The power of leadership

by Jini Stolk

It’s always valuable to look at things from another ‘s perspective, so I was eager to hear about the board experiences of five community leaders from culturally diverse backgrounds, at a DiverseCity Onboard event on March 20. The panelists, whose discussion you can follow here , spoke about the power to create a stronger, more prosperous City by enabling talented and under-represented leaders to emerge.

They also talked about their own motivations and experiences as board members of a variety of non-profit organizations: the privilege of community service; the importance of building relationships; and the satisfaction of using their particular perspectives to create tangible improvements in governance and practice.

Fariba Anderson, who sits on the Seneca College board, said that it’s important to clearly articulate an “opposing view” rather than simply disagreeing. It’s much harder and more effective to speak with confidence, but without anger, in order to capture the interest and respect of others around the table.

The most interesting part of the discussion for me was when Fariba and others talked about the difficulty of finding their own voice on a board, and how hard it can be to break into a longstanding conversation with a perspective that may not already be on the table.  (Although it was different, I once had  the soul-sucking experience of being the token arts person on a board of industry representatives: it wasn’t a happy experience and I never did find my voice.)

The discussion was an important reminder of the value of opening the door to diverse opinions and experiences and of the tremendous intelligence, caring and knowledge we might be missing by not doing so. It also reinforced the need to keep asking ourselves: what purpose do we serve in this community? Or, to put it more simply: in what ways are we changing lives?

Resources and information can be found on the DiverseCity website.

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