Anne B. Mosle: The intangibles of effective leadership

Anne B. Mosle

Anne B. Mosle

 

By Anne B. Mosle, Guest Columnist

Ideas without leadership are just that — ideas. It takes vision and an entrepreneurial spirit to create change. And it takes leaders who lead from shared values to create the change that families with low incomes across Florida and the country need to break out of the cycle of poverty.

That premise guides the Aspen Institute Ascend Fellowship, a fellowship program for visionary national leaders who have set their sights on making a difference in the lives of children and their families.

Hundreds of books and articles are written annually about leadership and the defining characteristics of a good leader. Many focus on functional aspects of leadership: the ability to delegate, plan strategically and produce.

But what about intangible qualities, those seemingly ephemeral characteristics of leaders who lead broadly? Those are harder to articulate, but it matters when those leaders emphasize:

Values: Aristotle wrote of the life well led — one with meaning and purpose. Leaders who seek to live a life well led live and lead by their values. Leading with values requires reflecting on our values, not once but often, and using those values as the source of decisions on strategy, budget and partnerships. Values-based leaders want to help families measure their success by the change they see in families' lives and their communities.

Generosity: In his defining book on generosity in leadership, "Give and Take," Adam Grant argues that givers come out on top in the long run. We have seen his theories come to life among our fellows. More important, we have seen what givers can do together to change lives. All of our fellows have given of themselves to their peers, from offering timely advice, to serving as speakers, to sharing contacts. As a result, 78 percent of them have increased the resources and stakeholders supporting their work. All have tried a new approach or strategy. The result will be thousands of children and families with a better chance at the American Dream.

Storytelling: The power of the narrator is not a new idea. But the ability to weave storytelling into a leadership message is undervalued. You do not have to be a master storyteller. But the impact of being able to be vulnerable — to share your personal story and why it drives your work — has incalculable value in inspiring a team and communicating your vision.

Inclusion: Most important, who is at the table matters. To succeed, investments in leadership must reflect the rich talent and diversity of our country — across race/ethnicity, gender, geography and systems. The voices that leaders bring with them also matter. The most effective leaders are those who place a premium on listening to and acting upon the voices and experiences of the families we have the privilege to serve.

Across the board, Aspen Institute fellowship programs seek entrepreneurial leaders who are ready to set their sights on creating a better society. Seven of our fellows have visited Sarasota County to observe and connect with local leaders creating intergenerational cycles of success for children and their families — and we are privileged to have Sarasota County's own, John Annis, Senior Vice President at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, as one of our outstanding alumni.

— Anne B. Mosle is a vice president at the Aspen Institute and executive director of Ascend at the Aspen Institute. Three of the institute's fellows will participate in the Herald-Tribune's Hot Topics Forum "Shelter from Stress: What Every Family Needs," to be held Friday, Feb. 24, from 3:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Booker High School's VPA Center, 3201 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota. To reserve a seat call 955-3000.