This week marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. When most people think of this historic event, they think of Neil Armstrong being the first human to walk on the moon. But it was John F. Kennedy’s, “We Choose to go to the Moon” speech that made it all possible. It could be argued that his speech on this issue was one of America’s greatest examples of leadership in the 20th century.
According to this article, even though overall poverty has dropped from 27% in 1967 to 16% in 2012, the demographics have shifted. Today, less Blacks and elderly are in poverty, more Hispanics and Whites are in poverty, and poverty in America is more evenly dispersed regionally, but still greatest in the South. As America embraces for the challenges of the future, what type of leadership do we need to realistically reduce poverty in America?
by Erik Nilsson
Nelson Mandela was one of the dozen most important people of the 20th Century, and if I could look in a history book 50 years from now, it would say that the nearly bloodless South African revolution was one of the single greatest examples of leadership in human history, and the example of a self-catalyzing nationalism not built around hatred is the single most important response to fascism and other forms of ethnic hatred-based civil collapse of the 20th Century.
In Cape Town, in 1994, I heard him speak. He said, “in the polling place, we discovered an important thing: that we were South Africans.” That was his message: democracy is more than just a legitimacy machine, it is the means by which an ethnically diverse people become a nation.
Knowing he’s gone… it makes me feel tired. There aren’t any others like him and there won’t be another soon.
by Erika Justis, ALF’s (Silicon Valley) VP of the Common Good Collaborative
Is openness necessary for an organization to succeed today? ALF welcomed Charlene Li, founder and current Managing Partner of the Altimeter Group and the author of The New York Times bestseller Open Leadership to join us for a Symposium on the subject. Charlene was in a fishbowl dialogue with Chris Block, Luther Jackson and Greg Papadopoulos.
Charlene proposed that Facebook and its fellow social media apps have changed the way we interact, and thus changed expectations in the work environment.
“For people that you’re hiring and working with this [Facebook] is their way of life. They’re used to communicating and connecting with people in very different ways. The expectation now is to have openness and transparency and a sense of authenticity in their relationships. So what is the nature of the relationship between someone who chooses or aspires to lead, and those they want to follow them?”
Luther called it “creating the container.” It is the leader’s responsibility to create the space where openness is welcome and productive. “It’s critical to build the container where dialogue can happen, and that’s the leader’s key role—to spend a lot of time building the container and then let the magic happen.”
Greg offered that this container and culture is now critical to hiring the best talent. Any other culture is seen as outdated or undesirable. “If it’s anything short of an open environment or Facebook’s style of interaction and sharing, or ‘my voice is heard’ or making a comment, it’s like ‘Where am I?’ It’s a culture question—who do you want to attract? You certainly won’t attract anyone of this generation or anyone in their thirties at this point without it.”
by Robin Teater, ALF Oregon
I am often reminded – and am reminding myself – that one of the key differentiating features of the ALF leadership development experience is that the bottom line of our mission is to better serve the public – or common – good. It isn’t enough for companies, organizations, agencies and other entities to enjoy the increased capacity of more capable leaders. While the cumulative effect of more knowledgeable, self-aware and deliberative leaders is considerable, ALF’s work is unfinished until we can link the talents and collective capacity of ALF senior fellows to some greater good that serves more than just a single company, organization or public sector agency.
While the need for collective action seems ever more urgent as I survey the complex landscape of interconnected issues within the borders of our small state alone, the question that persists is how to harness what is often described as a potentially powerful leadership network in service to a commonly held goal or objective. Given the diversity of the ALF network, this can indeed seem like a tall order.
Unless, of course, it’s not about that at all.
I have lately been led to wonder if the deliberative process required for us to collectively discover what we care about is where the real service to our communities begins. Perhaps talk is cheap, as the saying goes, but action without deep understanding can be downright dangerous.
Whatever work ALF or any other leaders choose to do, its success will be dependent on their thoughtful engagement with a diverse range of other perspectives – most especially those that differ (even radically) from their own. This kind of dialogue and engagement is a profound act of both courage and love – leadership practices in too short supply when they are perhaps most needed to address our common challenges, to truly serve the public good.
A future post co-written by myself and an ALF senior fellow will include what I think is an inspiring story of leaders in an Oregon community that did the hard but ultimately rewarding (we hope) deliberative work in addressing a regional issue of almost unimaginable complexity and volatility. In their story there is something important to be learned about service to the public good – and about the many acts of love and courage that it required.