How can social entrepreneurs be more effective as change leaders in their communities?
Robert Egger, founder and president of LA Kitchen, recently spoke at a Claremont Lincoln University event and provided practical tips for those who want to make a positive change in the world. He is a respected expert on social entrepreneurship and the author of Begging for Change: The Dollars and Sense of Making NonProfits Responsive Efficient, and Rewarding for All
We’ve taken a few excerpts from his 2017 presentation at Claremont Lincoln University’s Exchange and added some additional resources. The result is these five tips for social entrepreneurs and change leaders. Watch the video clips for some inspiring thoughts and then read the commentary and click the resources to become a more effective change leader in your own community.
How might you apply these skills and concepts today?
Tip #1 – Learn to meet people where they are, especially when they disagree with you.
Robert makes a tremendous observation here on people – most of them really do want good things. So, what gets in the way? In a word – Fear.
This is so true for those of us who want to practice effective dialogue. True dialogue occurs where there are different points of view in the room. And, if we assume that those who want something different are “bad” or a “threat,” then of course we won’t want to hear their point of view. Instead, we will approach the conversation in our own state of fear – and when our fight or flight responses are engaged, we won’t be open to the creative work that needs to happen when we address complex issues.
So how do we avoid this trap? When we start to feel threatened during a conversation, one way is to take a breath, re-engage the analytical part of our brains, and focus on where we have common interests with the other people in the room. Then we can build something together.
For more on dialogue and fear, be sure to listen to “In Times Like These” where Stephanie Vernon Hughes and Kendra Fredrickson Laouini address how our sense of safety impacts dialogue.
Tip #2 – Beware the easy trap of mission drift.
Mindful self-awareness is key for leaders in any field, and especially for those who are in values-driven settings. Because mission drift happens easily for both individuals and organizations, leaders must develop feedback loops with trusted sources. In other words, leaders not only need to be able to give feedback; leaders must be able to receive feedback. For more on the skill of giving feedback, see “Here’s How Leaders Can Give Feedback that Works.”
So where can we get that feedback? An easy place to start is with the humility to receive observations from others, as well as a gut-check when we start to deviate from our own core values. For more on mindfulness and mission drift, see “How Can You Lean Your ‘Success Ladder’ Against the Right Wall?”
Tip #3 – Sometimes in order to grow, you have to “unlearn.”
Which is more important for you – the need to be “right” or the importance of “growth.” In order to truly grow, we must be able to admit when we are wrong and be willing to “unlearn” the assumptions that get in our way.
Robert’s comments about the need to “unlearn” as a leader demonstrate what Carol Dweck would call a “growth mindset.” That mindset is open to experiencing change and willing to challenge assumptions. Dweck’s popular TED talk on the topic is a classic, having had over 7 million views. Another resource to help you with your growth mindset is her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In it, she provides insights on the growth mindset for organization leaders as well as specific applications for parents, teachers, and coaches.
Tip #4 – Know and build on your strengths.
Once again, Robert Egger returns to the issue of self-knowledge. Self-awareness is a first step in leadership development, and it is at the heart of authentic leadership. Part of authentic leadership includes knowing your strengths and how to build on them. A great way to start assessing your strengths is with Gallup’s strengthsfinder assessment. Gallup’s assessment has been out for several years and continues to be popular. Gallup also identified four domains of leadership. Leadership practitioners need to know which domains are weak for themselves, and then build productive relationships with those who have strengths in these domains.
Another helpful model for building on strengths is “Appreciative Inquiry.” This four minute video will help you understand what it is and how it is different from typical problem solving methods.
Tip #5 – Find your process or you will burn out.
Robert’s advice here is about finding the process that helps you daily engage in the struggles of leadership. And, his warning about burnout and “find your process,” highlights another great truth for leaders – Your process must include other people. To adapt a phrase from a Barry Posner’s TED talk, “You Can Make a Difference, But You Can’t Do It Alone.” Leadership is not a solo sport – you need advocates and allies. Because social entrepreneurs are fully committed to difficult causes, they can risk burnout. Often the needs we address are never fully met. Because of that stress, those who take a “servant leadership” mindset need to make sure they don’t make “The Most Costly Mistake You Can Make as a Servant Leader.”
Want more? You can watch the entirety of Robert Egger’s presentation for Claremont Lincoln University.