How Do You Define Cutting Edge Leadership?

“Both as a natural byproduct of perceptions of broken leadership that has resulted in the current crises and in the need to find new leadership to resolve crises (...) How do you define leadership that is cutting edge and what program models hold promise?” 


Dave Suss - KFLA Board Member, Tom Gallagher (KNFP-10) - Director, Ford Institute for Community Building, Betty Overton (KNFP-09) - V.P. for Academic Affairs, Spring Arbor Univ., Kevin Fong (KNFP-14) - Founder, Elemental Partners

Leadership that is cutting edge focuses on building collective action toward shared goals within a community of place or interest. It is about helping people develop the knowledge, skill and motivation to help others work together to define and achieve their vision of the future. Leadership that is about a “great idea” or a “silver bullet” is no longer cutting edge — indeed, it can be counterproductive in a community. Philanthropies are discovering that if they define the problem and the solution, they are almost assured of failure as the community is not engaged in the ends or the means.

Program models that hold promise? I would argue in favor of community leadership development models, particularly if they go beyond personal attributes to skills in engaging others. As most success comes from people pulling together, a cutting edge leader has to be effective in organizations and collaborations. I think our own Ford Institute for Community Building program is demonstrating much promise. A triangulation of evaluation data, informed opinion and stories suggest it is working — although more time is needed from first training to measurable changes in indicators occurs. Our evaluation shows that immediate outcomes (new knowledge, skill and motivation) are significant and intermediate outcomes (use of that new capacity in organizations and collaborations) is occurring. What we need now is certainty that the use of the training is causing changes in the community (late outcomes) which in turn are moving indicators.