New Perspectives on Leadership

Conversation 2009 yielded several cool insights and powerful exchanges. Any discussion of social sector and philanthropy effectiveness must touch on the issue of leadership. Here’s an advance peak at some of the highlights from our gathering last April.

As leaders, it is centrally important that we are effective listeners. Because we’re all from different perspectives, our responses are different. Leaders help others find their authentic alignment. Internal alignment and forgiveness is a huge part of staying whole as a leader.

“An alternative is to simply accept the complexity and participate in it. Relish diversity and the unique quality of all things. This engenders a sense of belonging—and hence reinforces the motivation to participate. What drives this reinforcing cycle is love, empathy, and relationships.”*

The people we lead seek community.

In an attempt to offer perspective, I reflected that as the builders of bridges—whether in metaphor or reality—leaders must neither underestimate nor undervalue the “trust equity” they have earned over time. This trust equity—some might call it relationship capital or relationship insurance—is not solely the product of a leader’s age, tenure, and personality. It is all that and more. This trust equity creates a platform for inviting others into a new type of conversation with deeper meaning. Leaders who have earned high levels of respect and who have demonstrated solid success therefore have more room to maneuver in introducing thoughtful questions.

No leader can afford to simply model someone else and expect similar results. Start by asking yourself, “What is the highest and best I can do on any given day?”

A leader’s ability to become a catalyst for transformational change increases when devoting quality time to the insight and clarity that stems from “being.” When unable to step off the treadmill of the “doing” role, the leader is pulled into daily work on incremental change for operational survival and sustainability.

Ken Hubbell's graphic illustration of our leadership discussion
Graphic illustration of our leadership discussion

Few social sector leaders have the luxury of being able to exclusively focus on one role or the other. They must balance both.

Imagine, too, the leader’s ability to refocus and reinvent their role and their organization’s response when inspired by these bigger questions. This shift requires organizational leaders to talk, think, and work together in new ways in order to develop a shared commitment to something new, something truly integrated. It requires investments of time and energy. It often requires a catalyst. Our current environment is calling for us to ask a different set of questions.

Who leads the conversation that leads us to a reshaped world?


*From the chapter, Give Up On the Myth of Control, in Ten Things To Do in a Conceptual Emergency, 2003, International Futures Forum, 8.

Illustration by Ken Hubbell

One thought on “New Perspectives on Leadership

  1. One of my favorite quotes that is written above our kitchen table at home is “We are here on this earth to help each other become the best version of ourselves,” by author Matthew Kelly. Stripped to its core, leadership — of an organization and the individuals within it — is exactly this … leading others to become who they can be.

    If we don’t step off the treadmill of “doing” as leaders, the best version of others cannot be clear. The jarring pounding of feet on the treadmill belt and the worry about tripping on the treadmill, blurs our vision of what is possible in others.

    Terrific musing, Gary!

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