Last month, I had the extraordinary honor to be among those named by Lead New Jersey as one of its “30 Leaders for 30 Years.”
The recipients were chosen because their “leadership has made New Jersey a better place to live and work.”
With that as the criteria it is not surprising that there were in fact a few of us that come directly from the philanthropic side of the social sector. But in truth, having foundation representatives being recognized this way in a room filled with representatives from corporations and politics is not typical.
I believe this marks a decided change in how philanthropy is perceived and engaged in New Jersey these days. Those of us in the social sector are well aware that foundations have been investing in ways to make New Jersey a better place for many, many years.
The good news is that now policymakers and other decision makers are recognizing the difference that effective philanthropy can have when brought into the conversation.
Over the years, the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers has been involved in a number of important leadership initiatives on behalf of our membership – the private philanthropic community.
From our Office of the Newark Philanthropic Liaison and Hurricane Sandy Recovery work to the landmark Facing Our Future study and even the creation of the Community Foundation of South Jersey, these are just a few examples of the ways in which New Jersey’s grantmakers are having a profound impact, improving outcomes, fostering important conversations, and more.
It was not surprising that some exceptional leaders from our field were recognized. It was a pleasure to join Risa Lavazzo-Mourey, CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Chris Daggett, CEO of The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; and Eleanor Horne, longtime Trustee of the Princeton Area Community Foundation and a model corporate funder during her 20-plus year tenure at ETS. It was also wonderful to be joined by one of my most important colleagues and partners Linda Czipo, President of the Center for Non-Profits.
Merriam-Webster offers a number of definitions for leadership, from “the capacity to lead,” to “… an instance of leading,” to “the time when a person holds the position of leader.” While these definitions are certainly adequate and indeed factual, they clearly do not convey what it really means to be a leader.
Each of us were asked to offer two sentences on leadership in advance of the event.
It is a pleasure to share with you my colleagues responses:
“Leadership is the driver of any successful organization. Good leaders set and clearly communicate the direction of an organization and develop a culture of achievement, openness, collaboration, integrity, and encouragement.”
“Leadership is sharing your vision, value, and strengths in ways that enhance the vision, value, and strengths of others.”
“There’s an African proverb that says walking alone leaves a narrow footprint. Leadership is encouraging others to walk beside you.”
“Leadership is marshaling individual and collective resources to serve the greater good. It’s combining the dream of what can be with the will and practicality to make it happen. It’s being open to new ideas and tapping into the wisdom and strengths of others. Leadership is persevering in the face of seeming impossibility and encouraging others to do the same.”
And never one to completely follow the rules…I offered a sort of double haiku:
“On Leadership: Listen. Respect. Serve. Be brave. Be generous. Be open. Understand responsibility. Give way. Trust. Question. Hold fast to your beliefs. Keep your word. Persevere. Hope.”
Both the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors in our state teem with extraordinary and dedicated leaders, so yes it must have been difficult to select just thirty. The Council of New Jersey Grantmakers again congratulates and salutes the 30 leaders named, and the many other leaders throughout the social sector whose leadership contributes every day to improving neighborhoods and communities in our Garden State.
Nina Stack is President of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, the statewide association of more than 130 funding organizations working in and for New Jersey.
The Council is the center for philanthropy in the state, serving the leading independent, corporate, family and community foundations as well as public grantmakers of our state. CNJG supports its members by strengthening their capacity to address New Jersey and society’s most difficult problems.