Facilitating leadership development as a group learning process

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What brought you to this session?:

  • the people in the room, the collaborations with Evelyn + leadership cohort ovet the year
  • when compelled beyond your biggest doubts about how well you can do it
  • "accidental" or reluctant leadership
  • facilitate the growth of people we are working with
  • hold powerful spaces, "have the mic"
  • evelyn bc of the example she sets as a leader helping others tap into their leadership potential <3
  • we should co-develop what the company is, everyone should be a leader
  • "I just started asking questions" on leadership development
  • Shout out to leadership collaboration-> MAGO! <3, Karen, N C, Gunner
  • how to have make strategy happen, influence in organizations
  • also how leadership means facilitating hard conversations
  • i want to organize myself out of a job- bring up younger newer folks!

Sharing experience:

  • Over the year, with Aspiration participatory design, move that collective peer sharing into a cohort (co-creating, help shape)
  • Design leadership cohort as a collective
  • Design together by asking questions and making everybody's cohort
  • Collective wisdom in this room
  • Learn how folks are doing leadership development


Q: What is leadership that you are drawn to or inpsired by, what are words that you are drawn to that describe this leadership?

  • I'm drawn to leadership rolls that facilitate bringing people together to hold dialogue on hard things we need to change and make a positive impact
  • im drawn to leaders/communities that are like willow trees - humble, there, big reach, stable:earthy:grounding, comforting, playful. or like water-movers that navigate and move in a way that appears so seamless and brings others along
  • From Richie Perez (mentor - QEPD)the role of each generation of leaders is to move the the struggle steps forward (from Young Lords Party)
  • In the past couple of years I've been watching the leadership at Hollyhock (a retreat center in BC, Canada) pivot from leadership that led for decades to new modes of leadership and hope that as I grow I can led with that kind of grace and thoughtfulness; they've made a lot of decisions in the past few years that have really strained their relationship with some of their "legacy" members
  • appreciated the "leaderful" note at the start - definitely that! - also models that emphasize interconnectedness, so pretty much everything in "emergent strategy"
  • Leaderful organizations w/people who don't perpetuate scarcity/hero model (everything depends on one person/leader) and thus center leadership development and cultivation
  • Popular Leadership (doesn't translate into English well - ser un lider popular)
  • Experiment and try something that hasn't been done before even if it "fucks stuff up" - it's ok to fuck shit up (as long as it doesn't kill/dissapper folks)
  • Taking authentic actions that are grounded in values, regardless of the positional authority of the person doing the thing
  • Leaders who are genuinely interested in developing others, even when their perspectives differ, or even challenge established practices +1
  • i am in inspired by leaders who accept people as they are and meet them where they're at, rather than expecting everyone to be some perfect politics ultra woke activist. also, leaders who prioritize supporting other people rather than just "directing" them
  • Leaders that remind you of the people along your journey that really inspire you to keep doing your best and lean into all uncertainity as growing points *
  • leaders that aren't control freaks!
  • emergent, brave, fun, wise, visionary (from chat)


Q:What are words that describe leadership that puts you off or what you wanna get away from?

  • "Historically, we've..."
  • stay in your lane
  • Hero model - relying on one leader/superhero activist to save us all, guide everyone, be the spokesperson, have the vision, etc.
  • "Let's ask the boss" (<-- omg hate this person)
  • "we're all good/smart/committed people, we'll just figure it out" eg expressions of tyranny of structurelessness (which learning about reallllly helped me understand leadership models that definitely don't work for me)+1
  • "We don't have time to talk about..." (racism, sexism, hidden power structures, disability access, pay structures in nonprofits, etc.) -- focusing only on "the mission," actions, programming -- "hard" stuff rather than "soft" stuff (even though that's obvs. problematic framing)
  • commanding/dictating, creating a culture of competition/secrecy
  • leaders who act like they themselves are THE institutional memory. i worked "with" one of these ppl before-- every idea, every possibility was always shot down because "we tried that 10 years ago" or "we [the org] used to have beef with that other org"
  • My least favorite words: "But, but, we've ALWAYS done it that way!" my response: "and did we win shit? hmmmmm"


How much do you identify as a leader?

  • 0%
    • 20%
    • 35%
    • 75%
    • 55%
    • 64%
    • 70%
    • 75%
    • also 75 +1
    • 80%
  • 100%

Folks that identify more as leaders, when was a moment when you first felt like you could self identify as a leader?

  • Didn't want to - leadership sounded "leadership-y" and kind of elitist, but ppl kept telling me that i needed to speak TF up bc more people that needed to hear it could identify- i was like wow that actually makes sense
  • When I became a early childhood educator in a Headstart Program. Became a leader of preschoolers AND of other teachers because I was passionate about bringing high quality and impactful care for the students and their families, many of whom were surviving significant challenges of poverty-level income and other issues imposed upon them by societal pressures and oppression.
  • A colleague told me I needed to not mention out loud things like coming up on a bunch of canned food next to the dumpster in front of those "below" me on the chart because I'm in a position of being looked up to now. That was a realization that how I saw myself was different from how others saw me
  • When I was able to help folks grasp their own knowledge/leadership
  • As a student, organized a high school forum for students to discuss California ballot props - as equals - with the adults pushing them
  • Three moments : 1 when my mentor pushed me into doing stuff he would normally do and sometimes would even just leave me on my own to handle shit - 2 when I had a "leadership coach" and she told me a whole bunch of shit I was already doing and I was like oh ok I am doing this (connected to Misty's imposter syndrome comment). 3- When I could do hard shit without falling apart.
  • In high school I kind of accidentally fell into leading a direct action in the school that had most of the students participating, and all of a sudden I wasn't a weird loner nerd but someone who could actually motivate/mobilize folx +1
  • hard to think of it in individual moments, but i did encounter a friend shortly after becoming executive director who was like "we need YOU to succeed" like, not just the organization and i was like "ooh" and that responsibility has stuck with me <-- i'm so happy someone said that to you! thanks, yeah, me too!!
  • When someone with a lot more experience than i handed my the reigns and said "well, you know what to do"

“How to push back on professionalization of leadership”

  • yesterday in the session on accountability, we talked about pushing back on "professionalization" in general and we decided we liked ideas of militancy, discipline, rigor, and practice
  • Building my self-esteem; empowering myself to recognize that my ideas and work have merit in the face of negative or destructive power plays from "leaders with a capital L" who throw their weight around in the nonprofit space.
  • reconsider terms like "accidental leaders" (also "accidental techies") since this is so often used to designate women/POC/working-class folks who are not "expected" to be leaders, and/or reflecting impostor syndrome +1+1

Are there principles that guide your approach to leadership?

  • Lifting people up, making things better for the next generation (i.e. more inclusive, more vulnerable culture, recogizing the strengths of others)
  • any light that shines on me as a leader should be redirected out to everyone else <3333 <3!
  • Deflating and undercutting traditional markers of power and authority to make peopel feel less like leaders are people to be revered
  • stepping back and doing support work (logistics, food, childcare, etc) so other leaders can step up
  • appropriate credit! - always acknowledging where ideas and contributions are coming from, and the many many forms that takes (somewhat related to the humility misty mentioned but also sort of different)
  • Everything is learning/leadership - from stuffing envelopes to leading a press conferance.
    • this also makes me think about like, being willing to ask people to contribute in various ways, like, trying to push back on assumptions about if someone has time/money/ability, and just ask, and then support them in doing that thing!
  • transparency and ability to admit mistakes and take hard feedback
  • making it ok to make mistakes!!!!
  • cheerleading + giving feedback to the folks who are coming up. trusting others and letting go.
  • Listen more. We have two ears. One mouth :)
  • humility
  • What would a team supporting each other 100% do?


What would help you identify more as a leader?

  • Communities of people like me (fat, nonbinary, working in spaces of empowerment and success)

What are things you find challenging or confusing as you try to grow into a greater leadership role?

  • The prevalence of bro tech culture is frustrating, especially in the Midwest where tech is an emerging industry
  • Participating in org leadership spaces as a tech person and not having a background in movement/activism work +1 - omg the overlapping spaces is so tough!
  • Taking rest and trusting that people feel comfy to step in
  • Being honest about how you too are struggling-asking for help/space
  • Stepping back.
  • Having a chaotic/low-income life that means I don't have the tech or resources in daily life that leaders/EDs/etc are expected to have access to Plus 1!!!!
  • overcommitting and feeling shame and guilt about not following thru on things
  • Let others lead
  • on a flip of the "hero model" i've heard expressed in some spaces that people who want to be leaders should be viewed with suspicion (some biblical references i don't quite recall?) but like, that makes me feel guilty and unsure * every time it's referenced, even when it's mentioned in a general way! - i guess, in sum, am i bad/wrong to want to be more of a leader?
  • <3being as gracious with myself as i am with others<3

What kind of support do you wish you had in moments where you want input or wisdom on leadership

  • Someone who asks smart questions related to my challenges
  • Ask open questions (rather than yes/no ones) which inspire me to explore my own truth , what's at stake
  • i've heard people suggest having a like, group text thread or "personal board of directors" or other group of folks to turn to, so that would be awesome, but also like, a sense of how for that to be adequately _reciprocal_ - i have so many thoughts/feels but also conscious of not overtaxing such groups! and being able to contribute!
  • Verbalizing that when we talk honestly with each other about things that work/don't work we declare that it is a safe space to hold a dialogue that isn't directed by accusations of "failing" but of how we can change and improve.
  • When I started my career in a nonprofit apprenticeship program I had a manager who supervised my project work, but also and more importantly, another manager/coach who I didn't work for directly but was there to help me think through dilemmas and how I wanted to show up. That was great :)
  • goal setting
  • safe space
  • accountability processes, while also holding the value of each person -- i.e. vs. cancel culture (at least within an organization/community)
  • Leadership sometimes kind of feel really lonely, someone to support and help me not procrastinate, Someone to ask me hey how's that going?!

What I did not get to share at the end of our time together. Future Self creative visualisation exercise where you meet your future self (fs). I have led dozens of folks through this. Happy to do with you. Most Co-Active trained life coaches (thecoaches.com) learn about this powerful tool. Once you have met your fs, you can seek his/her/their guidance for all time. Neil/Smiling Heart :) neil@swansway.com P.S. Online videos (surprise surprise) also exist!