“A generous heart is always open, always ready to receive our going and coming.”
– bell hooks
For the past month I’ve been in conversation with David Nee, former Executive Director of the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund, to reflect on some of our shared experiences in advancing the Memorial Fund’s collaborative work for equity in the early childhood system in Connecticut. The impetus for these reflections was an invitation to co-author a blog post for a series on “network entrepreneurship” in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. The introductory post, written by Jane Wei-Skillern, David Ehrlichman and David Sawyer, is entitled “The Most Impactful Leaders You’ve Never Heard Of.” While it is true that many of the leaders featured are not necessarily household names, this does not preclude focus on those with formal authority who are visible in their own respective domains. That said, emphasis is on what people often don’t see or appreciate about what these “network entrepreneurs” do, including making space for others (see this post for some of the key network and collaborative leadership roles that are not always appreciated). Read More
In order to make the point that the sky is the limit in terms of the way in which we bring people together to collaborate and ultimately realize social change, I’ve taken to showing the video clip above and the one below back-to-back in our Facilitative Leadership trainings. The point I am trying to make is not that any one approach is necessarily better than the other, but that there are a plethora of options available to leadership between herding and hosting “the people,” and that much of this comes down to context and what we are trying to achieve. If it is true, as Barry Oshry says, that the work of leadership is to create the conditions for systems (human and otherwise) to be able to cope with threats (survive) and prospect opportunities for development (thrive), then we will understand and embrace the vital leadership role of process designer and use it wisely.
One of the core models of IISC’s practice (for both our training and consulting work) is something we call the R-P-R Triangle, which basically makes the case that success in collaborative efforts is a multi-dimensional affair, not solely defined by “results” (goal or task accomplished), but also by “process” (the way or spirit in which work is carried out) and “relationship” (the quality of the connections between the people engaged in the work). Our Executive Director, Marianne Hughes, has called this “the spine of collaboration,” suggesting that if we are not thinking in terms of all dimensions, we are not really serious about seeking win-win solutions with others. And indeed experience really proves that these dimensions are intimately linked and dependent upon one another when diverse stakeholders come together to realize a shared vision.
A twist was given to this triangle the other day when a Facilitative Leadership workshop participant said he was struggling, not because he did not find value in this notion of “multiple dimensions of success,” but because of his concern that even in this model, process and relationships might appear to be subservient, or the “so that,” to results. He went on to say that he is part of an organization/community in which relationships are really paramount. They are an end in and of themselves and in a way synonymous with results. How then, do we account for this in this model he wondered. Read More