Monday, February 27, 2012

Leadership and Perseverance

Ruth Heffron, Founding Executive Director of The Coastal Community Foundation (1981-1997)

Submitted by Ruth Heffron

The Community Foundation – more a “movement” than an “institution”

Last month I came to the Foundation looking for information and connections for a local nonprofit. George is known for his ability to put people and organizations together. He’s a gatekeeper linking together people and organizations that hold common purpose and vision.

The Foundation has always embraced this type of work in both its internal interactions and its work in and among its communities:

Inventory our talents; put them to work; build relationships around issues of importance to the community; and actively search out new connections.

Throughout its history, the Foundation has been more focused on creating a community philanthropic vision than creating a philanthropic “institution”, more integrative and generative in its operations than hierarchical and scripted. In so doing, it has been able to adapt to changing times while maintaining its core values. This way of doing things developed in the beginning probably out of need – with no money to grant, building relationships and making connections was what we had to offer – but we were quickly schooled as to the importance of these roles.

And, searching for guidance, we found support in the literature about organizational leadership that was beginning to appear first with John Nesbit, Peter Senge and most importantly for me, Margaret Wheatley's Leadership and the New Science.

Wheatley’s book snared me with this quote: “If the physics of our universe is revealing the primacy of relationships, is it any wonder that we are beginning to reconfigure our ideas about management in relational terms?... we can forego the despair created by such common organizational events as change, chaos, information overload, and cyclical behaviors if we recognize that organizations are conscious entities, possessing many of the properties of living systems.” (p.8 and 9). The book takes one on a rapid speedway of the then “new” science of quantum physics, process structures, the invisible geometry and morphogenic nature of Field Theory and how insights from these sciences could help organizations build processes, structures and responsibilities that are fluid and relationships and values that are strong.

It has been 20 years since I first “met” Margaret Wheatley. Her new and 7th book is about Perseverance – a timely topic. Those long years ago, she helped me and the Foundation persevere and thrive - You too can learn from Margaret Wheatley – and in person at The Sophia Institue March 23 -25, 2012 Quite an opportunity! The Institute will provide a free tele seminar introduction to Margaret Wheatley on February 29th from 7 to 8 pm EST.

"Whatever the problem, community is the answer." Margaret Wheatley