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Author Paul Shoemaker: Leading Change

Posted by execdirect

By Jane Beck

SVPSA welcomed author Paul Shoemaker to discuss his new book, Taking Charge of Change. He shares his perspectives on initiating change and what success looks like in a nonprofit organization as we continue in this new decade amidst the pandemic.

Shoemaker identifies several traits that nonprofit leaders should focus on. He also discusses ongoing issues caused by the pandemic, and challenges that existed long before 2020. He touches on how leaders must continue to drive change in their companies in order to see a better, more equitable America. The zoom event features CEO of Mission Capital, Madge Vasquez. She shares her perspective and experience from her career, gives advice to young people beginning careers in nonprofits, and gives tips on how to lead courageously and compassionately.

Past Year: Coronavirus Pandemic

Shoemaker touches on the past year:

“During 2020, there were weeks where things slowed down or were brought to halt in ways that we haven’t seen in decades,” he said. “There were other weeks in 2020 that things accelerated in ways that were never believed possible. (For example) In less than a year, we are putting vaccines in people’s arms, which is incredible.”

We still are considering some of the impacts. Shoemaker pointed out “there has been a lack of direct human connection and contact, and we still don’t know the ramifications of.”

Complex America and the Increase of Inequality

Shoemaker recognized the acceleration of inequity did not just begin in 2020, but is a long unaddressed problem.

“Coming out of WWII, for about 50 years, we had a steady climb of progress in economic, social and health quality in America,” Shoemaker said. “Most levels grew economically in an equal way.”

“In the last 25 years however, we have been going backwards,” he said. “Inequality has been back on the increase. It’s actually hard to understand the breath and the scale of it, until you step back and look at it.”

Shoemaker states that, “inequity is just one part of the American challenge in the decade ahead where America is siloed and divided.” We are partly to blame. “There is a growing technology divide, and a hyper media that loves to remind of those divisions and silos in our society,” Shoemaker said.  

On Leadership

In his book, Shoemaker identifies “24/7 authenticity” as one of the most important traits for a leader in the midst of change. He discusses the importance of strong, trustworthy leaders as we move forward in this difficult decade.

“We need leaders that are tuned to the times we are living in, and the decade we’re moving into,” Shoemaker said. He defines what it means to be a truly authentic leader.

“Leaders with 24/7 authenticity are people that know they need to be authentic before they have to be authentic,” Shoemaker said. “The number one asset these folks possess is trust.” He continues, “we must have authentic leaders in order to see change.”

Public, Private and Nonprofit Must Come Together

The second most important trait Shoemaker sees is “cross-sector fluency.” In order to see change he elaborates that the three sectors: Private, Public, and Nonprofits must come together.

“Our challenges are clearly not going to be addressed one sector at a time, it’s going to take all three sectors working together,” Shoemaker said. “Just look at 2020 and how so many different people and different companies stepped up in so many ways we have never seen before.”

“No longer is cross-sector fluency nice to have or a want to have, it’s a must have in our leaders,” Shoemaker explains. “This leader is also the person who provides the glue, because they have the experience and the holistic view across all those sectors, and they can bring the players and the leaders together.”

He explains that a generation ago, people lived in their sector silos and just watched out for each other, but that is no longer the case.

“Today, if a private sector company wants to be successful, they have to be aware and they have to navigate the public and non-profit sector and community issues around them,” Shoemaker explained.

He remarked that cross-sector fluency in leadership is the most learnable. He says you can learn to become a cross-sector leader, although it is not easy.

Going Forward and Rebuilding America

Shoemaker discusses how we have a fundamentally different America then 20 years ago, and this is why he uses the term rebuild. He metaphorically compares America to the bridges in our country.

“Bridges in America are in a state of despair and need to be rebuilt,” he said. “The state of deteriorating bridges in America is very evocative of the need to rebuild America. Bridges in America are only as strong as their underlying foundations; we need rebuilders for our bridges, for our communities, and for our companies across the US.”