Transition in Transformation: Complicating Leadership Development

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As I contemplate the field of leadership development, I just had the privilege of attending Creating Space 2017 in New Orleans that took place October 25-27.  The gathering created authentic space for folks to come together to have some very critical and challenging discussions about the decolonization of space in this work, freedom and liberation within a patriarchal white supremacist framework, structural barriers of leading in our sector, and the ways in which we perpetuate and become complicit in those barriers.  I was definitely back with my folks – the Bay Area was well represented with Compass Point, Greenlining, Leadership Learning Communities, and a host of consultants and rebel risers.  We were joined by brothers and sisters from San Diego, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, Battle Creek, Twin Cities, and Boston, just to name a few. 

 What joined us together was the commitment to transforming the systems in which we work by continuing to employ a social justice lens in our critiques and development of programs and processes that both divide and unite us.  We made time and space to honor indigenous wisdoms and cultures through song, dance, drumming, ritual, and plant based healers.  We explored new paradigms with design thinking and spent time in deep and sometimes painful conversations about how oppression shows up in this well-meaning work.  What I came away with was an acknowledgement that this work will be challenging at worst and gratifying at best. With a network from New York to California that will be thought partners and change agents within an ecosystem of service providers, community organizations, and funders.

 After 10 years of operating in New England and Mid-Western leadership paradigms in higher education, I’m inspired to be back in the Bay Area engaging with non-profit leaders, community activist, artists, and allies in the work of social justice and change for the better.  In just under two months, I have met with a host of philanthropist, hired a team of incredible change agents, contemplated what could possibly be next for LeaderSpring after 20 years, and connected with a national group of leadership development organizations, funders, and consultants at Creating Space 2017.     

 What inspires me most about re-entering the world of non-profit social sector change makers is the connection to people who are committed and passionate about the work. Cynthia Chavez, Marianna Moore, and the LeaderSpring Leadership Council have graciously carved out time to introduce me to funders, answer my barrage of questions, and engage with my need to slow down the transition pace enabling me to be more introspective with direction and purpose. The awesome team at LeaderSpring – Safi, Rachel, Lea, Teju, Carrie, Susie, Molly, and Eric – have embraced the idea of co-creation and collectively bring wisdom and leadership expertise to the table of offerings.  LeaderSpring alumni and former council members have been open and transparent about filling in the blanks and offering their time and continued commitment to LeaderSpring. 

Many of you will be asking what my vision is for LeaderSpring.  My vision will be constructed by collaborative input from alumni, staff and council members who have been on the ground doing the work.  Entering on the heels of a charismatic leader’s 17-year tenure is not an easy task.  I will need to develop new relationships and cultivate collaborative working structures, both internal and external to LeaderSpring.  The alumni network will be critical in this work.  I will look to this network to gauge the pulse of the communities served and the issues impacting organizations in meeting the needs defined by service providers and evaluators working to build and sustain our communities. 

The best advice I received recently while meeting with Dr. Sandra Hernandez, President and CEO of California Health Care Foundation, was to give myself a runway for transition to happen.  I cannot take off before I’ve had the opportunity to dream, assess, strategize, and organize for the task ahead and the work to be done.  As I prepare my propellers for take off, it’s important that the community of supporters to LeaderSpring stay on course with us.  We will maintain our commitment to leadership development and organizational transformation within the sector, but need your continued support with us in doing this important work. 

As we finish our 20th Anniversary year, we launch our end of the year campaign.  For those who have given this year we thank you and ask for your continued support.  For those who have not yet given, we ask that you invest in LeaderSpring on behalf of our 20-year legacy of strengthening and connecting social sector leaders. LeaderSpring will continue to foster a powerful, equity-driven social sector by strengthening leaders and organizations; developing communities of leaders; and transforming systems in which they work.  I will stay committed to this mission and ask that you stay committed to us. 

In Peace,

Sonia