Recently, I got to spend the weekend at one of my favorite Equality Federation programs: our New Executive Director Boot Camp. Fran Hutchens, our deputy director, and Diana Gonzalez, our director of leadership programs, joined me for an intensive two days of training with three talented new state leaders: Jamie Foster of Equality Alabama, Kendra Johnson of Equality North Carolina, and Abbi Swatsworth of Out Nebraska.
Prior to coming on the Equality Federation team, I was Executive Director at Equality North Carolina for several years, so I know first hand the challenges of stepping into a role like this. When I started, I wished someone was there to give me an orientation and provide support as I figured out things like budgeting and working with boards for the first time. New Executive Director Boot Camp does just that. We know from the leaders who’ve come through the program that it has made a difference in their leadership to have the space early in their tenure to step back, think about their approach to leadership, consider best practices around key aspects of the work, and build up a support network of people who are invested in them and their success. When we started in 2011, the average state ED had only been on the job for 18 months; now that average is over three and a half years, showing that more groups are getting the kind of sustained leadership that can see an organization through a significant campaign or phase of organizational growth.
So much of successful leadership is about relationships, so building those connections between state leaders, with our Equality Federation team, and with the broader movement is also a key part of the agenda. We started the program with a happy hour to introduce these folks to some of our national partners in DC, including Alliance for Justice, Center for America Progress, Human Rights Campaign, National Center for Transgender Equality and National LGBTQ Task Force.
We know that on it’s own, a two day training can only have so much impact. That’s why we build in wrap-around support, from regular individual coaching in their first year and on-demand coaching throughout their tenure to our annual Executive Director Institute, which creates a place for all our state executive directors to support each others’ leadership and strategize together.
We can’t wait to see how these three leaders make a difference for the movement and the communities they call home.
My ED Boot Camp experience not only provided me with resources and tools to better organize and execute successful programming, but also created an environment where I could exercise and strengthen my adaptive and strategic leadership muscles.