Leadership: The future that will exist

9 Feb

Social Change Diva Blog Post - 2/8/10


Writing seemed to be my nemesis this week.  A very wise man~ my beau~ suggested that maybe I should think about other ways to communicate.   It got my wheels turning and I decided to share this weeks blog post through pictures.

Please pay attention.

No more shall i say “professional development” when referring to skills development.

Its a new day

I am choosing to use the world personal mastery.  Why?

Personal mastery offers an option for people who feel they want to change their organization but can’t accomplish much from their position.  You can always move as an individual to develop your personal mastery.

The core leadership strategy is simple: be a model. Commit yourself to your own personal mastery.

Peter Senge, The Fifth Discpline  and the Fifth Discipline Fieldbook

If new and emerging leaders  hold themselves responsible for mastery of skills and knowledge, then their  motivation to improve becomes intrinsic.   They will learn to be leaders and experts  because they want to be; not because they have been told  to.

Eyes over here.

I think most  leaders bristle at the idea of  ” succession planning”.   Could it be that thinking about it conjures up  fear?   Will this plan be the final blueprint of their worthwhile contributions?

Think about " What does the future hold?"

Legacy planning offers a new way of thinking about  contributions to an organization.  It is not about finality;  it is about influencing the future.

To create a legacy, whether grand or modest, the leader will always require a sense of the future for the organization, of what its needs and opportunities are and will be.  A basic optimism and passion furnishes the bedrock.

Burt Nanus & Stephen Dobbs, Leaders who make a difference

If a leader is planning for her legacy, then she will plan a future for the organization that will include enough resources to sustain the legacy she wants to put in place.  And if they are smart, they will include themselves in the future of the organization as an advisor.

These two things are not THE ANSWER, but they are a start.

So to recap:

  • Professional Development IS NOW Personal Mastery
  • Succession Planning IS NOW Legacy Planning

I know that it’s  not this simple.  By suggesting that we CAN change the words we use ;  I am also suggesting  that we CAN change the definitions, perspectives and approaches we have been holding onto . If we did that, imagine the abundant and bright future that we could achieve.

Are you ready to create the future that you want?



Get a little closer, dont be shy: The impact of personal storytelling

2 Feb

“Our stories are our currency” Gina Rudan-Genuine Insights

The art of storytelling is something all leaders need to master.   Storytelling is informational and persuasive, and it helps us build relationships. When we use it, we tell the stories of our  clients, or the communities that we serve, but I have often thought: What impact would telling my own story about the  path to social change have on a person (or people)? Would it open up doors to donors who share similar paths, would it make a “decision maker” understand you or your cause a bit better because they see the personal connection between you and the work that you do.   I like hearing other “socialchange people” talk about their path to work that they do.

I elude to the importance of storytelling in leadership work that I do, but I don’t think I practice it very often.   So, I decided to do it here.

Snapshots of Social Change

It was personal

It started early.  Sitting on a lawn chair at the age of five watching my mother go on strike as a communications worker, I would hold up her signs asking cars and trucks (woohoo-semi truck drivers!) to honk if they supported the strike.  It was a thrill, but as the strike extended it became a mission.   My mom had to work so that we could eat.   Eventually, the strike would end and my mom would return back to work.   But every 3-5 years, the fight would flare up again and I would be right there, ready to do my part for change to occur.

To read more, click on the title above.

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With leadership comes challenges: Three women I admire

25 Jan

I know some great women leaders doing great work. And they have leadership challenges.

These women are my friends and colleagues.  They are  smart, strategic, savvy women who have committed themselves to a variety of causes  that make the world a much better place to live in.

When we go out for lunch or dinner our conversation often turns to work .  Over appetizers,  we share the challenges that we face.  During the main entree, questions are asked . By dessert,  advice is being given.

Because,  I spend a good deal of time thinking about , reading, pondering  the subject of leadership ;  it should not surprise you that I tend to view most workplace challenges through that lens.

I wanted to share three of my friends challenges because I think that they are  commonplace and still in need of solutions.    And I love a good challenge.

Meet the ladies/ Read my mind

Lady Diva #1- Does my outside match the inside

She is second in command at her non profit and a member of the senior leadership team.  Her work links together many facets of activism: lobbying, education,  and coalition building.   She oversees a staff  of 3-5 employees and is committed to their growth and advancement.

Her challenge: She feels like she is hitting a soft wall in terms of advancement  because of her position as # 2 in the organization.  She wants to increase her  external leadership role and become more visible.

To see what happens click on the title above.

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MLK + Highlander Folk School =Social Change by design

18 Jan

courtesy of ryanhageman-flickr

On this day, we think about the birth and life (and untimely death) of Martin Luther King Jr.  Although there are tons of reminders of  Dr. King’s commitment to public service, that is rarely what I think about on his birthday.

I think about his activism and about how I have chosen to practice my own.  I am reminded that my activism (leadership development training for social change agents) is my way of saying  “Hey world, I just sent a few more people out into the world with more tools to make change, so there! ”

Two years ago, I learned about the Highlander Folk School and its important role during the civil rights movement.  Reading “ Unearthing Seeds of Fire: The Idea of Highlander”,   I  learned that the  Highlander School (a place of learning for social change)  taught leadership skills to the greatest symbols of the civil rights movement : Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, John Lewis, Andrew Young, and countless others whose activism led to historical social change .

What it ought to be, rather than what it is –Highlander School Motto

According to its website, the Highlander School was created in 1932 by Myles Horton and Don West in Grundy County, Tennessee. The Highlander School’s original mission, which has since been adapted and expanded, was to educate “rural and industrial leaders for a new social order.”

The Highlander Folk School was revolutionary in its approach to social activism.   They believed in ” teaching people where they are”.  The workshops at the school were a combination of aspirational social change and teaching people to address the everday issues.    The school was comprised of  citizen leaders and  social activists  who realized that justice for all meant working on issues of race and poverty.

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Lead, follow or stand aside: Gen X, its our time to lead!

11 Jan

Hey! Wait! We are right here!

In my community (non-profit), there is much being written about  the great leadership opportunities available for Gen Y (millennials) and the leadership positions of Baby Boomers. Titles like “Daring to Lead” and “Ready to Lead” . Deafening silence about the leadership “anything” of  Generation X.

As far as I can tell,  Generation X  ( of which I am a proud member- 1970 baby)   is not currently leading the non-profit sector.  Yes, many of them are in the senior leadership  (#2 positions such as vice president or deputy director), but they are not running organizations at the rate that I (and they) would like.

It’s like Peanut Butter and Jelly

We are considered the “sandwich generation“.  In the sociological aspect, this means that we are taking care of two generations (our children and our parents).  Professionally, we are the sandwich generation because we are in between two very dynamic generations.  Baby boomers continue to be very much in power because they do not want to or cannot leave. (Side note: many current non-profit executives say that they do not have the retirement security to leave their current positions). Millenials are hungry to lead,eschew hierarchy and have a desire for warp speed movement up the career ladder.

Feeling squeezed, my fellow Gen Xers are worried, annoyed, competitive, and, as far as I can tell, being asked to accept their fate as being overlooked for leadership positions. They want to be team players so they serve in their #2 positions; they mentor and train the younger staff; and they fill in the leadership shoes of the executive directors when they need to.

Words that still ring true

Not so secretly, they want to lead, they are ready to lead. But will they get the chance?  What will happen when the next generation comes of age after Gen Y? Will Gen Y be pushed out of the way just as Gen X has? Or is this the evolution of leadership, i.e. those not in power always want power, regardless of the generation?

I am going to do some research and find out.  Hey Gen X, am I off base?   Tell me.  Gen Y, Baby Boomers, what do you think?


My mantra for 2010

29 Dec

This song was made famous by the lovely Ms. Streisand .  In this great video (with a dedication to  Babs)  two generations of DIVAs ( Ms. Lea Michele- GLEE and Ms. Idina Menzel- WICKED and RENT) sing a fantastic rendition.

My favorite lyrics are:

Don’t tell me not to fly, I simply got to
If someone takes a spill, it’s me and not you
Who told you you’re allowed to rain on my parade

followed by:

Get what I want, I know how!
One roll for the whole shebang!
One throw that bell will go clang,
Eye on the target and wham,
One shot, one gun shot and bam!

Sung with fire, determination and sheer pride.

Whats your motivator song for 2010?




p.s. call this schmaltzy and we will have words. 🙂

What to do when being an expert comes knocking on your door

27 Dec

Definition of an expert: having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.

In the last two months, I have put on my own conference and also attended a few others.  I have been dying to write this post.
One of my responsibilities is to recruit experts to speak. I am usually very excited to have them come and to hear them speak.  I imagine that they will be dynamic, on point and charismatic.  The characteristics that I think will match their knowledge.  Over the years, I have developed some sort of  “tick” that reacts to bad presentations.  I get annoyed,  roll  my eyes, and when I am in charge, I start thinking of ways to frantically exit the room so that I can avoid hearing the complaints( i will read them later in evaluations).  But when the presentations go well, I smile (inside and out) and want to stay and hear more. And I have been known to go up and gush to the speaker afterward.
What makes the difference?

Here are some things I have seen from experts I respect.  These things make a difference  to the audience to the presentation ( and I am hoping for you the next time the opportunity to be an expert comes knocking).

Think of yourself as an expert
In her book “ Escape from Cubicle Nation” Pamela Slim gives a definition of EXPERT that  resonated with me and made me step into my expertise.  In summary, she says:

“Whether you have all of the advance degrees or all of the experience in the world, an expert mindset thinks “  I really do know and care a lot about this subject and you should listen to me!” If you have the results to back it up, you have as much to say about this subject as the post doctorate from Stanford.”

Is this you?  Expertise is not ” all experience” or “all credentials”, it can be one or the other or both.  Which is yours?  Whatever  it is, start talking about it.  I am not suggesting that you ” fake it til you make it “.  I am saying  is to think about these words in a broader context and start referring to yourself as one.  If you can back it up– which i know you can– then do it.

Impress them by knowing them *

The first rule of any sort of public speaking is to know your audience.  Not , just who they are but also:

  • What is their level of knowledge about the subject matter?
  • What have they expressed interest in knowing about the subject matter?
  • What does the audience value in seeing a speaker? ( will the organizers know this, they should, or u should be worried)
  • What does the audience attitude about your subject matter?

These are just some of the questions that you want to know. Getting the answers  helps you connect with the audience. When I speak, I ask them and when I prepping someone to speak, I  outline all of this for my speakers so that they can read it (even if it is in the cab coming over to my event). 

Control how you are introduced
How many times do you get asked to speak and you say “ oh just take my bio from the website, it’s there”.   I once hired a man who was considered a public relations expert  who handed me his bio on the way in to his speech.  I said, “ oh I have it , i got it from the web”.  He said” No, use this one, it
fits the audience.”  And when I looked over it, it did.  He was speaking in front of lawyers and although he was a public relations guy , he had been to law school  and done pro bono work .” ( My audience was public interest lawyers)  As I stood in the back of the room after the event and listened to what was being said, so many people said, ” thank you , you knew where I was coming from”.  Simple, but it worked.

Figure out what the audience needs to know *
In watching experts, the best experts make a conscious decision to figure out what people need to know vs what people want to know.   Giving people what you WANT them to know results in too much information, too many words, too many graphics and a gigantic bunch of information that neither of you know whats to do with.  Giving people what they NEED to know results in a focused, tight, and coherent presentation. ( and sometimes it leaves out something an audience member wants to know–hit that in the Q and A)

So here is the simplest method I have heard for figuring out the “want vs. need”game. Ask yourself:

What are the 3 ( three *holds up 3 fingers) things that people need to know in order or else ( the sky will fall, they cannot do their jobs, better, smarter).

Just three things.  Hit those things hard and deep.  Not only give the information, include statistics, give examples ( either real or hypothetical).  And reiterate those three points.  Then, at the end of the speech, ask people to repeat the three things with you.

PowerPoint is Evil ( or why you should not use it at all, okay less)

Whenever I get the chance, I go on my tirade about hating PowerPoint presentations.   I know you might be an introvert and big audiences make
you nervous, but stop, stop, stop making power point presentations that have everything that you want to say written on each the darn slides. It makes you look nervous and unsure of what you are talking about.

Someone that I just gush over is Garr Reynolds in the presentation world.  He has an aesthetic and approach I agree with.  And he gives the best argument about why PowerPoint is evil ( my words, not his). In Presentation Zen, he says:

” Death by PowerPoint is common and normal.  The problem is not one of tools or techniques, so much as a problem of bad habits…Its long past time that we realized that putting the same info on a slide in text form that is coming out of our mouths usually does not help. In fact, it hurts our message.”

If you need notes, make note cards.  If you have information people must have, make a fact-sheet ( with the same info that you would have put in the PowerPoint). If Use the PowerPoint for punctuation of key points, to show a picture or statistic that highlight a key point.

Does that make sense?
( a little garr reynolds love)

Need an “expert boost”, drink TED.

So some of the best presenters in the world appear at the TED conference.  And they have the presentation skills down.  So, the next time you are asked to speak, get up from your desk and watch one of these three speeches and if worse comes to worse, channel them and you take the time to prepare your own remarks.

My favorites:
Majora Carter
Isabel Allende
Sir Kenneth Robinson

When I recruit someone to speak, I want them to do their best.  I want them to be loved by the audience and I want them to be respected for what they know.  In short, I want them to be the expert that I recruited them to be.  Now go out, socialchange diva, have impact and make the world proud!


*These tips came from “Successful presentations for Dummies*.  The yellow books. Not for dummies, really.*

Why Social Change Diva is here

20 Dec

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks to change themselves”. – Tolstoy

My professional career has been based on the belief that you can do well by doing good. Now “well” is a relative term. I am not rich but I have been able to sustain a life doing good works. I have spent my professional career working in non-profit organizations that aligned with my causes. And I have been a dedicated worker to those causes: women’s issues, economic prosperity, social justice, and access to legal services for the poor, are just a few. Although a lawyer by training, I have done policy work, community relations work, and leadership development.

Early on in my career I realized that working for non-profits was actually a selfish thing to do. The altruism c an be quite intoxicating. When you tell people about the work that you do and they approve or say “that seems so cool”, you get to feel good about yourself and feel just a little bit higher on the food chain . It feeds your soul . Go non-profits!

What we life long do-gooders realize is that there is a pixie dust version of non-profits and the salt mine version. Pixie first.

Pixie Dust

  • Filled with people who are committed to the cause, willing to work harder and longer
  • Creative problem solvers who look at the world differently and search for solutions
  • Outspoken and tireless advocates determined to make their part of the world (e.g. homelessness, cancer, internet privacy, juvenile justice) a better place for under-represented and unheard communities.
  • Change agents, social activists, community organizers, and the “outside” forces making this world a better place.

Salt mine version

  • People who are enthusiastic and excited (sometimes fanatical) about the cause
  • As mission based organizations, employees may not be seen as partners in the cause but line workers who are doing what needs to get done.
  • Even the biggest ones suffer infrastructure issues such as how they get their staff to progress up a career ladder.
  • Employees can feel stuck in their jobs and burnout is high
  • Staff don’t focus on themselves because the cause is the number one priority

But what I think is that while the cause is the number one priority, if people do not have the skills to do their jobs better, smarter, faster and more creatively, then advancing towards that all important goal is slower and painful and inefficient . And the win, when it happens, is blurred by exhaustion.

So with this blog *and whatever else comes from it* I hope to do just what Tolstoy said, My change in this world is going to be helping those who do the to change themselves.