December 6, 2012

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a staff person or a board member. It doesn’t matter what position you might have on staff or within the board. No matter when or where, you often have the opportunity to lead. And leadership often requires risk.

I received a wonderful email after a workshop for the AFP Capital Area Chapter (Lansing, Michigan – hosted by Michigan State University, my alma mater and the community where I grew up). One of the attendees said: “Thank you for following your heart, speaking truth and being courageous enough to be a leader. Insecurity, complacency and dependence lead to a robotic society…more the norm these days.”

I very much appreciate those words…words to inspire me and challenge me.

What about you? Do you follow your heart? Do you speak truth to power? Do you step out in front, leading with the body of knowledge, challenging the assumptions of your boss and board and colleagues?

What level of risk are you willing and able to take? Sometimes that’s a hard question to answer – but I think we always need to ask it. Risk is hard. Risk is risky. And not everyone is privileged enough to take risk.

Here’s another thought about leadership, gleaned from Stephen King’s book 11/22/63. I very much enjoyed and appreciated it. It’s not one of his scary horror/thriller tales, which I don’t like. But 11/22/63 made me thing and also intrigued me.

At one point the hero tells himself, “Don’t look back, never look back.” He goes on to say, “How often do people tell themselves that after an experience that is exceptionally good (or exceptionally bad)? Often, I suppose. And the advice usually goes unheeded. Humans were built to look back; that’s why we have that swivel joint in our necks.”

I think it’s good to look back, if we learn from the past. But we don’t much seem to do that as humans — just consider Vietnam and then Iraq and Afghanistan. What did we learn?

But sometimes I annoy myself because I look back and agitate myself instead of looking back to learn and change. Sometimes I suspect that I don’t move on quickly enough, looking to the future. How about you?

Leadership means civic participation, too. Voting. Volunteering. Check out these good thoughts by Neil Steinberg, the President and CEO of my community foundation, The Rhode Island Foundation.

Neil reminds us that leading is a civic calling – and a duty for each and every one of us. He talks about information – both factual and inaccurate. (I am so tired of “personal opinion” trumping fact. I am so tired of giving “equal time” to inaccuracies.)

Our democracy needs us. Our democracy needs us to step up to the plate. Our communities need leadership, people working together. Then we can move forward. Then we can make change. Thanks, Neil.

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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