifying and developing stories to tell, and identifying stories that we need to let go.  Relatively briefly though.  We then went on to connect these stories to strategies, to workplans, to “to-do” lists, to evaluation conversations.  Next we will talk about engaging people beyond the porous organizational boundaries in action beyond the stories.

What’s our responsibility around telling or shining a bright light on the stories that matter?  Where is the movement to action, the catalyzing of the network? I haven’t figured it out, but I’m learning….  What do you do to connect stories with action that produces results?

We have just completed the video overview of the program I teach in (the MA in Leadership program at Saint Mary’s College). Thanks Mission Pictures!

Check out what faculty and staff have to say and let us know what you think!

Leadership… Personal, Professional AND Political
Posted over at The National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture’s “Leading Creatively” Blog Series

In reading the questions offered to shape this blog series, I was struck by the question “what are the challenges of managing the boundaries between our personal and professional stories?” Something in it – something only clear in my peripheral vision that becomes fuzzy when I look at it directly – harkens back to a particular time in my life in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Newly armed with the words of Audre Lorde, Judy Grahn, Pat Parker, and Gloria Anzaldúa, with the examples of brave honesty from Marlon Riggs and Essex Hemphill, and with a brand of bravada that I thought was my own, I embraced the phrase “the personal is political.”

Now the professional and the political are not exactly the same thing and yet I suspect that we are still trying to manage what is an artificial boundary. Who says that that the personal and the professional have rigid boundaries or need them? Are we drawing lines within ourselves that hamper us rather than furthering us, our organizations and our causes?

Even if we decide these boundaries do and should exist, are they feasible in today’s hyper-connected world? Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, said in his address at 2008’s Supernova conference in San Francisco in reference to transparency and social media “the loss of control you fear is already in the past.” So I ask the questions: what is it that makes these boundaries desirable? What needs to shift in our culture and in our leadership culture to allow all of us to be more fully human? What can we do in addition to modeling a different way of being in our organizations and in our relationships with one another to make that shift possible?

Thirteenth-century poet Rumi wrote that love is the way that the Great Mystery tells us things. I contend that art is the way we tell each other. Leading for art – for those sacred messages we tell each other – requires an honesty and a fullness of humanity that is not neatly divided and perhaps even actively resists being bound.

GroundSpark is offering FREE streaming this month and next to help provide critical tools to youth and adults to address bullying. Check out this “spark” which lets you see excerpts, stream, and get other resources.  Pass it on!

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Leadership-n-Race Report ImageI am happy to announce that the Leadership and Race report has been launched! I and several other folks including Sally Leiderman, Deborah Meehan, Maggie Potapchuk, Professor john a. powell, and others contributed to this collectively authored project published by Leadership Learning Community.

The report, How to Develop and Support Leadership that Contributes to Racial Justice, suggests that a large number of leadership programs associate leadership with equal opportunity and individualism. This thinking does not recognize that current systems (i.e. policy, culture and institutional practices) can cause racial identity to impact one’s access to life opportunities. It also focuses too narrowly on changing the behavior of individual leaders.  Key recommendations for leadership programs include:

  1. Make programs more accessible for people of color
  2. Help participants understand how race limits the access to opportunities
  3. Promote collective leadership

The report offers concrete recommendations and methods to help leadership programs and participants promote racial justice through their work.

I encourage you to read more about the report, download it, and join several of the authors for a free webinar on 9/28 to discuss the key findings.

We hope to have a significant impact on how leadership programs are preparing their participants to bring a more race conscious lens to all policy and service work.  I hope you join us in promoting this important work.

Image of Publication Cover - Leading CreativelySince 1999, the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture (NAMAC) has made intergenerational leadership development a key component in its service to the field of arts and media.  They began their Leadership Institute 10 years ago to strengthen the connections and deepen the capacity of the field.  As part of their A Closer Look anthology series, they invited seven authors to report, reflect on and interpret arts leadership as it is being practiced today.   I was invited to specifically pay attention to the Leadership Institute and spent the Fall and Winter of 2009 interviewing facilitators and past participants and analyzing the institute offerings and evaluations. All of this rich experience and collection of information has been put into context resulting in “Ten Years Stronger: NAMAC Leadership Institute 2000-2010.”  This comprehensive look back that documents and celebrates the learning as well as pointing to possibility is available now! Download A Closer Look now from the NAMAC site.

[This site is in development.  Please pardon us while we work on our online presence.]

“Justice is what love looks like in public.”  – Cornel West

I have been using this video of Chimamanda Adichie from TED for the last 9 months to talk about the responsibility of the storyteller and the role and power of story in leadership.  She refers to the danger of the single story in understanding and acting in the world.  What do you all think? What  stories might you need to seek? What stories might you need to retire?

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