Building a Leadership Practice: Competencies for Switzer Fellows

Posted by Lissa Widoff on Wednesday, December 4 2013


Lissa Widoff

The Switzer Foundation has been identifying environmental leaders for over 25 years and fostering shared learning on leadership topics as well as pressing environmental issues. Beginning with the Switzer Fellowship class of 2014, we will be bringing new leadership practices and trainers into our annual programming. As I reflect on our experience over the last 10 years, I can see how the leadership competencies we have outlined for Fellows still ring true, despite rapid changes in our environmental and political systems.  

These competencies include command of sustainability principles,systems thinking,awareness of the global context of environmental concerns,  and particular skills like negotiation, collaborative leadership, understanding power dynamics, crossing difference (be it cultural, racial or sectoral), communication and self-awareness. All of these threads are woven through our programs, guidelines, trainings and vision. In coming months, I will be writing about each of these, and offering external resources for Fellows to pursue training and experience and also invitations to new offerings, beginning this spring with a pairing of two trainings on Storytelling and Leadership in a Networked world.

To kick off a dialogue among Fellows and colleagues about how we frame and view leadership, let's start with a question about our own leadership practice, from a personal perspective. In other words, how do you manage yourself, to be most effective?  As an example, I find that time management and juggling priorities with colleagues are two things I have done well. The two parts of this for me are “inner” and “outer”. The inner work is making sure I get enough rest, above all else. It consistently helps me keep a clear mind, and in the mornings, I usually go for a walk or do yoga, or go to the gym to get centered in my body and stir energy for the day.  I am far more productive this way than staying up too late and experiencing diminishing returns for my energy. The outer work seems simple, but I realize that it is a discipline I learned. I am constantly making lists, but regularly check in with colleagues about their priorities as well as mine so we remain aligned. It is easy to stay only focused on our own needs, but for our individual success and collaborative work, we need to know that our actions and priorities are moving in the same direction.  It can help us make adjustments well before a crisis mode.   Fortunately, we have an office of list-makers!

What is your most helpful personal leadership practice? How do you maintain your own energy, focus and inspiration in your work?  Please share your thoughts and comments below!

Here are some useful links that include some aspect of increasing your self-awareness or "personal ecology" in terms of how you manage your own energy, focus and inspiration. Share others you know of.

Rockwood Leadership Institute - especially Art of Leadership training. 

Institute for Conservation Leadership - Leading from Within

Leadership in the 21st Century

Competencies for Environmental Leadership

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Thanks for this great sharing

Thanks for this great sharing and invitation. I've been watching the many roles I hold in life (scientist, environmental educator, mother, coach, etc) and their association with being a "leader." Quite consistently I remain impressed with two things. First -- how often the strongest leadership I provide is simply in creating avenues for others to lead. I am so impressed with the impact of watching another feel empowered by their own capacity, or simpy finding their capacity! And very importantly - when things do not go so well or as planned - the enormous value of letting one personally come to realize it didn't quite work and why, long before I might say anything or provide my own feedback. As a mother, who is often focused on getting from A to B through my clear instruction, it can be a challenge to find the level of patience to let others create, act on, and later reflect on their course of action. Yet how amazing to watch another step in to their power, and find their own way and style.This leads me to my second reflection on leadership. My own personal leadership capacity is quite connected to tapping into the source of what really matters to me -- whether a topic i care deeply about, a skill that feels like my own unique offering to the universe, or the opportunity for personal and planetary healing. The particulars of what "matters" may change as i go through life, yet bringing forward own unique signature on this planet has an amazing positive feedback loop with my leadership.

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