What is leadership?

The Tao of Leadership Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching by John Heider outlines the following questions in the chapter on Unbiased Leadership:

Can you mediate emotional issues without taking sides or picking favorites?
Can you breathe freely and remain relaxed even in the presence of passionate fears and desires?
Are your own conflicts clarified? Is your own house clean?
Can you be gentle with all factions and lead the group without dominating?
Can you remain open and receptive, no matter what issues arise?
Can you know what is emerging, yet keep your peace while others discover for themselves?

This is followed by instructions that require us to be self-reflective, honest, compassionate, and acknowledge how to lead in integrity:

    Learn to lead in a nourishing manner.  Learn to lead without being possessive.
    Learn to be helpful without taking the credit. Learn to lead without coercion.
    You can do this if you remain unbiased, clear, and down-to-earth.

This was my reference book during my own fellowship at LeaderSpring in 2005 to 2006. I was immersed in 2-years of examination about my own leadership and reflected on others who I both admired and questioned. I now find myself once again in that examination of leadership at all levels, federal, state and local.  As I champion for the leaders who are working on the front lines to alleviate poverty, homelessness, environmental destruction, mass incarceration, and other issues, I question the strategies of our leaders who hold the power in government at all levels, major media outlets, and corporate America.  This highlights the necessity of the philanthropic community’s collaboration with and support of our social sector in new and innovative ways that work to produce the type of impact we collectively strive for. 

Today our community leaders and activist are working harder and longer with fewer resources.  The needs are greater and the disenfranchised are more at risk. One only has to drive through the streets of Oakland to observe the growing poverty that lines our streets with tents and trash. Simultaneously, working class families are pushed out to make space for a new uptown gentrification happening in neighborhoods that are no longer recognizable.  As I meet with current and former leaders from our sector, both funders and non-profit leaders, I’m proud of the commitment and passion to do better and be better.  For me, leadership starts with that premise and encompasses our collective vision to build a better society by first doing less harm and simultaneously helping those in need.

LeaderSpring is committed to continued growth of the sector and support for leaders.  As we prepare for immediate and long-term changes, LeaderSpring has made a commitment to the following areas:

  1. Service Assessment and Development: We will embark on a critical assessment of our services based on process and impact to the field.  We will examine if we are keeping pace with the growing needs of our sector and the added value we can offer EDs and organizations participating in our fellowship program and consulting services.
  2. Research and Evaluation: LeaderSpring alumni have powerful stories to tell that speak to individual impact and organizational growth.  We will cultivate information and collect data to tell those stories, illuminate best practices, and offer new frameworks and a theory of change. 
  3. Building a Stronger Alumni Network: We seek to understand and advocate for our alumni, offer post fellowship benefits, and recognize those in our network. LeaderSpring alumni represent our greatest asset.  We will focus our attention on supporting this constituent through institutes, recognition events, advocacy efforts, and other needs to be identified.

Toward that end, I would like to recognize our recent graduates, the 2017 San Francisco Cohort.  I congratulate you and welcome you to the family of LeaderSpring alumni.  I invite you to Time for Reflection as written in The Tao of Leadership:

Endless drama in a group clouds consciousness.  Too much noise overwhelms the senses.  Continual input obscures genuine insight.  Do not substitute sensationalism for learning.  Allow regular time for silent reflection.  Turn inward and digest what has happened.  Let the senses rest and grow still.  Teach people to let go of their superficial mental chatter and obsessions.  Teach people to pay attention to the whole body’s reaction to a situation.  When group members have time to reflect, they can see more clearly what is essential in themselves and others.

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And finally, I invite all our alumni, friends, family and supporters to contribute to LeaderSpring on #GivingTuesday – an international day of giving in response to commercialization and consumerism in the post-Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, beginning of the end of the year holiday season.  

Help us reach our goal of $20K in individual giving to commemorate the end of our 20th Anniversary.  There are two ways to give: 

  1. By credit/debit card through Tides Center Network for Good’s secure website (*please select LeaderSpring in the pull-down list of projects) 
  2. By check made out to “LeaderSpring: A Project of The Tides Center” and mail to 655 13th Street, Suite 100, Oakland, CA 94612.

Congratulations to the following SF17 Graduates: 

Zahra Billoo, CAIR – SFBA (Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area)
Susana Cáceres, El/La Para TransLatinas
Reed Davaz McGowan, Youth Art Exchange
Antonio Díaz, PODER (People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights)
Karuna Jaggar, Breast Cancer Action
Edward Kaufman, Mission Graduates
Kari Lee, Chinatown YMCA
Jessica Lehman, Senior and Disability Action
Jessica Li, San Francisco SafeHouse
Barbara Ockel, Bayview Opera House
Tomás Riley, formerly with CounterPulse
Gloria Tan, Gum Moon Women’s Residence and Asian Women’s Resource Center
Robyn Thomas, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
Malcolm Yeung, Chinatown Community Development Center
Jill Zawisza,  W.O.M.A.N., Inc. (Women Organized to Make Abuse Non-Existent)

In Peace,