Our friends at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute and the Kansas Leadership Center (KLC) remind us that leadership is an active process, not merely a position one holds.  Read on to learn more about our experience at KLC as well as some intriguing thoughts on leadership.

KLC Photo
Attendees left to right: Jennifer Robinson, Amy Bosworth, Chris Bray, Ed O’Malley, Ken Embley, Tim Coray, Blessy Abraham, Greg Summerhays, Lindsey Edwards, Natalie Gochnour (not pictured)

By Ken Embley
Senior Research Associate
Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute

Original Post Appeared HERE >>

“It’s not leadership if it’s not for the common good.  Leadership is mobilizing others to make progress on deep, daunting, adaptive challenges.” [1]  An intriguing leadership concept from the work of Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky!

Three staffers from the Gardner Institute and five from United Way of Salt Lake (UWSL) spent several worthwhile days exploring many intriguing leadership concepts at the Kansas Leadership Center (KLC), Wichita Kansas.  The KLC equips people with the ability to make lasting change for the common good. Again, an intriguing concept!

Leadership for the Common Good

In order to make progress on meaningful challenges, there is a need for adaptive leaders—people capable of exercising leadership without authority.  This ability to exercise leadership without authority is critical to what is frequently referred to as a “collective impact initiative.”  Collective impact initiatives are all about large-scale social change and this requires broad cross-sector coordination and cross sector coordination requires adaptive leaders.


“Our research shows that successful collective impact initiatives typically have five conditions that together produce true alignment and lead to powerful results: (1) a common agenda, (2) shared measurement systems, (3) mutually reinforcing activities, (4) continuous communication, and (5) backbone support organizations.” [2]  And, it is the realization of these “conditions” that requires people who are capable of exercising leadership without authority.

Our work with the KLC will help to develop collective impact adaptive leaders who can mobilize people to make progress on daunting adaptive challenges.  And to that end, understand that:

  • “Leadership is an activity, not a position.
  • Anyone can lead, anytime, anywhere.
  • It starts with you and must engage others.
  • Your leadership purpose must be clear.
  • It’s risky. [3]

From the KLC; “Leadership is heart and soul work.  [People] won’t exercise leadership unless [they] care for the common good.  And as we discovered throughout our experience, this is because the risks of leadership are great.  Only when a person’s heart and soul pulls them toward the greater—common—good do the risks of leadership seem worth it.” [4]

The Gardner Institute is planning to continue work with the UWSL and KLC.  Together, we hope to strengthen the effectiveness of collective impact work in Utah, and do so by infusing adaptive leadership concepts, tools and tactics for the common good.


[1] Ed O’Malley, Julia Fabris McBride & Amy Nichols; For the Common Good, Participant Handbook; Copyright © 2014 by KLC Press, Kansas Leadership Center, 325 East Douglas, Wichita, Kansas; ISBN 978-0-9889777-3-0; page 11.

[2] John Kania & Mark Kramer, Collective Impact, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011, Copyright © 2011 by Leland Stanford Jr. University.

[3] Ibid, For the Common Good, page 12.

[4] Ibid, For the Common Good, page 13.