Thursday, July 2, 2015

Book Review: The Good Struggle

One of the things I have embraced over the past couple of years is the concept of the “hard conversation” is not necessarily a bad conversation. It is hard. So what? Lots of things are hard. The unfortunate thing we face in today’s society is that it is easy for many to avoid the hard conversation. We can turn to social media or a myriad of other distractions to see the world the way we want to see the world. Makes it really easy for us to avoid the work we so desperately need to do. Work that helps us to step into these hard conversations.

In any event, I have been reading “The Good Struggle: Responsible Leadership in an Unforgiving World” this past month and actually finished reading it as the SCOTUS decision came down making it possible for everyone to marry the person they love. What an example of the “good struggle” in action. In one chapter, the author asks us whether we have the right core values when we enter these struggles. Quite often it is easy to lose track of our core values and start to defend our need to be “right” instead of our need to learn. 

LeaderShape’s vision of the world is just, caring, and thriving. I think this good struggle has helped us get a little closer to a just, caring, thriving world. Unfortunately, in my opinion, we still have avoided the conversation. The argument may have played out in D.C., but the argument, or rather the conversation, still needs to happen all over the world. Part of winning elections or winning decisions like that is to recognize that we still need each other regardless of how stupid we make think someone else is. The hard work is not finished when you reach 51% of the vote or come to a 5-4 decision. The hard work is in the need to continue to provide space for learning, caring, disagreement, and understanding. 

Of course this past month has had plenty of examples of conversations we don’t really want to have or just haven’t had like the confederate flag flying over government buildings…still. The difficult part of living in a “winner takes all world” is that it creates a constant contest for the next election, vote, or decision. Rather than trying to understand and explain our beliefs, we focus on winning. In this struggle to articulate our beliefs and our viewpoints, we often succumb to the sound bite, the meme, or the headline missing the nuance, the pain, the joy, and the distrust. 

Being a leader is not about doing a victory dance. As leaders, do we ever reach the finish line? Do we ever stop wanting to change the world, make it a better place to live for those that are struggling, or helping someone else do the same? Of course not. Responsible leadership is about being gracious and seeing the big picture. It’s the desire to understand trumping the compulsion to win. 

Some amazing conversations have been happening…let’s stay in the mess and keep the good struggle going. 


Friday, June 12, 2015

PlayerLeak: A Deeper Look

Last month we shared a post from Towson University Institute graduate Chris "CP" Patterson. In it, he introduced us to PlayerLeak, a sports focused social networking platform. It left us wanting more! We hope you enjoy learning more about PlayerLeak! And don't forget to pass the information along to those who would be interested in engaging with the platform.

What is PlayerLeak?
PlayerLeak is a sports dedicated social networking platform, built to provide the player, team, and coach a network that will help them gain exposure, get to the next level, and realize greater opportunity in sports. The platform allows a user to create a digital profile to help promote themselves and collaborate with other people in the sports community.

PlayerLeak also has a unique feature called a Sports Map. This is where the player can list out goals they would like to achieve and their coaches, teammates, fans and other connections can offer advice and support to help them reach their goals.

Here is how you can engage with PlayerLeak:
  1. Log onto PlayerLeak (for FREE) at – today!
  2.  Sign up and create a profile.
  3.  Fill in your profile information – photos, player/team/coach info, experience, skills, etc….
  4. “Fan” (connect) a few users from the Suggested Users section.
  5. On your profile, fill in your “Sports Map” with goals for the upcoming Season/Off-Season.
  6. Invite your teammates, fellow athletes and coaches to join PlayerLeak.
  7. Continue to build your sports network and collaborate.
  8. Continue to set goals to get to the next level, and help your connections get to the next level!
  9. You can access PlayerLeak on your desktop, or by logging into the website on your mobile device.

What are the benefits? As a Player, Team, or Coach you will:
  • Gain Exposure – by joining a focused sports community you’ll increase your chances of being noticed. No more managing multiple accounts to maintain a strong social presence in sports. No more clutter about things other than sports. It’s all sports all the time!
  • Get To the Next Level – by using your Sports Map you’ll increase your chances of reaching your goals. You’ll have the opportunity to set goals for yourself and receive suggestions, advice, and support from your teammates or coaches on your way to success. You’ll also have the opportunity to offer support to a fellow athlete, or teammate, and help them on the way to achieving their goals. It’s a WIN-WIN situation.
  • Enhance Your Sports Experience – by becoming a user of the world’s first social networking platform dedicated to sports. You’ll have the opportunity to connect with sports users from around the world, and help shape the community. You’ll be able to build your sports network and use it to your advantage to enhance your own personal experience. Whether you are a player who wants to check in on players in another state, a coach who wants to connect with other coaches in the community, a fan who wants to build the ultimate fan network, or a parent who wants to keep track of all of your families sports moments, PlayerLeak will be the one stop shop for your sports social networking needs.
  • As a Player – you can showcase your skills; build your brand, or share photos and videos of your performances in a dedicated sports community where everyone will be excited to see what you’ve got! You can also connect with your team, follow other users, and give Props (our “like”) to your connections when they share something cool.
  • As a Team – you can build a public or private team page, invite your team members to join, and use the team message board to post comments to your teammates. You can share your practice and game schedules, team reminders, updates, and accomplishments. You can also set team goals to achieve with your Sports Map.
  • As a Coach – you can use PlayerLeak to help bring your team together and get everyone on the same page. Your players can provide updates on what they are doing in the off-season and in the gym, as well as track their progress in-season. It's a great way to give the player responsibility for their own career and hold them accountable. Plus you can utilize what they've put together to help promote them to the next level – whether at practice, at home, or on travel. You can also showcase your own coaching education, career, and awards and achievements on your personal profile. Build up your coaching network, and connect with other coaches who have Sports Maps to share and receive tips.

If you know an athlete, team, or coach who could benefit from using PlayerLeak, please pass along the link and encourage them to join! We look forward to building the world’s largest sports community with you!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Story Cubes

We recently purchased a couple of sets of Story Cubes to have at the national sessions of the Institute. I wanted to try them out and this is the (silly but fun) result.

A #Day7 tale inspired by Story Cubes...

Once upon a time, there was a participant from the Institute named Chris. 

It was the last day of the program. Chris was nervous leaving the program and camp where she spent the past 6 days getting to know herself and some other interesting, caring,  fantastic people who are also committed to making our colleges, communities, and the world a better place. And even though she was energized by the program, she was also feeling a bit unsure of what it will be like when she isn't surrounded by these other 60 people. She wasn't sure if she would be able share her true self beyond the Institute or if she'd continue to wear the mask that she sometimes put on, hiding her authentic self. 

On top of being a little nervous about leaving, Chris was was tired! Her Family Cluster, the Pyramid of Leadership, was up most of the night on Day 5, taking advantage of their last evening together talking, laughing, dancing, and playing board games. It's hard to say "good bye" to a group of people who has become like family. And it was worth losing a little sleep to spend as much time as possible together.

But we have a secret that maybe Chris hasn't discovered yet. 

The scales are tipped in Chris' favor. She has learned so much about what it means to live a life of integrity, to believe in possibility, to understand who she is more deeply, and to consider how she wants to contribute to the world. All of that knowledge is at her disposal. She is ready for #Day7 and to defeat any dragons that try and stop her. 

And she lived happily ever after in #Day7. 

PS: Pyramid was a real stretch here. :) 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Towson University: 10 Year Anniversary Reflections

Towson University recently celebrated its 10 Year Anniversary partnering with LeaderShape to offer the Institute at their institution. We are excited to highlight some history and personal experiences from administrators, participants, and facilitators in this blog series. 

This post is the speech that Towson University graduate Angie Hong delivered at Towson University's 10 Year LeaderShape Reunion. Angie, a proud Baltimore native, currently working in D.C. as program coordinator for the National Center for Family Philanthropy, where she supports the development and organization of programs, services, and strategies that advance the practice of family philanthropy. Additionally, she serves as assistant director to the nonprofit organization BULA, Inc., where she assists in the management of programs, organizational development, and communication efforts to secure brighter futures for Ugandan youth. Angie previously served in a variety of international development positions in Uganda and Nicaragua where she assisted with alternative care for children and health development. Before this, she worked at the Office of Civic Engagement at Towson University, encouraging active citizenship within students and the community, including the curation of two TEDx events focused on creating a better world for citizens. 

Good morning! I’m Angie Hong and I am a proud 2009 LeaderShape graduate.  The type of pride I have in being a Leadershape graduate at TU has developed into something much deeper now than it did five years ago. I also want to mention that saying five years ago only freaks me out just a little bit. But, we’re at the 10 year reunion so I can only imagine how some other alumni are feeling.

Reflecting on five years ago, I remember feeling honored to be chosen as 1 of 60 people to
attend Leadershape, I was excited to finally figure out what all the hype was about from leadershapers before me. Five years ago, I was living a week- long Utopian Dream of Visionaries, and my new friends were the visionaries. When we reflect back on our times at Leadershape, it was full of vision, friendship, tears, and this intense feeling that we could make some real change in this world. But, I’d like to remind you all of some of the “tougher” learning moments, ones you may have blocked off from your memory. Remember the star power game where all too much power was given to the Squares and we hurt our fellow circles and triangles. At this point, we even questioned the trust we built from the day before, not only with other people but our own selves- dealing with the consequences of realizing that we too, are humans and leading with integrity is not always easy. Speaking of trust, let’s talk about the challenge course. Noone ever told me that I’d have to help some girl, who was crying to no end over her fear of heights, get over a huge wall. And then later, I’d have to walk on a tightrope with her. But, I’m glad I did because she’s definitely going to be one of my bridesmaids. Now, I’m no where near getting married but we all need some vision to bring into reality, right? On that note, let’s think back to the agony felt over creating our goals and visions, all while using this foreign concept called, a healthy disregard for the impossible. But, we made it through that and found ourselves together in a circle with a glass pebble in hand, representing the ripple effect that we would make into the world. The power of one, the power of all.

Looking back now, Leadershape is not a utopian dream of visionaries, leadershape is a microcosm of the real life. It eased us into scenarios we would face in the future and challenged us to not only maintain our integrity, but to also practice the act of forgiveness. Our world needs more leaders with integrity and a good moral compass. We need people who will do the right thing even when no one’s looking. This reminds me of the time I was in Uganda and discovered that that the children I grew to care about for over 8 years were being abused by their guardian since 2011. Everything that was thrown at me during this time was almost familiar… or something I learned to navigate through. I made connections with the Ugandan government and police, but I was told that cases like these never hold up because of corruption and fear. They told me most westerners would flee the country at this point and that served as a type of warning. But, leaving never even crossed my mind. I worked with the police with limited resources, went on numerous investigations and interviews of the kids, and ended up getting the children out of an abusive home. As he went to jail, the government granted me temporary guardianship of all 24 children. During this, time I had to find a home to care for all the children, trace their family members in the village, and prepare them for the biggest change of their lives. Most nights, I was crippled with fear for the next day. I endured threatening phone calls from people I never event met because a man they respected so much was put into jail- and eventually prison. They accused me of buying off the police. I won’t deny that the temptation was there. But, you see, even though this man committed heinous acts, I still believed in a fair trial. Even though he made my life and others’ a living hell and I felt like I never hated anyone more, he was still a person and I needed to remember that. Before the children moved back home to their families, we organized a retreat for them. This was my glass pebble moment. From setting up a learning community for the children to facebag (which I believe is a generational leadershape thing) to action planning for the future, we did what we could to make sure the kids were ready to tell their story as they wanted it to be told. That was unknowingly, a step towards reaching my vision- giving a voice to those who had theirs taken away.

My second story, much briefer, was when I came home from an international development job. The difference in the stories is in Uganda, I stayed and Nicaragua, I chose to leave. I had no problem with the living conditions and in fact, I loved living there. But I felt myself deterioriating on the inside and losing myself little by little. Each day, as I walked to work or did an errand, I would get cat-called. I’d hear kissy noises, unwelcomed nicknames for me and marriage proposals. One day, a man even ran up from behind me and ran his fingers through my hair. I had never felt so disgusted and low in my life. So, even though this job was a goal of mine since I was 16, I came to the realization that I wasn’t that same 16 year old girl and it was no longer a goal of mine, which by the way, is a very frightening thing- to be so sure of your path for so long and then changing it instantly. I worked on my vision so passionately and for so long that I decided that it was now time to work on my inner- self. So, I left. I never felt more empowered than I did when I put in a request to leave. Even though I was coming back to the states with no plan, I knew that this was right for me.  And since then, I’ve thought to myself, “how fascinating.”

Thank you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Towson University recently celebrated its 10 Year Anniversary partnering with LeaderShape to offer the Institute program at their institution. We are excited to highlight some history and personal experiences from administrators, participants, and facilitators in this blog series.

This post is from 2008 Institute graduate Chris "CP" Patterson. CP graduated from Towson University with a bachelor's degree in Sports Management and a minor in Business. He lives in Maryland with his wife Jenna and dog Raegan. He works full-time both as a Startup co-founder for PLayerLeak and as an IT Project Management consultant for the State Department. In his free time, CP can be found weight training, reading a good book, listening to music, watching a good movie, hanging out with friends, traveling, or building up his crazy sneaker collection. CP's current goal is to help build the world's largest sports network.

How did you get involved with LeaderShape?
My supervisor nominated me for LeaderShape’s Institute program during my sophomore year of college. At the time I was a student employee in the admissions office call center, assisting prospective students and their parents with checking on the status of their applications to attend Towson University. Up to that point, I had been a good student and enjoyed the typical college experience, but had mostly just been “going through the motions”. My supervisor thought it would be a great jump-start for me to participate in the Institute. So, I agreed to do it. I’ll always appreciate the fact that she considered me for the program.

What from your experience at the Institute do you still carry with you?
So much. I still carry with me the awesome memories with my family cluster, the fun activities we participated in together, the workshops, and being around other visionaries and motivated students. There were late night card games, board games, and snowball fights during the day; it was a lot of fun. The camaraderie was awesome. I would say you really find out a lot about yourself and, in the process, share that with others, which brings you closer. I formed great bonds with a few of my suite mates with whom I still try and keep in touch. I remember how when we got back to campus from our session, the majority of our family cluster would still get together to just hang out. We were all so used to being together during that week and we had all gotten so close that it was hard NOT to be together at first. So we would pick someone’s place and all meet up to just hang out, watch a movie or just talk about the highlights of the week. It was pretty cool.

It was great to see that a number of the students who attended my session would go on to become more involved and assume leadership positions in and around the University. There would be students who would go on to join SGA, lead Greek organizations, run campus shops or centers, mentor other students, create their own sports clubs, become a key player on their varsity sports team, and build organizations of their own, among other things. You really saw students put into action their plans to reach the goals they set for themselves and  step up to lead and help in shaping the future of TU’s student body. It was an honor to be a part of that.

Tell us about PlayerLeak
PlayerLeak is a player development network that helps athletes get to the next level. The platform allows a player to create a digital profile to help build their sports network, promote themselves, and collaborate with other people in the community to progress.

PlayerLeak has a unique feature called a Sports Map, our collaborative goal setting tool. This is where the player can list out goals they would like to achieve and their coaches, teammates, fans and other connections can offer advice and support to help them along. It’s a great way for athletes to help each other get to the next level, and stay motivated and encouraged in their pursuit of achieving their goals.
We believe that by building a dedicated sport networking community, with a focus on collaboration and goal achievement, that we will help participants increase their opportunities and enjoy an overall enhanced sports experience.

What from your Institute experience has influenced or helped you with this project?
One of the most helpful things from my Institute experience that has helped me with this project, and in life in general, is practicing goal setting. At the Institute, we had binders that we carried with us throughout the week, which we used during our group activities to document and complete exercises. By the time we left the institute, we all listed goals in our binder we would like to achieve as we returned to campus. I was fortunate to have achieved at least two of the major goals I set for myself (starting a club basketball team and joining a fraternity). This simple practice of listing goals and going for them is something I have practiced since my institute experience, and I strongly believe that it has helped me to stay focused and excel in the things that I want to do. From starting this project, to the day to day operations of overseeing the project, to goals for our team to reach together, to where we are now, goal setting has helped increase our chances of succeeding in whatever it is we have set out to accomplish

We believe in goal setting so much that it has become a central theme of PlayerLeak, and the inspiration behind our Sports Map feature. This feature is a collaborative goal-setting tool that allows users to list a sports goal and three steps to achieve this goal (or you can list 3 individual goals). You are able to receive comments, positive encouragement, or advice on your Sports Map and the goals you have set, from your connections.  It also shows you your connections with Sports Map so that you can return the favor and share support or advice. It’s an easy way to get your in-season/off-season goals down and stay motivated toward achieving them, as well as receiving help if needed.

What hopes and goals do you have for PlayerLeak?
The goal for our team is to bring the sports community together in one place to advance the athlete, encourage player development, and increase the chances of opportunity for everyone involved in sports.
  • We also hope to use the platform we have to make a meaningful impact and be involved in giving back to our sports communities in need.
  • We hope to build an environment of collaboration, encouragement, and progress, for players, teams, and coaches worldwide.
  • We hope that someday PlayerLeak will have played a role in an athlete or a team reaching their desired level of success.
  • We hope that our Sports Map feature becomes a helpful goal setting tool for players, teams, and coaches, and will help motivate those who are a part of the community to reach their goals in sports.
  • We also hope that PlayerLeak will become a great outlet for those in sports who have become successful or professionals, to reach back to the community and help guide the next generation toward achieving their goals – by offering feedback to users who have Sports Maps in their area of expertise.
  • We envision positively changing the standard of interaction and communication, and providing, for following generations, access to the world’s largest sports networking platform, to pursue their goals and experience greater enjoyment.
  • We hope that one day, when others begin to think about what they want to achieve or experience in sports, that their next thought is to sign up for PlayerLeak, build their profile, add goals to their Sports Map, and start to build their network to help them on their way. That would be a dream come true for us.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Full Circle

Towson University recently celebrated its 10 Year Anniversary partnering with LeaderShape to offer the Institute at their institution. We are excited to highlight some history and personal experiences from administrators, participants, and facilitators in this blog series.

This post is from Darcy Accardi, the Assistant Director of the Baltimore Collegetown Network, a consortium of 14 colleges and universities in the Baltimore region. She is a graduate of Towson University, where she participated in LeaderShape as a student, and the University of Maryland. Her favorite LeaderShape saying: “Have a healthy disregard for the impossible!”

10 years. It has been a little over 10 years since I went through the Institute program as a junior at Towson University (I’ll date myself!). I had no idea the impact that week would have on me as a person and also in my life’s journey- which continues to be a work in progress!

I was a graduate of the first campus-based LeaderShape Institute at Towson. On campuses where LeaderShape has been around for several years, students are clamoring to be accepted into the program. I didn’t have the experience of previous graduates telling me that the Institute would be a “life-changing experience” or “I can’t explain it, you just have to do it” as so many students hear about the program at Towson today. (This year TU hosted 2 Institutes because the demand is so high!) While I was interested in attending back in 2005, I really was not prepared for the amazing growing, learning, and bonding experience that is the Institute. For me the Institute week planted a seed that would continue to grow over the next several years.

After graduation I worked at Towson University for five years, developing a new Civic Engagement department. During that time I was a LeaderShape cluster facilitator for the Towson campus session and also for the first Baltimore Collegetown LeaderShape Institute. While I worked at Towson in Civic Engagement, I helped draft the proposal for the Baltimore Collegetown LeaderShape program, so it was an honor to be a Cluster Facilitator for the first Collegetown session of the Institute. (Towson University is a member of the 14-campus Baltimore Collegetown network.)

Being a Cluster Facilitator was a powerful experience for me. Helping students identify their passions and visions for a better world is nothing less than inspiring. And it helped me update and refine my own vision, which as of today reads:

“Leadership roles in business, government, and nonprofits throughout the world are evenly split between women and men.”

I currently try to work towards my vision by presenting at leadership conferences for college women and working with students through LeaderShape's Institute program. My plan is to continue to advance my vision in whatever capacity I can through my professional career as well as volunteering. It has become a central part of who I am and how I view my personal mission.

I currently serve as the Assistant Director of the Baltimore Collegetown Network. In this role I have been able to expand my involvement with LeaderShape and became a Co-Lead Facilitator in 2013. This summer I will co-lead my third Baltimore Collegetown LeaderShape Institute - and you know I’m excited about that! My current work with LeaderShape allows me to keep at the front of my mind the values of integrity, humanity, compassion, and hope for the future. I know that for at least six days a year (sometimes 12!) I get to live in possibility, encourage students to find their voice and pursue their passions, and engage in an inclusive community where people can be vulnerable, dream big, and dare to be their best selves.

At every Institute I have been a part of I am blown away by the visions of our students and leave feeling such hope for our communities and the world. I find comfort in knowing there is a large network of people, spread throughout the world, who have shared this experience and know what it means to “have a healthy disregard for the impossible.” From my experience as a participant (oh yes, and on-site coordinator), cluster facilitator and today being able to co-lead, in particular for the institute I played a part in launching, I have taken many gifts and blessings from the Institute experience. I only hope I can adequately pay it forward, although I think the sky is the limit in terms of opportunities to make a difference and give back. The way I see it I have the rest of my life, a big vision, and a whole world out there- at least I won’t get bored!