It is not easy for leaders in any industry to take time away from their work to focus on their own leadership skills—and it seems especially hard in the social purpose sector, where we tackle complex social problems that often feel unrelenting, and resources for training are scarce.
That’s in part why the second American Express Leadership Academy Global Alumni Summit—which took place on April 4 and 5 in New York City—was so special. Fifty Academy alumni from around the world joined leadership from all 10 of the Academy partners for two days of continued leadership development. The event also offered an opportunity for leaders to come together and strengthen the growing alumni network.
The Alumni Summit opened with a Livestream discussion, "A Candid Conversation on How Effective Leaders Manage Challenging Times," featuring Shawn Dove, CEO of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, and Tammy Tibbetts, Founder & President of She's the First. Dove and Tibbetts lead efforts to counter inequality in the U.S. and globally, respectively. In the discussion, both reflected on their personal leadership journeys and shared what led them to start social change organizations. They acknowledged the complex realities that today’s nonprofit and social enterprise leaders contend with, and offered ideas for achieving impact despite the challenges.
On the second day, alumni attended workshops on storytelling and social media and an informative workshop on Cultural Intelligence, facilitated by Common Purpose’s Alison Coburn and featuring Julia Middleton’s work on the subject. There were also peer-to-peer sessions, during which Alumni helped lead conversations on issues such as building your personal brand, moving into executive leadership, and managing staff.
A senior LinkedIn staff member held a workshop on the Power of Networks. It was full of advice and ideas for boosting your visibility and impact on LinkedIn and other platforms.
After that session, Jessie Bustamante, West Coast Director of Institutional Advancement, Moishe House, said: "I have already begun checking LinkedIn more to see if there are any updates, and what conversations I can engage with. I plan to add all of my fellow Academy members on social media and start individual conversations to see how we can support one another."
Personally, it was my first experience with such a summit, and I found it inspiring and informative. I met emerging leaders and innovative social changemakers from around the world. Their passion about their missions – which range from education and health to the environment, spirituality, arts and technology—and the seriousness with which they approach leadership development, really moved me.
I wasn’t alone. Here are just a few reactions that I heard from participants:
“I made multiple connections with other individuals working in arts and culture and fundraising who were great sounding boards. I also met several individuals who will be passing through London in future who I will meet with. Also great to meet others from London who I have not connected with previously."
- Michael Linington, Head of Major Gifts, Victoria & Albert Museum, UK
"The opportunity to share experiences with those of like minds and from across the globe is a treasure. Conversations at dinner and after dinner at the hotel lounge were very impactful and encouraging."
- Tray Deadwyler, Director of Social Innovation, Think for Good
“It's important for us to explore issues we have or may have in the future with each other.”
- Naomi Pagon-Figueroa, Director of Programs, Young Audiences of Western New York
“The Alumni Summit truly was a rare opportunity to contribute to the formation of how alumni and various other leaders and partner agencies, from more than 70 leadership academies in nine countries, might maintain working relationships, share resources and collaborate on community solutions, well beyond their participation in and completion of their respective programs.” - Brigitte Dayton, Vice President of Operations, Catholic Community Foundation. (Read Brigitte’s blog post.)
Taking time out of their schedules and traveling to New York was not easy for any of these busy leaders. Throughout this event, I was reminded of the Henry Ford quote:
"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success."
Here’s to continued success!