A world that is changing faster than ever requires leaders and individuals who can not only adapt to change, but who are so comfortable in the face of it, that they can leverage, steer, and shape change to create a more just world
I wrote this post one year ago today, predicting a rise in new, diverse and inclusive leaders in the Trump Era. I believe these words to be even more true now than ever.
This past year has surely offered us copious examples of destructive leadership. But it's also given rise to a tidal wave of new, inclusive leaders. 2017 brought fresh faces running for -- and winning -- public office for the first time. A Liberian refugee becoming mayor of Helena, Montana; the first transgender state legislator -- a 33 year old! -- elected in Virginia. A slew of everyday people who never saw themselves as politicians who felt compelled to serve, and found broad support to do so.
This is a call to action for society — both for current leaders in power, and for those who have never thought of themselves as leaders before — to realize that the solution to our problems rests not on a single heroic act of leadership, but rather the recognition that the world is filled to the brim with potential leaders.
We need one billion leaders. We need trillions of acts of leadership. We need the long tail of leadership to flourish.
Those of us working out were holding on to a traditional, hierarchical model of leadership where the one in a place of power and authority — the trainer — is looked to for guidance, answers and direction. We therefore found it incumbent upon him to motivate us enough to give him the energy that he desired. When he failed to do so, we failed to follow his lead.
Trust has never been so low. Yet, all major trends that shape our world today—from globalization to social media, immigration to e-commerce, distributed workforces to fighting terrorism—sit atop a bedrock of trust.
We trust when we stay at a stranger’s house, after having only exchanged a couple of messages on Airbnb; we trust when we rely on a co-worker halfway around the world, to come through with a deliverable despite never having met them; we trust when we board a plane, enter our credit card information, swipe right on Tinder, when we drive, visit a doctor and vote.
Trust makes the world go round. But the world, right now, is lacking trust.
Being willing and able to solve this paradox—to trust, even in a world that’s increasingly untrusting, and to be trustworthy when many in the world are not—is the key to success in the 21st century.
This weekend I attended my first ever one-year-old birthday party (well, besides my own, I suppose).
Whereas most birthday parties up until now have involved discussions beforehand of where to get dinner and drinks, this one included discussions of feeding schedules and nap times. Also notable were the dozen or so adorable little kids filling the carpeted floor of the birthday girl’s home, crawling, waddling or wobbly-walking (finally a similarity to the end of some of the birthday parties I was used to!)
Also notable were the incredible parents sitting on the floor with their children, coaching them, cajoling them and supporting them as they fell down and got up again.
They showed such wonderful, supportive leadership to their children.
And I couldn’t help but wonder how many of them would bring this same mindset into work the next day.
Here are three lessons I think we all can learn from helping a baby take his or her first steps:
I’ve heard from a number of people recently who are at the beginning of their changemaker journey but stuck on how to actually get started. They are starting to adapt the mindset of a changemaker, and realize they can have an incredible impact of the communities around them. Yet they need a bit of a boost — both a likeminded community and some training — to get started.
Sound like you?
Fortunately, the changemaker clan is an incredibly strong and supportive one as long as you know where to look. And once you find your tribe of like-minded changemakers, their support and inspiration can make all the difference.
There are lots of fellowships out there, and I’m focusing here on a diverse selection of fellowships — US, non-US, millennial and baby boomer alike — all of which especially help people take their first changemaker step. Check them out, consider applying and then get ready to take your first big changemaker leap!
In 2009, Tom Dawkins and I first connected around our shared passion for how technology — used in innovative and empowering ways — can create incredible social change.
In late 2010, Tom and I began work on StartSomeGood.com, co-founding the crowdfunding site together over late night, caffeine-fueled working sessions in his San Francisco apartment.
From 2011 to 2013, we exchanged thousands of emails, logged hundreds of hours on Skype and communicated through everything from Twitter DMs to old-fashioned post.
And while we got a lot done, I always relished those moments where we would step back from our daily work and philosophise about the future of social entrepreneurship and creating a world filled with more changemakers. In these moments, Tom stood out as an absolute visionary, one of the very most exceptional people I’ve ever met for seeing what’s possible and how we might get there.
In 2013 I stepped back from daily operations and Tom stepped into the CEO role where he has brilliantly led the team in pushing the boundaries of social impact funding and supporting changemakers around the world.
So, when I wanted to look ahead to the future of the field of social entrepreneurship, I knew exactly who to contact. And after a Tweet, a couple of emails and a Skype, our conversation is below where you can get Tom’s astute insights for where we are headed. Enjoy!
The breakout star of last month’s elite Davos gathering was, without a doubt, new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
While I’m not a fan of the aristocratic nature of the summit, there’s no doubt that the conference puts a spotlight on global trends. So, when Justin Trudeau wins the praise of politicians and business leaders from around the world, it’s worth looking at why (and, although I am a big fan of them, it’s not justhis colorful socks).
What makes Justin Trudeau a leader who many follow?
There are four lessons I believe we all can learn from Trudeau’s leadership.
Most social entrepreneurs I know start their organization because they have a burning desire to create change in society — to bend the arc of history towards justice. They’re visionary, brave, and have passion pouring out of their pores. In short, they want to create and innovate.
Most social entrepreneurs I know, however, don’t start their venture because they relish the idea of managing an organization — of creating roles and responsibilities, leading budget meetings and coordinating steering committees. In short, they don’t want to be a manager.
Yet it’s great management that will take incredible visions and transform them into enduring structures, which can outlast any single person. And while managing is both a science and an art, which can never be perfected, there are absolutely some small things that can make a huge difference right away.
In the startup world, Eric Ries has helped push forward the notion that the goal of a startup is to learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible. In fact, it’s my very favorite definition of a startup.
As a social entrepreneur, so too is your job to learn — not just about your organization but also about yourself as a leader.
Yet with the pressures to build a team, pitch funders, measure impact, scale programs and run daily operations, there’s all too much pressure to put on blinders and simply charge ahead without pausing to reflect.
It's only a couple of years after leaving the social enterprise I co-founded, that I realize just how much I truly learned from the experience — probably more in two months than I did in two years of graduate school! But I only realized these lessons when I finally had the time to reflect after the fact — I never did a very good job of learning on the job. And to think how much stronger I would have been as a leader if I had taken the time!
In my current role coaching, mentoring and advising social entrepreneurs, I recommend they do three things to maximize their learning as a changemaker, which I am happy to share with you so that, unlike me, you can learn as much as possible right now.
Every non-profit I have ever advised, coached and joined has been in a constant state of pinching-pennies, euros and kroner. In a world where funding is often scarce and pressures from boards and funders to keep overhead low are fierce, it seems that the bottom line is always to protect the organisation’s bottom line.
Despite persuasive arguments from the likes of Dan Pallotta that the way we think about overhead costs in non-profits is completely wrong, overwhelming pressure still exists to spend as little money as humanly possible in subjugation to a greater social mission.
Despite this, I believe that there are 3 specific areas where it’s imperative that non-profits spend more money, rather than less. And paradoxically by spending more money in these ways, it will reduce the total amount of money the organization spends over the long-term, all while magnifying the impact.
The story of leadership is often told through the lens of a single leader and a singular act — Martin Luther King rallying crowds at the Lincoln Memorial; Eleanor Roosevelt leading the creation of the declaration on human rights; Henry Kissinger setting foot in Beijing.
As a result, we often conflate acts of leadership with positions of leadership.
This narrative, however, has obfuscated what it truly means to be a leader. Leadership is not something bestowed upon a person by virtue of a title or position, but rather the sum of a continuous series of opportunities in which a person consciously decides to display acts of leadership.
Resumes can only tell us two things: the ”what” and the ”where” of an applicant. What they have done in the past and where they did it.
What actually matters in finding the perfect employee, though, is their ”why” and their ”how”. These key traits determine why they do what they do, and how they approach new opportunities or challenges.
As Aline Lerner eloquently put it: resumes suck. (Yes, she has quantitative data to back it up).
I’ve given up on resumes for anything more than the most basic checks for qualifications. Instead, I’ve found six key traits that I look for in cover letters and interviews. Below you’ll learn more about each trait, why it matters and questions you can ask to test for each one.
In case you missed it, the internet was ablaze this weekend with talks about Amazon’s work culture. The New York Times published a scathing expose of life in the Seattle company’s headquarters, which prompted passionate debate on both sides and even rebuttals from employees. The article painted a picture of a brutal, soul-crushing, data-driven, relentless culture, one which forced a woman to work the day after a stillbirth, and encouraged employees to backstab coworkers with anonymous feedback.
While it’s easy to simply give in to our lizard brain and either reactively grumble and moan or instinctively defend hard-charging corporate culture, moments like these importantly provide a chance for us to reflect on our own leadership values. Here are a few questions we should be asking ourself in light of the debate on Amazon’s culture:
As the world celebrates Jon Stewart’s contributions to comedy, news and politics and mourns his departure from The Daily Show, many people are forgetting that Stewart is more than just a talented satirist. He’s an outstanding leader.
Here are three leadership lessons we can learn from Stewart from the way he approached his work and his team.
While our society traditionally values IQ over EQ, The Donald’s last month of surging ahead in polls fuelled by hateful rhetoric only to be cut down when brand after brand after brand no longer want to be associated with him, shows that EQ is actually more important than IQ when it comes to long-term, sustainable success.
Why are some people truly amazing mentors while others — even with years of experience — fail to contribute? I believe that anyone can be a great mentor, so read on for three ways you can become the mentor that entrepreneurs dream of.
The truth is that your organization is going to have a culture whether you, as the entrepreneur, define it or not. Even the lack of culture is, in and of itself, a culture. So the question is: will you step up and define your culture? Or will you just sit back and let it define you?
You are not your pitch deck. You are not your perfectly manicured excel bar chart showing just that magical inflection point where your growth turns into a hockey stick. And you are not your minimum viable product. You are you. And that’s exactly the point.
Defining the constituencies a social venture supports seems like one of the simplest questions a social entrepreneur faces — after all bigger is better, right? In reality, it’s one of the most difficult and important questions to ask as you begin your journey as a changemaker — and it takes a lot of thought and hard choices to get it right. So before you get started, read on for tips on how to clearly identify who is — and who is not — in your target group.
If you pick a stranger off the street and tell them your vision statement, the best question they can ask afterwards (okay, besides, ‘can I invest in you?’) is: how? (e.g., how do you do that?). This means that you have them hooked and can now explain your practical path to achieve your vision. The worst question they can ask is ‘But, why do you do that?’ If you’ve failed to sell them on the ‘why,’ then nothing else matters.