Leadership Development: #ChangeFromWithin

Working with amazing leaders has been my job and joy for the last five years at Greenlining. Cohorts of Fellows, Summer Associates, Casistas and interns have been through the intense investment of the Greenlining Academy in building the policy and advocacy skills they will need to lead the push towards creating racial equity in California. Together, our Academy team has done the work I am most proud of in my life… and it’s not enough.

CLICK TO TWEET:.@greenlining has been doing #leadershipdevelopment for over 20 years. See what they’ve learned along the way.

In five years, I have worked with about 272 participants in “hard skills” workshops like public speaking, policy analysis and writing, financial literacy, negotiations, research and many more. Academy participants come in hungry for the skills that will serve them to create the change we need in our communities. Year after year, I’ve watched trainings explode with contagious energy that feels like the world is changing and we’re all a part of it. But I’ve also witnessed the same training fall flat and be met with disinterest or boredom and the passive-aggressive “side-eye.” What has become clear to me, and that we’ve now made explicit in our curriculum, is that the work of leadership development is an inside job.

What do I mean by an inside job?

People who want to be effective and create impact as leaders need to connect with an inexhaustible source of power. Whether that work involves dismantling systems of racism, undoing the patriarchy or building power in community, the tools they learn to use go far beyond the “hard skills.” To create the change we need, leaders need not just hard skills, but the “harder skills” of emotional intelligence, mindfulness, adaptive leadership, self and community care, authenticity, deep listening and many more.

The characteristics of leadership, in this time and beyond, have to be rooted in the experience of freedom. Leaders who invest in developing their ability to listen deeply, be mindful and emotionally intelligent will inherently be more successful when they negotiate, build relationships and work in coalition. The confidence built through practices of self-care and authenticity form the foundation to effective public speaking. Leaders who make the extra effort to understand why and for whom they do their work will connect to that inexhaustible source of power they need for the fight ahead.  Ask me how I know…

In a sector that too often treats scarcity and a deficit mentality as normal, it is a revolutionary act of empowerment to invest in individuals for their own value. In most places, leadership development exists in a system that requires metrics of success based on what the participants produce. This process keeps us accountable to the impact of our investments, and orients success in a transactional framework. I am grateful for this work, because it creates a specific kind of program that is necessary for creating change. But I also know and have committed to the need for leadership development spaces where success centers on the transformational experience of participants – experience that lets them tap into their own strength and power — knowing the impact and work will be better for it. It has become clearer to many that the quantitative data generated through evaluation can’t tell the whole story without the qualitative pieces. To understand our impact more broadly, we must hear the stories of participants.

Over the next several weeks we’ll be posting a series of blogs and reflections from our current Greenlining Fellows, who will explore their own personal transformation and #ChangeFromWithin. The #ChangeFromWithin series will also explore the double meaning of creating the change we need for anti-racism and racial equity that happens from within systems and institutions, as well as within ourselves. Here at Greenlining’s Leadership Academy, we’ve been on a journey.  We invite you to join us.

To learn more about informational leadership with racial equity at the center, you are invited to Leadership Learning Communities Creating Space conference in New Orleans October 25-27. If you are a leadership development professional engaged in social sector leadership development, you are invited to the Impact Fellowship Summit in Washington, D.C. on November 8.

To learn more about Greenlining’s Leadership Academy, click here.
Patrick is the Greenlining’s Leadership Academy Director. Follow Patrick on Twitter.