For over 200 weeks, I’ve woken up before the sun rises on a Friday morning to write Saturday Spark. It started with a commitment to my head of marketing to share what I was seeing and hearing at the intersection of business, impact, and leadership for one year. As the first post said, “I hope my experiences and insights with the challenges of leading a purpose-driven organization can be inspiring, helpful, practical and at times humorous to other purpose-driven professionals.”
Little did I know that a newsletter sent originally to some friends and colleagues would eventually have thousands of readers. That I would write nearly every week for 4+ years, through a pandemic, a tumultuous election, a financial meltdown, an escalating climate crisis, and the giant rollercoaster ride of being WeSpire’s Founder and CEO.
Final Saturday Spark
My friends, today is the last Saturday Spark. On Tuesday, WeSpire was acquired by Bonterra, the world’s second largest and fastest growing social good technology company. I will remain President, WeSpire and take on a broader role as SVP of Engagement for Bonterra. They haven’t asked me to stop writing. But I know that what made Spark special is that I could say what I wanted to say willing to live with the consequences of any missteps as the CEO of WeSpire. I can’t do that to a team of 1,200 people who work in a wide variety of businesses that I don’t even understand yet. Plus, there is no way I could finish this in time for a round of edits! Just ask my team members who struggle to get a video each week out of me for social.
So what are my parting thoughts for you amazing purpose-driven people who lead companies, funds, classrooms, schools, churches, community organizations, neighborhoods, not for profits, and families?
Principles for 21st Century Leadership
First, be courageous. If there is a distinguishing characteristic of leadership right now, it is the willingness to confront brutal facts, to speak the truth, to defend those being attacked, to drive necessary system changes, and inspire others to do the same. I think one of the best examples of this over the past few years has been Liz Cheney. We don’t agree on much, but her willingness to put truth before personal power was an incredible example of courageous leadership. As leaders, we can cultivate courage in ourselves and others.
Second, listen deeply. My most energizing moments as a leader come from spending time just listening and learning from our customers, our team members, our investors and advisors. It is so easy to fall in the trap of “doing” all day long. But when we listen deeply, we connect with each other. We make people feel heard and diffuse conflict. We understand problems better, and can craft more effective solutions. We can find the signal through the noise.
Third, embrace agility. We are living in such a dynamic world at such interesting times. Can you believe, for example, that ChatGPT has been out for only six months? The best leaders at this time are able to navigate their people through the twists and turns thrown their way, whether its game changing technology advances, changing regulatory frameworks, supply chain upheavals, health emergencies or natural disasters and conflicts.
Last, choose hope. We have many valid reasons to be concerned, overwhelmed, discouraged, frustrated, angry and many other very real and powerful emotions. But I firmly believe what Victor Frankl wrote, “The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” I’ve chosen to hope. To be, as my friend Koann puts it, a courageous optimist. To believe that what we do today to make ourselves and our companies healthier, more sustainable and more inclusive will lead to a better working world for generations to come.
My parting wish for you is to choose hope too.
Note from the author: If you missed a Spark, you can find all of them online here.