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Initiators Fellowship Leadership Conversation

Leadership: An Ever-Evolving, Transformational Pursuit

National, global civil unrest following the May 25 death of George Floyd demands that we focus on inclusive, transformative leadership

It’s been a tragic, moving, illuminating and motivating couple of weeks. And it’s difficult for someone of privilege like me to know precisely what to say or do. Though it’s clear that the far-reaching calls for justice and inclusion should somehow be incorporated into the work of the Initiators Fellowship program, it’s less clear to know exactly how. Fortunately, our thoughtful, deeply caring and inspired Fellows will help us figure that out.

Even before the May 25 death of George Floyd and the protests that followed, our current cohort of Initiator Fellows was asking for a deeper conversation that was, frankly, only marginally on our agenda. When we began planning this Fellowship programming we, of course, included traditional leadership development training, which, even before the May-June civil unrest, felt like it was not enough. Though the core principles of leadership training are solid (How can anyone argue with the idea that leaders must learn to build trust or inspire confidence to be effective? Or be able to organize people and systems?), the basic tenets simply aren’t comprehensive enough. And, of course, they never were.

From our very first convening, this diverse group of Fellows elevated the conversation to issues of culture, race, inclusion, exclusion, dismissal …  This conversation, at times, got awkward, risky—and even a bit uncomfortable. And that’s good. It’s not enough for these Fellows to simply be effective leaders.

  • They want to be transformative leaders who can help bring about the deep, structural change our communities need.
  • They want to help create places where all are a welcome part of one humanity.
  • They want their home communities to be inclusive and to hear and listen to underrepresented voices before those unheard speak the language of riots(to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King).

And so, while we were already envisioning an Initiators Fellowship more deeply rooted in an inclusive and transformative leadership experience, the need for that work was elevated by the Fellows and their shared desire to do more. It is with great humility—and not a little trepidation—that we move forward with these Fellows to co-create an aspirational agenda that goes beyond socially driven business development—a noble pursuit, to be sure, but one that is simply not enough. In this Fellowship, with its aim to build local leaders in Greater Minnesota, we must reconsider the question: Leadership for what? And we must take its ever-evolving answer and follow it as our guiding star.


 

Chris Fastner is program manager for the Initiators Fellowship. Contact Chris at cfastner@ifound.org or (320) 631-2019