The Leadership Lens

I recently read a white paper entitled, Future Trends in Leadership Development, by Nick Petrie of the Center for Creative Leadership.  The article makes the case on the current state of leadership development including what isn’t working, why it isn’t working, and wraps up with ideas to get the people interested moving in more effective direction within our current environment.  As I was reading, it became clear, that in all of his interviews, Mr. Petrie, hadn’t talked to any leader from the non-profit community based sector; which means he is missing very useful and beneficial information. Information that could lead to innovation, relationship building,  greater cooperation and networking between the for-profit and not-for-profit world.

I have worked with non-profits of all sizes with as diverse mission; from an emerging Latino community based organization, AIDS service organizations, health care clinics, outpatient and residential substance use rehabilitation programs and labor organizations. Over the span of twenty plus years, I have experienced organizational cultures that have been all over the place. However, in that same amount of time, I have consistently witnessed, with a few exceptions, the exact model of leadership development the article describes.

By their very nature and existence non-profit/community based organizations employ both vertical and horizontal development. These organizations always emerge from the very four points Mr. Petrie addresses as the “cause of vertical development”; 1)  People feel consistently frustrated by situations, dilemmas, or challenges in their lives, 2) It causes them to feel the limits of their current
way of thinking, 3) It is in an area of their life that they care
about deeply, and 4) There is sufficient support that enables them to
persist in the face of the anxiety and conflict.

What apparently is the new world order within the experience of for-profit organizations; described with the army acronym VUCA, standing for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous, is simply standard operating procedure for many if not most, non-profit groups.  What type of thinking does this require?  Again, according to Mr. Petrie, a thinking style that is more complex which incorporates adaptability, self-awareness,boundary spanning, collaboration, network thinking. All of which are already practiced within the non-profit sector.  Additionally professional development within the non-profit sector is the responsibility of the individual rather than HR; an outcome limited resources.

While circumstances seem to be deciding factor in much of our leadership development paradigm, as a product of the non-profit, community based sector, I can attest without hesitation that, I and many of the leaders I have known and continue to know fit into Kegan’s Adult Level of Development at the 5th level of Self-Transforming( which is referred to at Interdependent Collaborator within the Center for Creative Leadership). Again, not all that surprising considering the economic realty and driving forces of community based organizations.

I am hopeful, that all of us in the leadership development sector can begin to model the very methods we are espousing to industry leaders by coming together, emerge from our contained environments and begin a dialogue.  I envision a time when non-profit leaders and the for-profit leaders come to view each other as peers and resources.

I of course would love speaking with Mr. Petrie, so after this is posted, I will send him an email and see how we can be transformational leaders!




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