Jun 28 2016 Four Reasons to Apply to Coro’s Leadership New York Program
Notable activists, entrepreneurs, and other civic luminaries champion the Leadership New York (LNY) program as a transformative point in their lives. Having completed LNY in May 2016, I offer a few points to those considering this program. This growth-inducing adventure is right for you if any of the following hold true:
You are passionate about the hard stuff.
Remember the last time your organization chose to automate a “broken” business system? You hired a savvy team of programmers to build a tool in a matter of weeks! The dopamine rush of crossing off another project from your to-do list was palpable, and some may have lauded you as a creative genius. Technical challenges can be a dream. They can be solved quickly by technocrats, and most people are receptive to the solution. Reality check: Did your innovation resolve the real problems? Were intended users unexpectedly resistant to adopting your dazzling tool? How was the “broken” system working perfectly for some powerful interests? What losses do you have to endure to enable real change?
If thoughts of facing complex challenges through sustained and purposeful coalition-building keep you up at night, then you have my sympathies – and the makings of an LNY candidate. LNY can help you to grow your aptitude for tackling the technical and adaptive components of your mission in tandem.
You need more than “book smarts” to accomplish what you care about.
Issue Days are a signature of the LNY process. Here, teams within the cohort create a day-long learning experience for their peers around a public policy challenge in the city. Delivering the Issue Day is no small feat. It requires confronting conceptual, logistical, and interpersonal problems. On the Issue Day, participants connect with stakeholders who have different perspectives on the issue. Imagine: How might observing proceedings in a Brooklyn courtroom impact your sentiments about bail reform? If a visually impaired colleague led you across dizzying intersections and subway platforms, would it change your thinking about the supports for people with disabilities? Do the stakes for raising minimum wage become clearer once you walk into a homeless shelter and notice the number of working parents and their children? How would you define a “real New Yorker” after examining the contributions and treatment of undocumented day laborers? Issue Day experiences engender empathy and broaden your perspective.
Reliance on role-playing is another refreshing element of LNY. Instead of intellectualizing about social theories, you get to use your collective experiences to discover your relationship with issues of power, privilege, and oppression. If you enjoy nurturing curiosity, vulnerability, and humility – and you are “okay” with people pushing your buttons because you want to know why you have or continue to keep these particular buttons – this forum will energize you!
You aren’t waiting for someone to give you a “leadership position.”
In the Coro community, leadership is considered a practice rather than a position. At LNY, opportunities to build and exercise your potential abound, are encouraged, and rarely prescribed. Each cohort establishes its norms for organizing, communicating, and making joint decisions. You will observe how the decision-making process explicitly shapes decisions that are made and those that are ignored. If you believe that shaping a better future will require you to disrupt assumptions and norms, LNY serves as a laboratory for gauging the variables that inspire or inhibit you from tapping into your personal greatness.
Does drifting through repetitive meetings, spreadsheets, and reports create a sense of serenity and security for you? Being coddled by busyness and the status quo will not be an option if you join LNY. You will reflect on your default behaviors under pressure, observe and interpret their effect on your goals, and experiment with alternatives. Observing fellow cohort members run their tests, with varying results, will also deepen your study. This sort of mindful rigor will make you a little bolder and give you tools to drive and accept meaningful change.
You want to forge a stronger circle of allies.
“If a question stumps me … I now have 52 friends I could call to help me figure it out,” one of my peers touted at the LNY graduation. Working through the program will draw you closer to incredibly inspired individuals. The cohort functions as a brain trust, a forum to process your immediate struggles: recognizing your dream job may be in a sector you previously dismissed; defining a skill set to grow; deciding whether to support existing non-profits or start your own; understanding how fear of trust keeps you from being a better change agent.
Some of us thought we had signed up for the standard prescription for a leadership program: How to “give better presentations” or “develop an executive presence.” LNY charges you with self-reflection, community awareness, and change scoping, causing you to blur the lines between the personal, the professional, and the political. Some might argue that this integration of priorities and assets across your multiple domains is essential for a life-long leadership journey. Find out for yourself by joining the next LNY group.