In a world of complexity, with interconnected social issues affecting each other, how do we effectively lead for change?
Even for the most humanitarian amongst us, it is difficult to care about all causes equally. We see movements such as Black Lives Matter countered with All Lives Matter. Divisiveness is justified through fear of our communities being overrun by the burden of baggage immigrants bring with them. All the while, war and poverty ravage our global community, as we see in Syria, Yemen, and Myanmar amongst others. Even the fight for gender equality faces conflict, for example with transgender women feeling excluded from feminist movements. We might not even get the opportunity to resolve all of these issues, as the UN declares we only have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe. Meanwhile, there are people who claim climate change isn't real.
While many of us care about humanity, we don't know how to balance caring for everything with effectively changing something. This is especially true of leaders sitting at the helm of organizations mandated to bring about social justice and change. To add to this, nonprofits and foundations are competing for the same pool of resources from donors and private contributions, making it difficult to address social justice broadly without risk of losing support and resources for their own cause.
We spoke to participants from the social sector in the upcoming Class 15 of the Executive Leadership Program to get an inside look at the type of leadership needed to create change in these complex times. They emphasized three critical elements to effect social justice: systems thinking, authentic leadership, and diversity and innovation.