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quotes

“You Have to be Comfortable Being Uncomfortable”- One-Line Lessons on Leadership

I will be graduating from the University of Southern California next Friday with my Master of Public Administration (MPA). I am pleased to report that, even with real-world experience prior to entering graduate school, my skill-set has been sharpened and the items in my professional toolbox are polished. I am thrilled to re-enter the workforce and meld my formal and informal experiences in areas of management, evaluation, economics, communications, strategy, and leadership.

Though I’ve done it before, I generally try not to write about my own personal thoughts and experiences. This is because, as my former Program Evaluation professor says, “a sample size of one does not a significant finding make.” Here– and in life– I am going for significant. That said, I think the lessons I’ve learned in graduate school are indeed significant, and I am delighted to share some bite-sized morsels.

…I’m the type of person who takes physical notes in class. I’m also the type of person who holds on tightly to professors’ well-articulated verbal gemstones about leadership, and I tape them shamelessly above my desk at home. Yes, much like eleven-year-olds reserve space on their walls for Justin Bieber posters, I reserve space for phrases like, “The best way to create change is to take away the barriers to change.” It’s nerdy, but I’m a graduate student (for 10 more days…)

Here are my very favorite one-liner lessons from graduate school. A vast majority are attributed to Dr. Robert Myrtle, my professor of Strategic Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations, but there are other key, formative professors’ words here, too, such as Dr. Peter Robertson and Dr. Donald Morgan). I’ve added descriptions were context is need to strengthen the relevance of the quote.

  •  “People who learn quickly have a competitive advantage”  This was a running theme throughout the program. It is an especially key lesson for nonprofits because they’ve developed a reputation for being slow-moving. What this quote does is place an emphasis on the people. The organization can only change if employees can adjust.
  • “Businesses survive on information, not harmony.” This quote packs a personal message to step out of our comfort zone. Bringing up new ideas, challenging sector boundaries, and asking questions helps organizations and businesses stretch their thinking and gain information. It is through collection of that information that organizations can grow to their potential.
  • “You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable” You have to take risks to be a good leader. The idea here is that if you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not growing or reaching. If you aren’t growing and you are running operations in an organization, than the organization isn’t growing either.
  • “People who emerge as leaders are people who can manage change.” one professor reminded us that “nobody is going to change unless they see the need for change.” A good leader, he explained, is someone who sees the need, communicates it effectively, creates buy-in, and manages the change.
  • “Master the little things in relationships, because the unaddressed details– like who will do the dishes– will sink you.” This wasn’t just marriage advice dispensed by a professor. It was strategic management advice (and life advice, too). The idea of a partnership or collaboration sounds dandy in many situations. Unfortunately, our professor explained, many higher-ups leave the details dangling without clear direction as to who takes care of issues and how the partnership should be effectively handled by the organizations. Mastering the details is critical.
  • Treat people like they are valued, and they will be valuable.” This was said in regard to managing and leading teams, though I think it stands on its own.
  • “You must find the option that all parties hate equally.” This is about compromising and coming up with new solutions to meet stakeholder’s needs. Finding solutions that all stakeholders love is not very realistic in the public and nonprofit sectors. Also, if the quote was “you must find the option that both parties like equally,” then you’d never remember it. This quote also plays off of our program emphasis on Getting to Yes, a great book on compromise and creative solutions.
  • “Coopetition is when competitors collaborate” There are over 7,000 nonprofits in Los Angeles alone and many of these organizations have similar missions. Coopetition is a word that comes up a lot in classes in regard to strategically managing resources, but also putting a priority on maintaining a competitive advantage. Nonprofits must be able to both work together to accomplish a mission, and also to stand alone.
  • “Thou shalt not B.S. myself.” Organizational strengths only count as strengths if they are seen in the eyes of customers, donors, competitors, and constituents.  I like this quote, though, because it seems to be true of individual strengths as well.
  • “Social capital builds intellectual capital” In the information age, it takes people and connectivity to generate ideas and intelligence. Social relationships lead to new-age innovation.
  • “You need your followers more than they need you.” Leaders aren’t leaders if they don’t have followers and supporters. Achieving great things takes buy-in and participation.
  • “You get power by giving it away.” Don’t keep opportunity for yourself. Having power often means having opportunities and power to give to others.
  • “We all succeed or none of us succeeds…” This is not a quote from class, but a quote from A Dream For One World by Segev Perets, which we read in a class.  Though it would be an outrageous stretch to say that MPA’s run entirely on public service motivation, the desire to effectively carry out a meaningful mission that empowers constituents was a prevalent and key motivator for my classmates. It was the tie that binded us and a thing that we all seemed to understand.
I’m grateful to have learned an incredible amount of information in graduate school these last two years. These quotes don’t even begin to scratch the surface, but they are quick tidbits that I’ll carry with me into my next professional endeavour.
Posted on by colleendilen in Leadership, Management, Nonprofits, Public Management, Public Service Motivation, Social Change, Words of Wisdom 6 Comments

Words of Wisdom: 41 Inspirational Quotations for Young Nonprofit Leaders

I adore inspirational quotations– and I’ll admit that I have a rather silly habit of keeping long lists of my favorites.  After spending a considerable amount of time weeding through the bunch, I’m pleased to present 41 tidbits of advice from famous folks who know/knew a thing or two about leadership, determination, and putting your heart into something you’re just crazy about.

Please comment with your own favorite quotations to add to the list. I’d love to hear what gets you up and running, and doing what you do best!

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”
- Abraham Lincoln

“Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.”
- Abraham Lincoln

“We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it.”
- Abraham Lincoln

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
- Albert Einstein

“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.”
- Albert Einstein

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
- Anne Frank

“Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential.”
-Barack Obama

“If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.”
-Barack Obama

“When people go to work, they shouldn’t have to leave their hearts at home.”
- Betty Bender

“If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.”
- Betty Reese

“If I were given the opportunity to present a gift to the next generation, it would be the ability for each individual to learn to laugh at himself.”
- Charles M. Schulz

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”
- Dr. Seuss

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- e. e. cummings

“The leadership instinct you are born with is the backbone. You develop the funny bone and the wishbone that go with it.”
- Elaine Agather

“Self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice.”
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton

“Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it.”
- Ella Williams

“I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen”
- Frank Lloyd Wright

”The important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men.”
- George Eliot

“I found that the men and women who got to the top were those who did the jobs they had in hand, with everything they had of energy and enthusiasm and hard work.”
- Harry S. Truman

“Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.”
- Henry David Thoreau

“If the laborer gets no more than the wages which his employer pays him, he is cheated, he cheats himself.”
- Henry David Thoreau

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”
- Henry David Thoreau

“When a dog runs at you, whistle for him”
- Henry David Thoreau

“Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”
- Henry David Thoreau

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
- John Quincy Adams

“Each of us has a spark of life inside us, and our highest endeavor ought to be to set off that spark in one another.”
- Kenny Ausubel

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
- Kurt Vonnegut

“A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.
- Mark Twain

“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catchers mitt on both hands.  You need to be able to throw something back.”
- Maya Angelou

“The world belongs to the energetic.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your reactions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”
- Robert F. Kennedy

“Each generation goes further than the generation preceding it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation. You will have opportunities beyond anything we’ve ever known.”
- Ronald Reagan

“Find a need and fill it.”
- Ruth Stafford Peale

“We can always live on less when we have more to live for.”
- S. Stephen McKenney

“We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.”
- Sonia Johnson

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
- Theodore Roosevelt

“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
-Thomas Edison

“I’m a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
- Thomas Jefferson

“Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right.”
- Warren G. Bennis

Posted on by colleendilen in Leadership, Lessons Learned, Nonprofits, The Small Stuff, Words of Wisdom 27 Comments