The Future Of Leadership Development


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A keynote catalyst presentation for the National Public Health Leadership Development Conference

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  • Thank you Carol for the introduction and to the conference planning team for inviting me Honored and humbled to talk with you about the future of leadership development This is a topic I have invested the past 15 years of my life thinking about, researching, and practicing. I have had the pleasure of doing much of that work with the Leadership Learning Community. We have been deeply committed to improving the practice of leadership development to bring about social justice and social change. What I want to do in the time I have is engage you in reflecting about the current state of leadership development and challenge us to think about what is needed for the future
  • Whether we seek the elimination of health disparities, universal health coverage, all children entering school ready to learn, everyone prepared to lead a productive life or a healthy planet, we clearly do not have the leadership we need.  
  • I want to do an image exercise with you. This is a technique we frequently use with groups to connect and share about an issue using metaphors that images evoke. It’s not about thinking so much as opening up to the images and seeing which one you are drawn to. I was drawn to the image of the man jumping into the air -- it speaks to me about the courage we need to take risks, to try something that we’re not certain how it will end up. I also was drawn to the image why not? Because it reminds me that we need to challenge ourselves to think outside the box, and to follow what we think is right even in the face of opposition.
  • I want to speak to you about where we are now and why our leadership thinking needs to change. Then I want to share with you some shifts in leadership thinking and practice that are happening right now that we in the Leadership Learning Community believe offer opportunities for radically scaling leadership in the future and having much greater impact.
  • Here’s the model that has dominated our thinking about leadership development. We believe that if we train individuals and give them the skills and capacities they need, they will be better prepared to lead strong organizations. Strong organizations produce better community results. This model has worked in some cases, when problems are complex and solutions unclear, we believe we need a radically different approach.
  • I want to argue that we need to think differently about leadership if we are going to address the complex challenges we face. Our current model of leadership is not scalable. We invest lots of resources in individual leader development but we can’t reach the scale of leadership we need developing one person at a time. We have tended to focus our leadership development efforts on white middle-aged professionals. We need to find, cultivate, and connect leadership everywhere it exists, across all generations, across all races, classes, and cultures, across all levels of organization. Our heroic ideas about leadership make us blind to the fact that leadership exists everywhere It’s often invisible and hidden from us because we have neither the framework nor the relationships to notice and see it, or if we do we actively reject it as leadership. The fragmented way we develop and support leaders maintains the status quo, it doesn’t have the impact we need. We believe there is all kinds of untapped leadership potential that we need to find, nurture and connect to reach the scale of leadership we need to have a greater impact.
  • One shift in thinking that is fundamental is to: Move from thinking about leadership as a capacity and quality that an individual possesses and recognize that leadership is a process that happens in groups, communities and networks. “ Leadership arises whenever people work together and make meaning of their experiences and when people participate in collaborative forms of action across the dividing lines of perspective, values, beliefs, and cultures.” (Drath and Palus) Groups of people bond together to support one another and get things done. Groups form all the time. Social networking platforms, like meetup or facebook, are great examples of how people self-organize around shared interest, shared purpose or shared identity easily and quickly to combine their resources for greater impact I want to share two stories with you about the power of communities to support emerging leadership and find ways to work together through relationship building.
  • The first is about the Promotora Institute in Arizona. The Promotora Institute was founded by local women in the community who people turned to for advice when they got ill or had other problems. Promotoras are from the community, they understand the culture and speak the language of the community. Promotoras lead by listening and building trust with the people they meet. They look for strengths and help people make the connections they need to control and improve their lives. They do not pretend to be experts instead they see residents as experts and arbiters of their own experience. Promotoras have succeeded in supporting communities with few health resources to become healthier, when outsiders have often failed. We have a hard time recognizing the work that promotoras do as leadership or even that they are engaged in leadership development. One promotora challenged the leadership mindset that defines success. She said“Some business people tell me, ‘You are not efficient.’ I say, ‘We are more efficient than you could possibly imagine, because our job is to listen, find out how much of an intervention people need and connect them to solutions.’” This relational model of leadership is at the heart of the new leadership paradigm.
  • The second story I wanted to tell is about the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. APALC runs a leadership development program called LDIR. It fosters intergroup alliances especially among those from different racial and ethnic groups. One of the core stories that APALC tells about itself is the work it did to bring Thai workers and Latino workers together to challenge a sweatshop owner. The workers were kept in different locations and worked under different conditions, but both groups were being exploited. Here is an example of how racial and cultural fragmentation benefited the sweatshop owner at the expense of the workers. APALC invested thousands of hours in training the workers on what had happened and what the garment industry was really like (giving them a systems perspective) But they also helped them learn about each other, by bringing them together to talk to one another. This resulted in a tremendous bond forming among Thai and Latino workers and they became leaders together to pass the strongest anti-sweatshop legislation in the country. Boundary-crossing leadership builds coalitions that have greater influence on stopping exploitive business practices and on changing policies, compared to what either group could do alone.
  • Technology and social networking platforms are enabling groups to self-organize like never before. Have any of you heard of the website Patients Like Me? It is a health focused social networking site that enables those who have various diseases and chronic conditions to find one another for information, support, advice. Their tag line is patients helping patients to live better everyday These peer communities self-organize and grow very rapidly because people want control of their health, they want information to make informed decisions about treatments. They get extraordinary benefit from their peers, far more sometimes than relying on experts. Another site MedHelp provides medical support communities, ask doctor forums, and health tools to track symptoms and test results over time. These interactive tools empower people to control and monitor their own health in ways that were never possible before. The potential that they will actually improve health outcomes seems extraordinary although we still do not know the full effects.
  • Another shift in thinking that is needed is from thinking about leadership as something that is exercised through positions in organizations, to understanding how leadership occurs within networks. It might be more appropriate to talk about hierarchies than organizations since some organizations are beginning to operate in a more networked way. Leadership in organizations is positional, it’s individual, it’s top down, directive, and transactional. Leadership in networks is relational, facilitative, collective, bottom-up, and emergent. Traditionally we have developed leaders to exercise leadership within organizations This leadership approach is not very flexible, adaptive, or responsive to rapidly changing conditions Networks forms of organizing are a powerful source of innovation and creative solutions when there is sufficient diversity and sufficient connections in the network. I want to give you a couple of examples of how network leadership outperforms organizational leadership especially during times of crisis or rapid change where the problems and solutions are not always clear.
  • Take the case of Paul Levy and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital. Over the past eight years the hospital have gone through one crisis after another. Most recently in 2009 the hospital faced a $20 million loss. A typical CEO would have convened his senior leadership team and made choices about how the gap would be closed. Levy knew this would mean massive lay-offs and plummeting organizational morale. So how might he lead differently in a crisis. Levy decided to call a meeting with all employees to discuss layoffs. He didn’t come in with a plan, he came in with a concern. A concern that looming cutbacks would adversely affect low-wage employees, such as housekeepers He cautiously floated what seemed likely to be an unpopular idea: protecting some of those low-paying jobs by reducing the salary and benefits of higher paid employees - including many in the auditorium. To his surprise the room erupted in applause. His candid request for help led to countless suggestions for cost savings. He tapped the power of the employee network; as a result they all jointly owned the solution. Levy modeled openness and transparency, letting go of control, trusting the group to make the right decisions. Levy has his own blog where he publicly shares his thoughts and invites others to comment and share theirs with him.
  • Clay Shirky wrote a book called Here Comes Everybody. How many of you have read that book? The book describes how society is adopting new behaviors because of the revolution in technology. He talks about the institutional costs of managing large bureaucracies, the inefficient ways they control the flow of information and communication. Shirky tells the story of how the Chinese government had everything to gain by sequencing the SARS gene since their population was the most immediately affected th. They had the talent and resources to bring to bear to find the solution But it wasn’t the Chinese scientists who discovered it. Rather it was a small Canadian lab that was plugged into many different cooperative and collaborative networks. A genetics researcher in China commented that the barriers in China were not limits on talent or resources, but obstacles to cooperation; the government simply put too many restrictions on sharing either samples of the virus or on information about it. So here’s an example where many fewer resources were invested to achieve the outcome in much faster time simply by tapping into the power of networks.
  • One of the most renowned researchers on networks, Duncan Watts wrote:
  • Bill Traynor with Lawrence COmmunityWorks, an organization that uses a network approach to community-building talks about the importance of creating and holding space. Creating space is about holding the time for unfolding, time for adaptation, time and opportunity for intentional and random bumping and connecting, time for creation and time for response, time for listening and reacting, and time for deconstruction. It is the space in between, around, behind, on top of, and underneath all the action, the commitments, the transactions; all these things are forms. When the space closes, networks die, because in the clutter of commitments, expectations, structures, programs, partnerships, and so forth, there is no more space for adaptation or response. “ - Bill Traynor Part of the role then of managing networks is to hold that space, to not reach so quickly to creating forms that regulate and make things predictable
  • We are still learning about what leadership looks like in networks. Here are some of the leadership roles that people have mentioned. In networks people don’t exercise leadership by virtue of their position but by what they do. Some people seek ways to connect people who they think should know one another. They weave the network. Some people create the technology platforms so people can find one another more easily. Some people actively seek to bridge between networks and act as translators Some hold the vision of the network and seek to ignite action. There are many roles that people can play…in a recent consultation with an international organization using a network approach, one person stepped forward and said that she would be the network fun maker.
  • The last shift I want to talk to you about is from silos to partnerships. Typically we have exercised and developed leadership in silos We have separate workforces, distinct languages and cultures, different ways of framing what the problem is and therefore what solution is needed. Yet we have not been successful with this model in creating health, creating social justice, creating the conditions for a sustainable planet. The reason is these are systemic issues that cut across silos and sectors. Multi-stakeholder partnership approaches that bring people together across a system offer some promising possibilities for addressing system level challenges
  • One such initiative is The African Public Health Leadership and Systems Innovation Initiative It is being piloted in Namibia. Multistakeholder teams of national health leaders, senior government officials, local community health providers, and representatives from business and civil society are guided through an intensive leadership development and problem-based learning experience called the Innovation Lab The aim is to tackle a complex social and system problem through a multi-stakeholder process that generates and tests innovative responses. Programs like these are designed to rapidly prototype and test solutions to see what works. Innovation teams continually, reflect, learn and make adjustments as needed. Everyone is encouraged and supported to be part of the solution. Typically the health system in Namibia is highly siloed, different departments, different regions, with no connections betwee them. The Innovation Lab process focuses on breaking down barriers through workshops and retreats. People get to know each other. They use each other’s first names. Some are hesitant about giving up their titles. There are doctors who like to be called ‘doctor’ and nurses who say ‘but I have called you doctor for so long’. But by using first names, people start to see each other as equals and also to ask what they can bring to the process as individuals.
  • The last example I want to share with you is a program called Leadership in Action that the Annie E. Casey Foundation has pioneered with partners at the University of Maryland. LAP focuses on changing a population level result. It starts with a call to action by an “accountability partner” -- recognized leaders from the public and private sector; governors, mayors, school superintendents, foundations, United Way, heads of public-private governance bodies who champion and create a sense of urgency around changing the result. The program itself focuses on “leaders in the middle”: public sector agency heads, business owners, heads of nonprofits, faith leaders, representatives of associations or community groups. No individual or organization has the power alone to affect the result but they can all contribute. The key is to make aligned contributions and hold each other accountable for taking action in the domain in which each person does have influence. Leading from the middle is the ability to use leadership skills to achieve consensus, resolve conflict and competing interests to achieve joint solutions to both adaptive and technical challenges, and enroll managers (and above) as well as direct reports and peers to assist in implementing strategies that work. 14 month process.
  • What might we need to let go?
  • So to summarize what we believe are key elements for the future of leadership development. Leadership emerges through relationships. We need to focus much more on building relationships, getting to know one another, building trust. Catalyze networks -- create the conditions for people to find each other and self-organize around what they care about, build bridges across boundaries to seed new ideas and innovations. Use technologies to take networks to scale, by connecting small groups to one another (No where was this more evident than in the Obama campaign for instance.) And finally Partner for results -- we need to hold ourselves accountable for results and engage in systems approaches to create health in communities. We need to break down the silos and design leadership programs that focus on new forms of partnership. We live at a time of great peril and great opportunity. At no time have we needed leadership more.
  • I invite you to join the Leadership Learning Community in an collaborative research initiative we are calling Leadership for a New Era.
  • With a wide range of partners and participants, we are committed to transforming how we conceive, practice, and evaluate leadership. We want to shift the paradigm of leadership to be more inclusive, networked and collective.
  • Closing quote
  • The Future Of Leadership Development

    1. 1. The Future of Leadership Development Claire Reinelt, Ph.D. Leadership Learning Community National Public Health Leadership Development Conference April 28, 2010 Image Source:
    2. 2. <ul><li>Our current approaches to leadership development will not enable us to reach the scale of leadership we need to create the change we seek . </li></ul>
    3. 3. Where are we now in our leadership work and where do we need to be 10 years from now?
    4. 4. Where We Are Now
    5. 5. Individual Leader Development <ul><li>Individual Skills and Knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>Strong Organizations </li></ul><ul><li>Community Results </li></ul>
    6. 6. <ul><li>Our current model is… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Not scalable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Exclusive </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fragmented </li></ul></ul>Why Think Differently About Leadership?
    7. 7. Where We Need to Go
    8. 8. From Individuals to Groups…
    9. 9. Image and Quote Source: “A Reflection on How Social Networks Can Become a Powerful Tool To Meet Basic Needs and Build Momentum for Change”, The Diarist Project The Promotora Institute “ The Promotora model is sort of the Peace Corps model based on local needs and local solutions, except that it is not the educated helping the ‘uneducated’. It’s the community helping itself.”
    10. 10. Asian Pacific American Legal Center Angela Glover Blackwell (A Conversation on Boundary Crossing Leadership) We live in the most multicultural, multiethnic society in the world, right here in California and we need to make certain that groups that share common issues, but do not share common historical traditions, are able to work together. Image Source:
    11. 11. Networked Devices + Connected People = Healthier Communities Source: “The Future of Health is Social” Fast Company, Jennifer Kilian and Barbara Pantuso
    12. 12. From Organizations to Networks… Image Source: / CC BY 2.0
    13. 13. In a period of great uncertainty, the most difficult topics must be discussed. Dissenters who can provide crucial insights need to be protected from the organizational pressure to remain silent. Executives need to listen to unfamiliar voices and set the tone for candor and risk taking. Ron Heifetz et. al (Harvard Business Review) Leading in a (Permanent) Crisis
    14. 14. VS Discovery of Genetic Sequence of SARS Winner Hierarchical, Highly Controlled Model Networked, Open Model
    15. 15. The value of collective leadership networks is in their capacity to solve problems quickly in an environment of uncertainty and complexity. -- Watts 2004
    16. 16. Source: Social Networks for Social Change Presentation, The Monitor Institute, 2010
    17. 17. Leadership Roles in Networks
    18. 18. From Silos to Partnerships…
    19. 19. African Public Health Leadership and Systems Innovation Initiative Image Source: A partnership between Synergos, McKinsey & Co., the Presencing Institute, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve health performance in Namibia.
    20. 20. Leadership in Action Program Improvement at the population level cannot be made by a single agency or organization but must be part of a cross-sector, public and private movement to achieve a given result using a new paradigm of performance management. Jolie Bain Pillsbury et al. ( Cross Sector Performance Accountability: Making Aligned Contributions to Improve Community Well-Being) B-LAP Launched
    21. 21. <ul><li>Group Discussion: </li></ul><ul><li>How can we better leverage the power of groups, networks and partnerships to reach a radically different scale of health leadership? </li></ul>
    22. 22. <ul><li>Focus on relationships </li></ul><ul><li>Catalyze networks </li></ul><ul><li>Partner for results </li></ul>To Summarize…
    23. 23. Leadership for a New Era
    24. 24. Inclusive, Networked & Collective Leadership <ul><li>Engaging 100+ participants </li></ul><ul><li>3 products: publications, assessment tools, interactive website & directories </li></ul><ul><li>4 topics: Leadership and Race, Leadership and Networks, Collective Leadership, Leadership Across Difference </li></ul>
    25. 25. Questions <ul><li>How is collaborative action catalyzed in networks? </li></ul><ul><li>What design elements support leadership and self-organizing to emerge in networks? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the inner work that leaders need to do to practice effective network leadership? </li></ul>
    26. 26. <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Email: </li></ul>Get Involved!
    27. 27. -- Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler