Taking Risks

What leaders do and how they do it is a topic of much discussion around the world and around my dinner table. Leadership theory as well as leadership in action is, one might say, “in my wheelhouse.” A debate about whether or not managers really need to know how to do the jobs of the employees they manage went on for many years in my house. Then this notion of managing vs. leading began to emerge.

It has become popular in organizational development circles to say that managers focus on processes and leaders focus on people. This raises the questions if a manager must be a leader and if leaders need to be good managers. The best case scenario is for leaders to model behaviors that inspire others to deliver results. Of course, accountability and integrity are qualities which managers and leaders share. The ability to build relationships is another. This does not require super-human skill. It does, however, require the willingness to put one’s self out there. In other words, take a risk.

Ten years ago I took a risk. I turned down a promotion and left the best job I’ve ever had to relocate for my husband’s job. It wasn’t long before I became bored. I needed something to do. There was no shortage of unpaid work to occupy my time. Volunteer opportunities soon turned into a passion for community service. So, I decided to take another risk. I went back to school to prepare myself for a leadership role in public affairs. I studied emergency administration and disaster planning. I studied non-profit management and public administration and conflict resolution. I had the opportunity to study abroad and learn prevention and intervention strategies to combat human trafficking. I learned about survivor aftercare. I returned from that experience physically and emotional drained but excited about the prospect of putting my knowledge and skills to work for an organization that needs a champion of customer relationships who can deliver dynamic results.

Now, here’s the biggest risk of all. After months of searching, I have only had one interview. My resume has been reviewed, revised, and has received the digital equivalent of “don’t call us, we’ll call you” so many times that I am beginning to question if all of my risk taking was for nothing. I’m not giving up. On the contrary, I’m reaching out, dear readers of this blog, and asking for your help. Please share this post.

The Better Cover Letter

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A Light In The Darkness

Altruism is the new ambition. What other reason could there be for the deluge of applicants for paid positions in the non-profit sector? Organizations which rely on donations to carry out their mission attract top talent, and for good reason. The profit driven life is drudgery for the individual contributor who toils without purpose under the specter of corporate budget cuts.

Saving the world from itself requires strategic thinkers who get things done. It also takes money, lots of it. This is where a talent search can pay off for the savvy leader who hires me to implement a proven strategy taken straight from a successful playbook. I am an experienced professional who understands that adversity and opportunity are perennial.

The future of a global economy is very much rooted in the past. Global powers are not more connected now than they ever were. It only seems that way because instead of waiting months for an envoy to deliver news, all that’s required today is a tweet.

Funding for a wide range of non-profit missions is extremely competitive. The cost of fundraising, which is criticized by skeptical donors, forces non-profits to work a global economic puzzle without all the pieces. How to do business without funds for the cost of doing business is a challenge that can drive non-profits into the ground.

The current model is unsustainable for organizations operating day-to-day in crisis mode. We don’t need more studies to tell us what we already know. What the NGO world needs now is cooperation, vision, and action to get the mission accomplished.

 

 

Crafting A Message

What is the mark of an effective communicator? This is a question I’ve asked myself a lot lately as I prepare to reenter the job market. To be sure, an effective communicator must be passionate about the message, but how should that passion be relayed to an audience? Certainly not with the belligerence often displayed on social media. Even those schooled in the art of communication sometimes trip over their biases until both feet end up in their mouth. How can the public be expected to make sense of messages delivered with malice? The answer may be as simple as – we are not expected to understand them at all. Instead the intent is to provoke a response so ignorant, so violent that messages are exchanged until only their damage remains.

These last few weeks I have done a great deal of research into leadership opportunities as I decide what’s next for me, and this is what I think – in the wake of recent bloodshed at home and abroad, there is an urgent need for a coherent message that will unite those of us who desire to live in peace. In my reading, I came across these words:

We live in age disturbed, confused, bewildered, afraid of its own forces, in search not merely of its road but even of its direction. There are many voices of counsel, but few voices of vision; there is much excitement and feverish activity, but little concert of thoughtful purpose. We are distressed by our own ungoverned, undirected energies and do many things, but nothing long. It is our duty to find ourselves.

This message is as relevant today as it was in 1907, when it was included in an address given at Princeton University by Woodrow Wilson. It does not surprise me that we have made little progress in effectively communicating the message that we are all in this together, because there are many people committed to creating divisions that serve their own agenda. This is effortless for those who live for the sound bite. Abraham Lincoln said in his speech at the Republican State Convention in 1858, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” How’s that for a sound bite?

There will always be those whose goal it is to spin thoughtful remarks into a puddle of blather. It occurs to me that my quoting Lincoln paraphrasing Jesus might be contorted into some insensitive religious commentary on the uncivil war currently underway in the United States. To rise above it I think Rudyard Kipling said it best when he counseled, “…If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,…” I take comfort in knowing I have the courage of my convictions. Plus, we don’t have knaves in the U.S. We do, however, have our fair share of fools.

I obviously have too much time on my hands.

The Bounds of Reason and Humanity

What is the value of a human life? Is it priceless or can personhood be quantified in mere dollars and cents? According to the International Labor Organization, the current market price for a human hovers around ninety U.S. dollars. What is the value of human dignity then? Does dignity have worth beyond measure or is there a sliding scale based on geography?

As far as I have been able to ascertain, there is no estimated market value for a person’s dignity. I wonder why that is when there are advocates doing battle on all fronts in the name of the right to life. If all lives matter, surely lives deprived of dignity merit some rallying cry, some social media campaign, some public demand for action, or at the very least, a ribbon.

In my search for some reason as to why there seems to be no value ascribed to human dignity, I made a disturbing discovery. It turns out that slaves are in high demand, and it’s a buyer’s market. That’s right, the buying and selling of humans globally generates billions of dollars annually. What makes this business so lucrative? The answer is not complex. Ready? Buyers for the large inventory of disposable people drive more than one segment of our global economy. To be certain, slavery is in the supply chain of many goods traded legally around the world. Cocoa, harvested by children on Africa’s Ivory Coast, for instance, fills the shelves of our supermarkets. This documentary tells the story.

In addition, sexual exploitation accounts for more than half of the humans being bought and sold worldwide. People who buy children for sex, referred to innocuously as Johns, strip the human dignity from their victims and cast it aside as if it were trash, without threat of prosecution. This documentary tells that story.

Reason tells us we should be collectively outraged by the knowledge that in 2016 people are being sold into slavery. Reason tells us that there are no innocent bystanders, because we cannot unknow the truth of vulnerable populations living in every state, every country, every place there is poverty and corruption. Survivors’ stories should compel us to rise up against this assault on human dignity. Unless, of course, we do not value human dignity.

We do, don’t we?

If you believe there is value in human dignity, show someone that their life matters. Volunteer, talk to your neighbors, vote, help someone learn to read and write, get involved in your community, contact your local, state, or federal representatives, listen to someone who needs compassion. Check out these sites to find out how you can prevent human trafficking.

The study abroad experience gave us an opportunity to learn about Eastern Europe’s response to human trafficking. What we do with that knowledge now is in our hands.

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Reposted from DFST Study Abroad 2016 – Romania Blog by Stephanie Briggs.