Thursday, December 18, 2014

LEI Reading List

Last week a couple of our staff members were able to participate in the 2014 Leadership Educators Institute in Fort Worth, Texas. It was a great opportunity to re-connect with friends and colleagues and to meet new folks with who are also committed to leadership. We left the program with our minds buzzing from what we learned and from the meaningful conversations in which we were able to engage. We also left with a reading (and re-reading) list to tackle. Here is a sample of the books that were recommended at LEI.

Have you read any of this books? If so, what did you think of the book? Which would you recommend to friends and colleagues? Is there one that you are planning to read yourself? Let us know in the comments below.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

#Day 7: How Do We Begin?

The world is struggling. We are struggling. Sometimes it is difficult to know just what to do amidst such turmoil. Where do we start? How do we begin?

Inner Work
What if each of us committed to the ongoing exploration of self, asking ourselves questions such as, “What do I believe? Why do I believe that?” and “What are my core values? Do I live those out in my decisions and actions?” and “Who do I want to be? How am I becoming that person?”

What if we all created spaces that welcomed the authentic sharing of oneself along with the commitment to listen to the stories and perspectives of others with curiosity rather than judgment?

What if?

We think we know what might happen.
We might be more deeply aware of our own beliefs.
We might become more attentive to the impact we have on others.
We might be more open to what other folks have to contribute to the conversation.
We might listen with unguarded hearts.
We might be transformed.

We believe in the power of inner work and dialogue to transform us as individuals and as communities. With enough people doing their own work and engaging in meaningful, vulnerable, brave conversations we can change our communities. We can create a just, caring, and thriving world. It can start with one such conversation, followed by another, and followed by yet another.

What kind of inner-work are you doing? How do you create space for transparent conversations? We hope you’ll tell us in the comments section.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

LeaderShapers in Action: Brāv

Last week we had the opportunity to have a phone conversation with Remi Alli, a LeaderShape graduate from the University of Michigan. After learning about her project and current goal of being included on the Global Giving website, we were eager to share her story.

Hi Leaders!

My name is Remi Alli and along with my JD, I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Health Law and Policy. I am also a proud LeaderShape alum, having attended first as a participant and later as a facilitator, during my years at the University of Michigan.

LeaderShape really helped to confirm the notion of remaining calm under all kinds of pressure – we focused on controlling our emotions and remaining objective. Instead of feeling painfully embarrassed and causing unnecessary attention upon arriving late at a meeting, for example, another alum suggested that we could simply enter the room gracefully, without much ado, all while thinking, “how fascinating,” to calm ourselves. While at LeaderShape, I also remember watching MLK’s notorious speech and being reminded that at the time he spoke he was virtually unknown, yet had the ability to remain level and powerful throughout. Why not bring the notion of keeping cool to all areas of life?

Normalizing this concept has been my primary objective since participating in LeaderShape. My organization, Brāv, uses an online platform to train anyone in conflict resolution and management. In turn, these trained Brāv Ones aid in the conflicts of others on our site's face-to-face platforms. The video on our homepage even aired on TV in September - tell me what you think!

People in dispute have the opportunity to resolve issues with a neutral person trained on the Brāv site. Simple. believes that negotiation is a skill that is highly successful in resolving various issues in places like work, school and even sports, and we are eager for everyone to have access to education and support in the area of successful conflict resolution.

We currently seek help with our December Challenge - where if we get at least 40 different donors to give a total of $5000.00, we earn a permanent spot on the Global Giving site! With these proceeds, we will be able to fully develop our platform.

Conflict resolution resonates well with those who have experienced conflicts and resulting trauma. Please find the website, donate to ensure a fellow LeaderShape alum wins, and forward to all of your contacts – personal and professional:

You can contact me at any time at

Thank you so much and remain leaders!

Friday, November 28, 2014

November Book Review: Finding the Space to Lead

I went on a personal retreat of sorts back around Labor Day and the effects have worn off. Ugh.

It was one of the most inspiring, pensive, and soul searching experiences I have had, which is sad because it was only going away for a few days with the intention of being quiet and thinking. Sad because I had to go away to do that and sad that it took mountains, blue skies, and solitude to make it happen. Sad because it's the first time I have ever gone away on my own. Sad because I so wanted to stay and be a hermit (if only I could have my kids too…they really are cute and fun).

Anyway, the effects have worn off. Yep, gone. I was writing in a journal all day, taking deep breaths, not checking my phone, eating well, sleeping long, working out like those crazy cross fit folks. Not so much now. Get me a cheeseburger and hold the veggies. I have a sneaky suspicion that I am not alone. 

One of our biggest challenges is to find the space to be mindful and pay attention to what is actually going on in front of us without having to spend all the money to find some remote mountain top to do so. I've been following Janice Marturano on Twitter for some time now and really resonate with her thoughts on this subject especially as it resonates around leadership. How do leaders find the space to be mindful? When so much needs to be done, when time is going by faster and faster (how is it Thanksgiving already!), when technology seems to be adding to it instead of helping it, what are we to do?

I recommend you read Janice's book, Finding the Space to Lead, and I recommend you do one thing to help if you remotely feel the same. Take a walk over the holidays. Take a couple of them. Put on the big coat that isn't fashionable and get outside. Janice spends a whole chapter talking about doing just this. I'm not talking about a power walk, I'm talking about a "I've got no place to be any time soon" sort of walk. The holidays can be hectic and the urge to phone it in until January 2nd is strong.  

I also recommend you build an Adirondack chair. OK, maybe buy it. Then place it outside and sit in it. Leave the phone inside. Sit until your butt goes numb and let the mind unwind. A glass of wine has helped me, but it could be cup of tea as well. I've got to get back to that "mountain top" some way. I guess recognizing the problem is the first step, huh? 

In fact, I'm sure it is. Wishing you a mindful holiday season. You will be a better leader for it. You will be a better person for it. 

Now where is that journal of mine…


Monday, November 24, 2014

Thank You Notes

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
William A. Ward

We believe, as many of you do, in the power of gratitude. A sincere and hearty “thanks” is good for those giving it and for those receiving it. At LeaderShape, we encourage this practice in different ways, one of which is during the national sessions of The LeaderShape Institute. We ask each participant to write a note of appreciation that also shares a bit about his or her experience at the Institute to a program donor.

This summer something different happened.

Each LeaderShape staff member received a note of gratitude from a participant from Florida State University’s session of the Institute. Beautiful, thoughtful, handwritten notes from LeaderShape graduates. Talk about a good mail day! These letters were a terrific reminder of the power of the program and of the work that we and the rest of our community is committed to. It is the people and their work that helps make it possible for participants like the ones who wrote to us from FSU, to engage and be challenged and learn and teach and grow during the six days of The LeaderShape Institute.

In the US it is the season of Thanksgiving. We so appreciate the kind words that were shared by Tatiana, Edwin, Marie-Claire, Caylin, and Kristin from FSU. We are also unbelievably thankful for the opportunity to do the work that we do with such wonderful and talented people.

We hope that you take a moment to share a bit of appreciation with someone who has helped you in some way, whether it has been through participation in a LeaderShape program, with your academic or professional endeavors, or in a matter that is personal in nature. Give thanks. Be generous with gratitude. And not just when there is a holiday focusing on it, but all year long.

Friday, November 7, 2014

#Day7: Lifelong Learning

We recently received an email from a 2010 LeaderShape Institute graduate. She was reaching out because she hadn’t written a thank you letter to a donor who helped provide a discount for her fee to attend the program and wondered if she could still send it along.

We don’t often get emails like this so it was a bit of a surprise. We either get the thank you letter shortly after the Institute or we don’t get it at all. This letter was going to be different and we were all curious and eager to read what it would say.

The opening line of the letter reads, “It has been about four years since I attended The LeaderShape Institute back in August of 2010. Although this letter is very long overdue, I feel that now, years later, I can truly express how this program benefited me.”

These words are a terrific demonstration of how the processes of learning, meaning-making, and sharing can continue beyond an actual experience. LeaderShape talks a lot about the importance of being a life-long learner. Often times this sentiment is talked about in the spirit of current, active learning.

Perhaps the concept of being a life-long learner can also represent being open to learning from past experiences as well.

Our perspectives change (and maybe even evolve or expand) as we are exposed to new people, ideas, and circumstances. As we move further away from an experience, our take on it may change as well. This shift can open up new or deeper lessons. It can expand how we view what we thought, how we behaved, and what we learned last week, last month, or, in this instance, years ago. We can continue to learn from something, even years later.

When we think about #Day7 - about staying in action even after the Institute has ended - a part of it is about this commitment to lifelong learning. 

Lifelong learning - from the past and in the present. We are onboard with this.

How are continuing to learn from experiences you’ve had in the past? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Friday, October 31, 2014

October Book Review: Essentialism

I have too much stuff. 

Too much physical stuff that I will never use or that I can't get myself to throw away because I just know I will need it some day. Yeah, right. Probably the "stuff" that I notice the most these days is the mental stuff. The things I am not doing, need to do, want to do, and my daughter's favorite songs from the Disney Channel that I can't get out of my head. 

Like many people these days, I am noticing more and more the movement towards having less or really needing what you have. A good friend of mine, Jeffrey Cufaude, recommended a book to me recently that he wished he would have written (he could have) and that I completely resonated with…Essentialism by Greg McKeown. The cover tells you all you need to know about the inside of the book. Look at it and you will understand. The subtitle is "the discipline pursuit of less" and we can all agree that discipline is in fact what is needed to get to what really matters in our lives.

McKeown focuses on four main concepts: Essence, Explore, Eliminate, and Execute with additional concepts to flush out his points within each. I have always resonated with the power of choice and speak often about that in my role at LeaderShape and to others as the most important power we have…to choose the meaning we give to events in our lives and to know that we ALWAYS have that power. The meaning people give to our lives, the meaning stuff gives to our lives, and the meaning of the interpretations of what occurs in our lives.  I will highlight one other concept which caught my eye as LeaderShaper…uncommit. We speak at LeaderShape about making commitments and being a person of integrity, but not much about uncommitting from the things in our lives that create chaos and lack of clarity. Uncommiting is probably just as important to committing when you think about it, right? What are those things that we really should not be engaged with that sap us of energy and time? 

I may not stop watching the Blacklist on Monday nights, but at least I am thinking of what decisions I am making in my life. What is essential and what distracts me from my vision and who I want to be. One of our Co-Lead Facilitators, Kristin Skarie, went a year without buying ANYTHING new. Bet she found out what is essential in her life, huh? 

What is essential to you? What is practicing essentialism? Pick up the book and see how it might influence the choices you make every day. I think it will make you a better leader, a better decision maker, and a better person. 


Monday, October 27, 2014

Getting to Know LeaderShape's Program Coordinators

At the beginning of this month, we spent two days with LeaderShape Institute Program Coordinators. We have this meeting each year with these valuable people who partner with LeaderShape to provide the Institute experience to a particular campus, organization, or consortium. The Program Coordinator, or PC as we refer to them, manages the program logistics, recruits participants, facilitators, and guests, and is a top advocate for the program. It’s an exceptionally important role that helps LeaderShape to provide the Institute experience to students all across the country and internationally. 

We interact with the PCs on an on-going basis and want the rest of the LeaderShape community to learn more about this remarkable group and their work with us. We hope you enjoy getting a look at their connection to and work with LeaderShape through their responses to some questions that we posed.

Q: What was your first experience with LeaderShape

Livy K: Student participant, summer 2003

Sonja A: Cluster Facilitator at a national session in 2008

Ashleigh B: Cluster Facilitator at Boise State’s inaugural session of The LeaderShape Institute in 2009

Nadia C: In 2011 a student shared her experience after returning from a session

Waylon H: Attending Program Coordinator Training as the PC for Texas A&M University

Dawn M: Cluster Facilitator

Q: What do you like most about serving as a Program Coordinator?

Katie B: Leading a team of staff and students across South Florida that care deeply about their students and about making a lasting difference in their lives. Also, promoting a curriculum that I trust wholeheartedly is one of my favorite parts of this role.

Livy K: I get to set up the amazing transformational experience for new people to enter the LeaderShape family.

Sonja A: I value being able to provide students with an opportunity to have an experience that will give them intentional time to reflect on themselves and their life's path. I also value opening the LeaderShape community to my colleagues who serve as faculty for the Institute.

Ashleigh B: The role allows me to connect with my strengths with an experience that is powerful for students. I also love the opportunity to learn from other practitioners through PC Training and the Co-Leads during the week.

Q: What are people most surprised about when they participate in The LeaderShape Institute?

Dawn M: Our participants always describe how surprised they were that they were able to connect so deeply to their family cluster. Personal sharing is modeled as a part of the process, and a safe yet challenging environment is created to do so productively.

Waylon H: I think people are most surprised by how deep conversations can get and how close to home some of the activities hit students.

Katie B: Participants and faculty seem to be the most surprised that no matter how many other leadership training opportunities they have had, they leave LeaderShape more “rocked”, changed, moved, and seemingly energized to follow through on their vision.

Ashleigh B: That’s it is not all “kumbayah” around the camp fire. They are challenged in ways they never expected and make meaningful connections to other students who seem very different from them.

Sonja A: The community and relationships that are built in such a short time frame.

Livy K: The Cluster Facilitators always think that they are just donating their time for students to grow, but they personally benefit from the personal reflection and professional development provided by their staff role.

Q: What would you say to someone to encourage them to attend The LeaderShape Institute?

Nadia C: The LeaderShape experience gives you direction. If you haven’t put much thought towards how you’d make your mark on the world, LeaderShape encourages and challenges you to do so. You also learn how to become a more effective leader in your own right. From personal feedback to group discussions on hot topic issues, LeaderShape covers it all.

Dawn M: The LeaderShape curriculum will challenge you to think critically about the things you are most passionate about, while empowering and preparing you to take action – even if it seems like the impact will be small, it’s all about the ripple effect!

Livy K: This is an invaluable opportunity to step back and reflect on where you come from, strengths that you have to offer, what you want to devote your time to, how to find partners for positive change, and how each individual can impact the world in amazing ways. Take the plunge and enter a close-knit community of motivated people looking to improve the world, one day at a time.

Ashleigh B: Just do it. If you don’t think you are a leader, do it. If you think you ARE a leader, do it. If you are afraid to do it, do it. If you are unsure, do it. Just do it.

Q: What is your hope for participants when they attend The LeaderShape Institute?

Sonja A: I hope they learn something new about themselves, form a relationship with someone who they would not have in the past, and learn a process of visioning and goal setting that they can apply to multiple facets of their life.

Waylon H: My highest hope for participants is that they learn something new about themselves. Through critical thought and reflection I hope participants really think about the world they want and why they want it. I hope they invest in the experience, engage in discussion, and listen intently.

Nadia C: That they leave changed for the better; encouraged and motivated. And that they realize that they don’t have to be Oprah or Gandhi to make their mark on the world.

Katie B: That they leave on fire for the vision of LeaderShape, specifically, an understanding and passion for leading with a healthy disregard for the impossible. A belief in possibility.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Collaboration: a #Day7 post

The action of working with someone to produce or create something

The LeaderShape staff is in Chicago for Program Coordinator Training this week and one of the recurring themes for our time together is collaboration. And although we are considering the idea of collaboration in relation to planning The LeaderShape Institute, it certainly applies to many situations we encounter throughout life.

When thinking about the passions and visions that LeaderShapers want to pursue, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with inspiration and by the amount of dedication it takes to reach the end goal. There’s also the work part of it, too. Any of us could feel, at times, overwhelmed with all that is involved when striving to reach our goals, to pursue our passions, and to make an impact on our communities.

Here’s the thing though. We aren’t alone.

We do not have to carry the burden and joys of this work alone. We can connect with other people to create something extraordinary. We can collaborate.

What is the next goal you have ahead of you? Is there more you need to learn to move forward? Are their talents beyond your own skill set that could contribute to reaching these goals? Who do you know (or who can get to know) who shares a commitment to the same passions and can energize and help drive

There is more beyond knowing what work is to be done and determining who can join us in our efforts. It’s important to be intentional about putting the tenets of collaboration to work.

As the LeaderShape staff continues to expand our own knowledge and practices around collaboration, we have come across so many resources to inform our work. Below are just a few that might also support you as you connect with others to work towards common goals with success.

Do you have any resources to add? If so, please share them in the comments.