Leadership is our most important resource. Leadership is our most significant challenge.
Around the world, leadership capacity remains one of the most important factors influencing human progress. When leaders are effective, when they can work together patiently and peacefully to learn, collaborate and cooperate, even the greatest challenges yield, expanding and opening new pathways to human flourishing. Recent human history vividly illustrates the fruits of effective leadership through humanity’s significant advances in lifespan, healthspan and wellbeing throughout societies on every continent. Effective collaborative leadership within and among organizations continues to create breakthrough advances in a broad spectrum of knowledge and technologies visible in such fields as food systems, healthcare, energy, transportation, education, housing and economic development. Today we can see the fruits of effective leadership in almost every aspect of modern life. Effective leadership is critical to the realization of human potential.
Human flourishing is defined as an effort to achieve equitable and sustainable self-actualization and fulfillment within the context of a larger community of individuals, each with the right to pursue such efforts. It encompasses the uniqueness, dignity, diversity, freedom, happiness, and holistic well-being of the individual within the larger family, community, and population.
Nevertheless, while we understand the importance of leadership to human success, we also must recognize leadership as the most critical factor at work in human failure, especially where the rising tide of progress fails to lift all boats. Failing or incompetent leadership gives rise to humanity’s greatest challenges, including inequality, racism, systemic poverty and deprivation, violent conflict, discriminatory oppression, unsustainable growth, and environmental degradation. These challenges are often self-inflicted wounds that arise from leadership that lacks empathy, moral vision, ethics, systems wisdom, diligence, or sustainable collaborative power. Within communities in crisis, leaders who wield power often do not work for the common good, but instead operate selfishly—and often divisively—for personal, parochial or partisan interests. The rise of such dysfunctional leadership is often associated with the emergence of authoritarian cultures that value hegemony over progress and equality, and which abuse power to benefit those who enjoy undeserved privilege.
“Equitable” means with a specific commitment to racial equity and also broadly in pursuit of fairness, with compassion and empathy for others, taking into account their welfare from their perspective within the context of building a society that promotes liberty and justice for all.
Organizations focused on promoting broad based, equitable and sustainable human flourishing understand the importance of effective leadership development to our shared future. They understand that the work of leadership development entails:
- Increasing leaders’ ability to cooperate and collaborate effectively in addressing humanity’s most important problems and opportunities,
- Improving self-awareness, dialogue, communication and negotiation skills required for effective collaborations,
- Improving interpersonal skills related to teamwork and collaborative creativity,
- Improving systems thinking, design thinking, intelligent study of complex problems, organizational learning, and organizational effectiveness, and
- Developing shared vision and improving cross-disciplinary learning and inter-group cooperation.
Powerful leadership skills in these areas are required for work that is effective, efficient, sustainable and does not give rise to unintended consequences. Leadership development for the common good also flows from a wellspring of shared values. It entails:
- Deepening empathy, integrity, and benevolent motivation,
- Deepening commitment to racial equity and healing, and
- Deepening commitment to ethical actions that promote benevolence, fairness, human freedom and participatory democracy.
Effective collaborative leadership also requires the development of intentional communities of practice within which leaders reinforce their mutual learning so that they can address the complex challenges within systems that continuously change and evolve.
“Sustainable” means with attention and foresight regarding potential unintended consequences that may undermine the social and natural systems that support human life in balance with all life on earth as interconnected communities of living systems evolving into the future.
Today there are too few organizations that concentrate on developing leaders’ individual and collaborative capacities while bridging differences. There are too few organizations that are able to present powerful leadership development opportunities while convening leaders within shared spaces that deepen relationships and build trust, mutual understanding and respect across cultural, national and ideological differences. Lacking such leadership development resources, leaders are less effective, less resilient, and more prone to frustrations, setbacks and mistakes arising from conflict, misunderstandings and burnout.
The Alliance of Leadership Fellows (“ALF”) will promote equitable, sustainable human flourishing through world class programs that promote leadership development and collaboration within relevant domains of practice. ALF will engage both institutional and individual members committed to this broad vision. ALF will help organizations and individuals build knowledge and skills while promoting relationship-building, teamwork and collaborative action within relevant domains of practice. To this end, ALF will develop a “team of teams” approach in which individual graduates of effective leadership development programs (“Leadership Fellows”), along with their sponsoring organizations, share in ALF’s resource development, governance, design and implementation of specific leadership programs. Informed by the interests and capacities of its institutional and individual members, ALF’s leadership development programs will advance the most promising approaches and evidence-based practices designed to increase knowledge and skills that lead to equitable and sustainable flourishing within human communities.
ALF will help individual leaders working for equitable and sustainable human flourishing to become more effective individually and in collaboration with one another. To this end, ALF’s mission will be to:
- Define, maintain and promote ethical standards for collaborative leadership. Ethical principles grounded in benevolence, empathy, integrity and nonviolence will inform these standards.
- Identify and organize specific leadership communities of practice that support team learning and collaboration within domains most important to human flourishing.
- Provide leadership development programs that enhance the knowledge, skills and collaborative efficacy of leaders within these communities of practice.
- Provide leadership development programs that enhance collaboration both within and across (interdisciplinary) communities of practice to address the most difficult substantive challenges that leaders currently face.
- Provide opportunities for fellowship that strengthen relationships across differences, including perceived differences in nationality, culture, religion, race, gender identity/orientation and ideology, especially where such differences may inhibit effective collaborations that promote equitable and sustainable human flourishing.
- Provide opportunities for mentorship and coaching in support of the above activities.
Examples of initial communities of practice include working groups focused on environment, food systems, education, healthcare, housing, economic development, racial equity, and civil society development.