Leaders of Change, Leaders of the Future

By Frances HesselbeinSpring 2013 | Print
I am writing this not long after Hurricane Sandy’s floodtides made history. The National Guard is rescuing east Coast people along the shoreline, trees are falling, the devastation “the worst in 108 years.” People have died, communities wiped out, and volunteers from many states have poured into the flooded areas. once again, it is inspiring to observe how we all come together, mobilize, eager to serve when disaster strikes. I’ve never before seen flood waters pick up a truck and move it one block, corner to corner. President Barack obama’s and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s personal messages to all the flood victims, and the support and collaboration provided across state lines, are an inspiring example of crisis leadership at its best.

Blizzards in many states created piles of snow as background for trick-or-treat. Four feet of snow in Pennsylvania for Halloween—not exactly what was ordered. the next morning was my birthday: November 1, all Saints’ day (my family joke, “symbolic of the life she leads”). I loved all the moving birthday messages. thank you.

Convening Leaders in All Sectors, at Every Level

As we hurtle into the future, in this crucible of massive change, there is no time to negotiate with nostalgia for outmoded, irrelevant policies, practices, procedures, and assumptions. Our battle cry: “We must develop, today, leaders of change, leaders of the future.” That is why we gathered on october 16 for our Leader of the Future award dinner, convening the public, private, and social sectors—leaders at every level—to celebrate our seventh annual Leader of the Future Award Dinner. Our 2012 honorees gave us much on which to reflect:

Retired four-star general Peter Chiarelli, currently Ceo of one Mind for research, shared the reality of our times: 67 percent of U.S. soldiers in 2012 return home afflicted with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. General Chiarelli, who has close to forty years of service in the public sector, transitioned to the social sector to advocate for a cure for all brain disorders.

Charles H. Ramsey’s life in service began in 1973 when he became the youngest person of color to pass the sergeant’s exam in the Chicago Police department. After many told him that taking the test was a waste of his time, he successfully joined the department as an eighteen-year-old cadet. Now known as an internationally recognized practitioner and educator in his field as police commissioner of the Philadelphia Police department, Commissioner ramsey noted the most important contribution any of us can make: identifying new leaders and focusing on training and developing them.

Buddy Media’s Kass and Mike Lazerow—not only great leaders, but entrepreneurs, partners, and parents, showed us, by example, that a husband and wife start-up team can work well together, and that a great technology company can be built in New York on the foundation of humility, imperfection, and honesty. The Lazerows have successfully helped brands create value for their employees and investors while actively giving back to their community. their efforts with Buddy Media around “Cycle for Survival” have raised more than $4 million for the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

In addition to these remarkable veteran leaders, we honored an inaugural class of leaders ages thirty and under. Jessica o. Mathews and Julia C. Silverman cofounded Uncharted Play and developed a product called the SoCCKet: a soccer ball that doubles as an eco-friendly portable generator. With thirty minutes of play, the SoCCKet can produce three hours of light. It’s undeflatable and able to charge Led lamps, water purifiers, mini-fridges, and emergency cell phone chargers.

We honored Akosua Tyus, who fights for social justice and equality as one of the youngest branch presidents of the NAACP. Her administration’s strategic priorities include supporting minority-owned businesses, promoting health and wellness to combat obesity, educational advocacy and financial literacy programs, and securing Washington, D.C., voter rights. Finally, we honored Shaila Ittycheria and Kane Sarhan, cofounders of [e]nstitute, an alternative path of education based on real-life experiences that pairs young hopeful entrepreneurs with start-up CEOs and mentors.

All in attendance were inspired. My hope is that on reading the honorees’ amazing biographies, you are too.

Sharing Leadership Wisdom

The October 18 Global Webinar was an inspiring success. Months before the webinar, questions started coming in from all over the world. Five pages, singlespaced questions, all profound, all expressing a hunger for leadership help, resources, and inspiration. It was not only leaders from all over the world—thirty-eight countries total—registering early. a great american corporation sent out 88,000 messages to all retirees and all current employees encouraging them to sign on. You will find the replay of the event on our website.

One of the highlights of 2012 for me was being invited to tedxMidatlantic Be Fearless, hosted by the Case Foundation. Young, energetic people—all saving the world—gathered in Washington, d.C., on october 26–27 to share ideas. No podium or lectern, no handheld microphones. only a small, square red carpet, a clip-on mike, and a low stage, which I loved.

I decided not to be formal. I asked the audience if I could share with them the defining moment of my life that determined the person I am, the leader I have become. I asked the audience to think about a defining moment in their lives while I spoke. everyone has one. the audience’s response was very moving for me. afterward, I caught the 2:00 p.m. train back to New York City, bought batteries, locked the door of my forty-eighth floor apartment, and came out six days later, grateful for my good fortune – all power on and no flooding in my upper East Side neighborhood—and deeply concerned about all the suffering and devastation from the hurricane. as I write this, thanksgiving 2012 is approaching; and you will be reading this in late March 2013. during the months until March 2013, much will have happened, and much of it will be positive. (remember my blood type is B-positive.)

To serve is to live.

Frances Hesselbein is editor-in-chief of Leader to Leader, founding president of the Drucker Foundation, president and CEO of The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute, and former chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.

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