Holy cow. It’s been a little over a month since I became Interim Co-Director of Resource Generation, and just a few short weeks since Elspeth and I found out we would be co-directors. What a whirlwind.
I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while. Capture my thoughts and share with my community as I set off on this new adventure.
So the first thing I want to tell you is that I never wanted to be an executive director. Never. You know why? Cause it always looked like a setup. One person. All the responsibility. Ready to lead the organization, come up with the genius strategy, work the longest hours, fundraise, supervise, support, challenge, brilliant speaker, writer and charismatic too. It all seemed like too much. I have seen so many folks get burnt to a crisp from the executive director position. It didn’t look good.
And yet I’m stepping up. I’m doing it. Willingly.
One of the major reasons is that I am so excited to work with Elspeth, my co-director. She is brilliant. Really. An incredible organizer. Smart, thoughtful, committed…and she connects the work of RG with social change movements and vision like few folks I know. I am so thankful to be doing this with her.
I also think it is a great chance to do things differently. (I’m sure you’re rolling your eyes at this point. I know. Everyone says they are going to do things differently.) I think a lot of the burnout and the long-hours and the superhero expectations on EDs come from wealthy folks, particularly wealthy donors (like myself) and foundations. I think we put a lot of pressure on organizations to look like they have figured it all out, have it all under control, know exactly what to do, and that they are running things smoothly and effectively all the time. Despite our best intentions, I think we wealthy folks can be real perfectionists and control freaks. Yup. Myself included.
And yet, I don’t think that’s what anyone, wealthy or not, really wants or thinks is best. I think so many of us are ready to let the pretense go and get involved in the messy work of organizing, movement building and social change. In fact, I know that’s just what many people with wealth have done for generations. From Harry Belafonte to Julius Rosenwald to Tracy Hewat, there are so many inspiring examples of wealthy folks dedicating their lives to the imperfect, unpredictable, wondrous work of changing the world for the better.
I’m down! Let’s do it together! I love the idea that I can be a young director, sharing my thoughts, and challenging myself and my wealthy communities to let go of our perfectionist and controlling tendancies…for ourselves and for all our friends, colleagues and partners from other class backgrounds.
I think we’re ready. I see more and more young people of all backgrounds openly sharing our mistakes, challenges and mess-ups. I think it’s one of the gifts of social media that we are all sharing a lot more about how hard it really is to figure out our lives, run an organization, start a movement, or get dressed in the morning.
In that spirit, I will now share with you some of my intentions and commitments for my time as Co-Director:
- Enjoy myself (with singing, dancing, food and friends).
- Think big. Vision long-term. Be bold.
- Ask for help. (All the time, every day).
- Share my struggles and questions. Sometimes even the embarrassing ones.
- Take risks. Big ones.
- Make mistakes. Big ones.
- Celebrate victories (with dancing and party hats and youtube videos).
- Reflect on my big mistakes and learn from them. Until I do them again.
- Don’t take myself too seriously.
- Take myself and my work seriously.
- Try new things.
- Listen. (And tell people when I’m not listening.)
- Learn all the time.
- Change my mind.
I am writing this to be one more young director trying to do things differently—and I need your help to make this list a reality. Hold me too it! Ask me what big mistake I made this week. Tell me about your victories—let’s celebrate them together. Help me change my mind.
I want to do this for myself, for Elspeth who has to work (and put up) with me, and for all my wealthy folks who really want to be beautifully imperfect alongside everyone else.