The Bridgespan Group
in-depth learning centers and career resources for nonprofits

Free Management Library
a well-organized and extensive collection of resources spanning numerous aspects of running organizations

world news from a network of international reporters testing a new business model for journalism

a magazine exploring issues of local and state government

Leading Blog
an active blog on a range of leadership issues from the organization “Leadership Now”

Personal Democracy Forum
exploring how technology is changing politics around the world

Pew Center on the States
an organization that conducts research on nuimerous state policies

an online magazine sponsored by consulting firm Booz & Company



Leadership, by James MacGregor Burns, defines the differences between good leaders and transformational leaders.

The Fifth Discipline, by Peter Senge, describes a handful of disciplines that enable leaders and their organizations to keep learning and growing toward mastery.

Leadership without Easy Answers, by Ronald Heifetz, presents case studies on how a number of great leaders–for example, Mahatma Gandhi, Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr.– succeeded in some crises and failed in others–based on their capacity to perceive and adapt to changed circumstances.

A Failure of Nerve, by Edwin Friedman, focuses on how leaders can identify and move beyond the limiting assumptions of their time and culture to achieve major break throughs.

There are also several books I recommend to leaders thinking about how to drive sustainable change in their organizations.  What these books have in common is an underlying assumption that there is no “one right way” to lead successful change in a dynamically complex environment.  Instead, they describe a variety of approaches that promote flexible, adaptive responses.

The Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World, by Peter Schwartz, was one of the early books on scenario planning and focuses less on being right about the future than about not being wrong.

Reframing Organizations:  Artistry, Choice and Leadership, by Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal, examines the various perspectives from which leaders can interpret what is happening in their organizations and the tools they can use to “frame” or “reframe” the choices and strategies going forward

Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution, by Paul Watzlawick, Ph.D., John Weakland, Ch.Ed., and Richard Fisch, M.D., examines how logical approaches to problem solving often fail to resolve and may even compound an existing problem.  They describe a number of examples of problems requiring second-order change strategies and the paradoxical approaches that were successful in achieving the solution.

Democracy’s Discontent: America in search of a public philosophy. Michael J. Sandel (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1996)

Sandel looks at America’s political philosophy through the lens of evolving constitutional, legal and economic frameworks. In a detailed history, he argues there has been a trend toward greater recognition of individual “rights” and insistance on governmental neutrality on what is “good.” In his view, this progression has dimished our ability to maintain a shared vision of society that we can all participate in and weakens the role of citizens in our republic. This is a challenging and carefully stated argument about how “liberal” trends in judicial understanding contribute to people’s disengagement from the “republican” tradition of self-governance.

Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration. Keith Sawyer (Basic Books, 2007)

Keith Sawyer paints a very pragmatic picture of how creativity and innovation can be generated by collaboration. He debunks myths of mystical “creative geniuses,” and instead shows how new ideas develop incrementally from past achievements and combining small ideas of many people. In particular, he reviews research that shows many brainstorming techniques actually LIMIT creative thinking and provides alternatives so that people can get the most out of their work together.

How We Decide. Jonah Lehrer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2009)

This easy-to-read survey of brain science shows the physical processes that connect the rational and emotional functions of the brain, and how they help or hinder us. With compelling stories to illustrate the points, Lehrer shows that we make decisions based on past experiences using our emotions first, to great benefit, but this process gets in our way in new situations. He also surveys how our brain wiring leads us to use thinking or feeling in decision-making at inappropriate times and the predictable – and prevantable – mistakes we make as a result.

The Leadership Challenge, 4th Edition. James Kouzes and Barry Posner (Wiley Publications, 2007)

The fourth edition of this leadership classic provides several important updates. Many of the case studies of leadership are now drawn from the last decade of innovation and change, and incorporate examples that use new technologies to support leadership. They have also updated the research on traits of effective leaders and what individual want from leaders. Their five components of leadership are straightforward but useful reminders of an inclusive approach to building support, developing new ideas and achieving results. They summarize the components as:


Moss Kanter on Leadership

Leadership icon Rosabeth Moss Kanter has released a new book, “Supercorps,” with findings from interviews with 350 organizations around the world. From the examples of those that are thriving, she has reaffirmed five well-known elements of leadership common to the most successful performers: 1. There is no leadership without a noble purpose.The best companies are guided by purpose, values and principles, and recognize their responsibility to the community. 2. Leaders see new needs, problems and find solutions. 3. They partner and collaborate. Don’t just think outside the box – think outside the building. That is, go beyond your own organization. 4. Empower people. This includes engagement of employees, “alumni,” and community members. Convene people in conversations and permit the flow of self-organizing activities. 5. Persist and persevere. Citing what she humorously calls “Kanter’s Law,” she reminds people that “everything can look like a failure in the middle.” “Middles” are difficult because: We can’t accurately forecast the future Unforeseen roadblocks arise that need to be dealt with People lose momentum; and Critics surface once things are under way who try to block change. These characteristics collectively require that leaders be courageous and flexible. They must be able to think big AND small to keep the vision in sight but deal with the details of execution. They must energize their team and shield them from the... read more

“Leading Through Conflict”

Mark Gerzon, founder and President of the Mediators Foundation, summarizes his view of leadership in his 2006 book Leading Through Conflict (Harvard Business School Press). He maintains that the we should think of the “Mediator” as the new model for leadership that “transforms differences into opportunities.” The Mediator: Strives to act on behalf of the whole, not just a part. Thinks systemically and is committed to ongoing learning. Builds trust by building bridges across the dividing lines. Seeks innovation and opportunity in order to transform conflict. He contrasts the Mediator with the “Demagogue,” who leads through fear, and at worst resorts to violence to dominate others, and the “Manager” works within his or her own boundaries, and limits the view of self-interest to his or her own group. The Mediator needs eight tools to work effectively. Gerzon describes them this way: Integral Vision: committing ourselves to hold all sides of the conflict, in all their complexity, in our minds – and in our hearts. Systems thinking: identifying all (or as many as possible) of the significant elementsrelated to the conflict situation and understanding the relationships between these elements. Presence: applying all our mental, emotional, and spiritual resources to witnessing the conflict of which we are now a part. Inquiry: asking questions that elicit essential information about the conflict that is vital to understanding how to transform it. Conscious conversation: becoming aware of our full range of choices about how we speak and listen. Dialogue: communicating in order to catalyze the human capacity for bridging and innovation. Bridging: building partnerships and alliances that cross the borders that divide an organization... read more

“The Leadership Challenge”

James Kouzes and Barry Posner have updated their classic book “The Leadership Challenge.” They continue to offer a straightfoward theory of five elements that successful leaders demonstrate, which they offer as guiding actions: Model the way (clarify your own values and lead by example) Inspire a shared vision (have an exciting image of the future and appeal to shared aspirations) Challenge the process (take initiative, seek innovation, generate small victories) Enable others to act (build relationships and advance the abilities of others) Encourage the heart (recognize individuals’ contributions and create a spirit of community) The first 2 chapters of “The Leadership Challenge,” 4th edition, are a concise summary of the ideas presented in the book. In addition to 25 years of research on how leaders act, they also looked at leadership from the constituents’ point of view, and present a summary of the values and behaviors people want from those they admire. The 4th edition is a current version of their ideas since it was updated in 2007 and includes case studies in the internet age as well as updates to their research... read more

Crowdsourcing and the Public Arena

Systems of democracy were created to allow public decisions to be made with the participation of people who lived in the democratically-governed society. The concepts of participation were always limited, however, by constraints of time and geography, by assumptions about the capacity of elites to govern better than the masses, by social limitations on the roles permitted for women, by exclusion of various “minority” groups, by connection of civic privileges with property ownership, and so forth. In the history of modern democracies, the trends have moved slowly but steadily toward the elimination of official barriers to participation, from allowing women to vote and eliminating poll taxes, to voting rights legislation and lowering of the voting age. (Today, England is considering lowering the voting age to 16.) Now, technology has also expanded participatory options for individuals. A great deal of government information is available online, unfiltered by interpreters. Internet activists can organize across geographic boundaries, provide public opinions to elected officials in real time, and mobilize individuals as issues are battled over. The breadth, speed and wide availability of online communication are opening the possibility of sharing ideas in the public arena the way they have begun to be implemented in business practices through “crowdsourcing.” “Crowdsourcing” is the idea that rather than of assigning a task to individuals or groups selected by the interested organization, instead, the task is thrown out to any audience to work on, usually through an open, online announcement or request. This approach presumes that the ideas, knowledge, imagination, etc. of this virtual, spontaneous group will generate the best solutions and will lead to the work being done by people most suited... read more

Motivating Behavior Change

One of the lessons embedded in Coro training is that giving people new information is often not sufficient to change their beliefs or behaviors. What other means are available to bring about behavior change? Recent research and applied experiments help illuminate the range of strategies that can touch people and create the changes we may desire. Here are four examples of ways of changing behavior. Make things fun: The website www.TheFunTheory.com is devoted to the concept that “something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better.” Make an emotional impact: See how a hospital motivated doctors to really wash their hands regularly. Go to ABC News to read or view the story. Generate a little competition: See how redesigned energy bills at www.betterbills.org help reduce consumption by showing the customer’s usage compared to others. Engage the senses: New research suggests that clean smells engender more generous behavior. Read or listen to a report of this Northwestern University research... read more

Crossing Boundaries

Coro exposes its training participants to multiple points of view and gives them skills for managing group processes so that they can be effective in working with diverse – even opposing – stakeholders. In a world that seems to be becoming more polarized, efforts to cross traditional boundaries stand out. Here are a few efforts related to major world issues. Whether they yet have the right answers or not, they may lead the way to finding common ground. — Padraig O’Malley, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, has applied his mediation skills in divided societies. Using not only his experience negotiating in Northern Ireland and South Africa, but also engaging some of the actual mediators from those fractious communities, he is working to bring Kurds and Arabs together in Kirkuk in northern Iraq. He has managed to bring people from opposite sides to the table and to maintain ongoing discussions. He is realistic about the challenges of this type of work, and estimates that any progress will take five years of relationship-building and dialogue. His work was featured on the National Public Radio Program Here and Now on December 14. Also, his website describes his philosophy and activities. — Four former U.S. Senate majority leaders, Howard Baker (R), Tom Daschle (D), Bob Dole (R) and George Mitchell (D), created The Bipartisan Policy Center in 2007, an organization that seeks to find and develop “solutions that can attract public support and political momentum.” Their initiatives include environmental policy, national security, energy, transportation and health care. Their health care proposal seemed to fall on deaf ears in June 2009,... read more

Science and Democracy

The impact of technical matters in the public realm has been accelerating over the past century. Policy makers need to make decisions about matters that can be informed by science, mathematics, and economics. Yet each of those decisions must also reflect subjective priorities, personal beliefs or societal values as well. In 1952, noted political philosopher John Dewey observed the damage that can be done by confusing these two different realms: “Holding science to be an entity by itself . . . and then blaming it for social evils, . . .with a view to subordinating it to moral ideals, is of no positive benefit. On the contrary, it distracts us from using our knowledge and our most competent methods of observation in the performance of the work they are able to do.” That is, by failing to recognize that there are moral dimensions beyond the scope of science, we risk sacrificing the important contribution that science can make. C.P. Snow identified the growing chasm between the sciences and the humanities in 1959 in his talk “The Two Cultures,” weakening the contribution both sides can make to an understanding of the world. And in 1962, President Kennedy acknowledged the challenge this way: “Old sweeping issues very largely have disappeared. The central domestic issues of our time are more subtle and less simple. They relate not to basic clashes of philosophy or ideology but to ways and means of reaching common goals–to research for sophisticated solutions to complex and obstinate issues.” Kennedy urged the country to “face technical problems without ideological preconceptions,” and to focus on “the sophisticated and technical issues involved... read more

Crowdsourcing Case Study – Ushahidi

A new software application called Ushahidi exemplifies the possibilities of widely dispersed participation and input. Started in Kenya, its name is Swahili for “testimony.” It came about in response to the troubled Kenyan election of 2007. A post from a reporter trying to track violence led to a volunteer network of technology experts creating the platform in a matter of days. It uses cellphone reports to map information from people who call in. In Kenya, the information was related to violent events in the aftermath of the election. The system was able to gather more information faster than the traditional sources of news reporters or election monitors. Ushahidi was subsequently used in the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile to find people trapped by the quake and help direct rescuers to the right locations. It has also been applied to monitoring elections in India and pinpointing roadblocks after the blizzard in D.C. Sourced from an unlikely place well outside the usual technology bubbles, Ushahidi has no patent protection and remains open source, so it can be adapted to future situations. Designed to work on cellphone technology that is widely distributed, it can be deployed in parts of the world that do not have standard internet access. This fast-moving, practical application that saved lives suggests the power that new networks, both technical and social, will bring to bear on improving the quality of life around the world. See a New York Times article about Ushahidi here, or learn more at their... read more

Developing Talent

Every business knows it needs to exploit its competitive advantages. But some large organizations may be overlooking one of their most important advantages, according to Jonathan Hoyt, a Principal in Heidrick & Struggles’ Leadership Consulting practice, and a Coro alumnus: Large organizations can systematically develop their next generation of top leadership from within, but many aren’t doing the right things. Jonathan took time recently to talk with Coro National about developing talent. CN: What do we know today about developing the top tier of talent in organizations? JH: The last 30 years of research have shown that exceptional leadership comes from experience, not from attending leadership classes. 70% of what leaders learn is acquired through work experience, 20% is learned through relationships (mentoring and coaching), and 10% comes from what most people think of as “leadership development” – structured learning in training or classroom settings. CN: What kinds of experiences make the difference? JH: The way to trigger explosive development of talent is to move people around deliberately. Organizations shouldn’t just wait and see if people string together the right set of experiences. They should identify high-potential individuals early in their careers and move them around systematically. For example, a company may take someone from an engineering function and have her manage a new business line, then run their customer service function, and include stints overseas to manage in different cultures. Other great experiences are to assign someone to run a turnaround project for a failing business line or a start-up operation. This gives them an understanding of all facets of the business and helps build a complete set... read more

New Media and Civic Engagement

“The Internet and Civic Engagement”: In the fall of 2009, the Pew Internet and American Life Project released the findings of their research on how – or if – the internet was changing the shape of political involvement. Working with data collected in 2008, they found that the internet had not yet changed the patterns of what economic groups participate in political activity. Online as offline, people with higher incomes reported more political engagement. The report details the types of political activity people engaged in online, and confirms the expectation that internet politics is dominated by younger users. View the full report here. Mobile media and public affairs: The Aspen Institute has examined how mobile technology – all of the connections we can now make through our cell phones – is creating new ways for people to get involved in their communities. Their report, Civic Engagement on the Move, “looks at how leading edge practitioners are using mobile media to engage citizens to solve problems, bridge differences and strengthen community.” Visible Vote: A new application called Visible Vote is available for use through Facebook, iPhones and Blackberrys, and has a Windows version in the works. It allows users to tell their federal elected representatives how they would vote on bills that Congress is considering, and to indicate general approval ratings. Perhaps most interesting, it provides links to every bill that has been proposed, including summaries from the Library of Congress, links to news coverage about the bill, and the entire text of the legislation. In an era when attention spans are shorter and shorter, and opinions formed and expressed with little information,... read more