3 min read
Here’s the deal – we are moving into the most inequitable, complex decade the world has faced in nearly 100 years. That complexity is philanthropy’s context and the inequities are the reason philanthropy exists.
Massive upheavals like 2020 can be a time to undo and expel old ways of thinking, working and being. As Seth Godin articulated recently, “The industrial era, struggling for the last decade or two, is now officially being replaced by one based on connection and leadership and the opportunity to show up and make a difference.” This is where new leaders and traits come in, as powerful forces, for a new kind of connection and leadership. To build a future that otherwise risks fast-becoming less and less equal and more and more siloed along economic, political, and health lines, leadership is the seminal lever in civil society.
Whether you are investing in leaders or looking for new leaders or are one of the leaders ready for the decade ahead yourself, these are five leadership traits that will respond most powerfully and effectively to the complexities of the decade ahead.
1. Generosity Mindset
The world hasn’t been this siloed and divided in a long time. We need exemplars who have a powerful generosity mindset; leaders with a strategic focus on the ultimate goal, that move past all diversions, get the best from everyone, and make the whole greater than the parts. They are increasingly rare and even more valuable now. Leaders like Rosanne Haggerty from Community Solutions and Cecilia Gutierrez from Blue Meridian embody the generosity mindset in their work.
We have a technology divide and hyper-media that amplify those siloes and divisions. In response to that constantly-churning society, we must have leaders that can persevere through the forces that would further divide us. These are leaders that possess 24/7 authenticity, and have a persistent, relentless, constant commitment to integrity, honesty, and full personal accountability. Look up to leaders like Michael McAfee from Policy Link and Richard Woo, the recently-retired CEO of the Russell Family Foundation.
3. Data Conviction
There is an increasing lack of clarity about how to make progress and our challenges are becoming more and more unequal across communities, geographies, ethnicities. One of the most critical traits that is absolutely necessary is data conviction. Leaders with this trait have an absolutely core belief that data is indispensable. They treat the use of data as strategic not tactical, and possess the expertise to know how to use data wisely. Felipe Moreno from the City of Phoenix is one such leader.
4. Complexity Capacity
As the breadth and depth of challenges we are facing are generational and historic, it is imperative for leaders to possess high complexity capacity. We need leaders that think in a non-linear, less-sequential way, like Erica Valliant from People Serving People in St Paul, MN, and Kathy Calvin, who headed the UN Foundation.
5. Cross-Sector Fluency
The three sectors – private, nonprofit, and public – are blurring together like never before, which presents new opportunities, albeit with undoubtedly greater complexity. Leaders with true cross-sector fluency – an ease & natural movement across all 3 sectors in a very fluid, non-transactional way – are no longer a nice-to-have; they are a must-have. Exemplar leaders with this trait include David Risher from Worldreader and Michelle Nunn from CARE.
If you want to get to know any of those leaders better, listen to their insights at paulshoemaker.org/podcast.
The core question at the heart of why I wrote Taking Charge of Change is this: what are the vital leadership traits we specifically, uniquely need in the decade ahead for the most inequitable, complex America in nearly 100 years?
Those leaders that show up with these five vital traits will not only be the rebuilders of our future, but they will also be genuine heroes. If we can bring forward new and better leaders, then our current era will pave the way towards stronger and better communities and companies in the long run.