Generating ideas, connections, and action


GUEST BLOG: Mindful Leadership: Aligning Brain and Body By Madeline McNeely

What do you do with the rush of adrenalin and cortisol that courses through the body when you get triggered? How do you move, mentally and physically, from an amygdala hijacked state (the reptilian brain) to a centered place where you’re thinking from the neo- and pre-frontal cortex?  As a leadership coach, I see my clients struggling with the unknown. I see their brains and bodies contract both physically and emotionally. Big-picture thinking and inspiration vanish in the face of stress and anxiety – too much to do and not enough time or resources to get it all done. Learning to recover “center” quickly and with mastery is a critical competency for any 21st–century social-change leader.

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Leadership and Systems: Identity, Purpose and Interconnectedness

This past week I found myself in one of those conversations that takes you somewhere you would not have anticipated. It started as a discussion about how the work of a professional development committee might be reframed with a network lens as an opportunity to activate peer driven learning.  The person I was speaking with was part of an emerging network of environmental centers and he wondered aloud whether this newly forming network could actually develop a shared identity that would bind them. Given the importance of diversity to networks, I asked if he might not instead mean a shared purpose.  He countered that environmental stewardship is a pretty big umbrella that does not necessarily help people working in different regions, with different populations, offering different kinds of programming to find the points of connection in their work.  I found myself thinking that this was not an issue of identity or purpose but a questions of systems and how people and organizations understand their interconnectedness within a larger system.

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GUEST BLOG: The Secret Every Successful Nonprofit Leader Knows About Being Productive By Beth Kanter

I’m facilitating a peer learning project on practical networked leadership skills for emerging nonprofit leaders. As we all know, living in a networked world creates opportunities for abundance. But having many choices and opportunities requires developing a special set of skills in order to be successful. These skills are: self-management and attention training. That’s the focus of one of the sessions – so I have been reflecting a lot on this topic to come up with some useful exercises, discussion questions, and session content.

Over the past few years, people often say to me, “I don’t know how you get it all done.” To tell you the truth, I no longer think in terms of “getting it all done.” I don’t bother with time management techniques because in a networked world, they don’t work – that is industrial age thinking. What is more important is managing your attention and energy. That translates to redesigning the way you work. A day that translates to 10 or 12 hour non-stop multi-tasking marathon is not a formula for success, but for burnout. Some workplace cultures in nonprofits encourage this approach.

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Leadership and Equity


First, a huge shout out to Interaction Institute for Social Change and thank you for a great New Year gift, “As a gift to the world of equity practitioners, IISC engaged artist Angus Maguire to draw a new version of an old favorite (since we could only find pixelated versions of the original). Please feel free to download the high-resolution image and use in your presentations.”  I like this graphic a lot and I believe it raises interesting questions for leadership development programs.


Most leadership programs would likely say that they treat participants equally.  For example, cohort based programs generally provide the same leadership development modules/curriculum to all participants.  The components are also pretty standard when it comes to design elements like compensating travel, mentoring/coaching, action/learning projects, the size of award funds, etc. 

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Urgent Call From Michigan: Non-Traditional Leadership In Action

This month, I’d like to highlight some of the urgent work happening right now in Michigan where our social justice colleagues and friends are dealing with an environmental crisis and add my voice to their call for collective action. For a few weeks so much attention has been given to a  little town in Michigan. All major news channels are talking about Flint and the ongoing water crisis; finally. Though this has been a reality for many residents in Michigan. My first thought was for our Michigan friendships forged at Creating Space last year, where we heard directly from We The People of Detroit who are a part of The People’s Water Board Coalition.
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Networks and Leadership Webinar Series: "Unpacking Goal-Directed Networks" with Angel Saz-Carranza


Join us for the third session of the Networks and Leadership Webinar Series on "Unpacking Goal-Directed Networks" with Angel Saz-Carrenza (Director of ESADE Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics)

Monday February 8, 2016

9:00-10:00 am Pacific | 12:00 - 1:00 pm Eastern

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A Leadership Tribute to Kindness, and my Dad


I have been thinking about kindness a lot this season, partly because it’s a season for thinking about such things and mostly because my dear dad who was 98 died peacefully in his sleep on December 18th.  My dad was the kindest man I know, unflinchingly so.  I described him to friends as a ‘salt of the earth’ kind of guy, and they all agreed.  I know my dad did not have an easy life.  At 98 he experienced the great depression, and great recession, and lost buddies in World War II as the commander of a ship (at the age of 24 which itself is shocking).  As a testament to his leadership he continued to get together annually with a group of guys from his ship for over 50 years while the group dwindled from 60 to two guys who were alive and could travel.  It would certainly have been the appropriate context for ‘command and control’ leadership and yet having been to more than a few of the tin can (the type of ship) reunions, I saw the deep affection among the men of all ranks and races and learned that my dad understood a lot about connected and adaptive leadership. I wish I had asked him more about that now and hope that I will continue to grow and be influenced by his leadership, and his kindness. 

As a tribute to my dad I would like to share one of my favorite poems about kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye:

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Looking Ahead: Results Based Planning and Experimenting with Form

Experimenting with Organizational Form

Last year, Miriam and I began a bold experiment.  At our 2015 April board meeting, as Natalia was preparing to move to Southern California, we asked if we could pause in hiring while we took some time to figure out what work was most important to us and what form would best support that work.  We wondered, as a learning network, what it would be like to be more network like.

We just completed a very fruitful board meeting and extracted some interesting lessons from our 7 months of experimenting with being more network like.  I would like to say that it was ingenuity but it was good part necessity as well.  Given that we had decided not to hire until we had finished this reflective process we were forced to work in new ways if we were to continue the same level of good work.  We are a dynamic duo and there is a limit to what two people can do.  We found ourselves doing more with partners, we were tapping our network to do the work.  In other words, we were staffing the work instead of staffing the organization

For example, Creating Space has always been a labor intensive venture for LLC staff.  This year we used the grant funds to support local partners who were hosting us.  A lot of our projects have been done with consultants from our network instead of staff.  This allows us to spread funds within the network while bringing people together on projects who don’t usually have opportunities to learn together.  A lot more of the content we share through webinars and our newsletter is being generated by you, the network, and less by us.  We have not quite found the sweet spot.  We are still working too hard, but we think we are on to something about tapping the network instead of building an organization with a lot of overhead. Our board is excited.

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Looking back: Growing Pains

Many of you followed with interest the joint series that Natalia and I published monthly about her promotion and our discussions about whether we should attempt a co-leadership model as part of our efforts to experiment with how to redistribute executive responsibility in ways that would be more personally sustainable for non-profit Executive Directors.  As the year closes, I have spent time looking back, and most important of all…learning! I thought I would share my reflections on our joint venture, and I hope that Natalia will add her thoughts now that she has had the time to settle into her new job in Los Angeles.

What Happened in 2014 and Lessons Learned


For those of you who may not have followed our earlier blogs, I thought it would be helpful to provide some context. In 2014, Natalia was promoted from her position as Communications Director to Managing Director in an attempt to create a new model that better distributes operations and program capacity that often both fall to the ED, creating a pretty unsustainable workload and expectations of an unusual combination of skill sets all wrapped up in one person. During the same period we decided to take advantage of the transitions of two of our long-term employees along with obtaining a number of big consulting opportunities to bring on 5 new, mostly junior staff, in a relatively short period of time. That is a lot of change to manage!

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You CAN Eradicate Racism Within Our Lifetime (Yes You!)

I am writing from the field from the Within Our Lifetime (WOL) Leadership Gathering.  LLC was invited to join this network whose goal is to eradicate the systems of oppression and racism that continue to thrive in our world; however they emphasize the urgency needed to do this Within Our Lifetime. The work which came out of an affinity group at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Healing America Conference has grown to encompass leaders working on tackling aspects of this throughout the US.  We invite all of you to join the WOL movement to strive to eradicate racism wherever you are and in all the ways you can within your organizations, networks, movements, families, communities, and your personal interactions. The lives of people of color are still being affected by today and every day by implicit biases and structural and organizational racism. It will take all of us to be able to heal and finish the work that was begun by the civil rights movement. You can make a commitment to educate yourself on your role in this problem as well as contribute solutions. We will be keeping you posted on the news and ways to get even more involved as the work of this network continues to grow.

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