Who Inspires Some of the Most Influential Leaders in the Sector?
Our #BuildingLeaders campaign is all about recognizing those who have had an impact on our lives and careers. The people we encounter on our leadership journeys can change our lives forever.
Every great leader can point to a person or people who have been instrumental in their leadership development. We asked some of the most influential leaders in the sector who inspired, shaped or motivated their work. Check out what they said and then honor a leader who has impacted you by making a donation to our #BuildingLeaders campaign.
President & CEO, America's Promise Alliance
I’ve been fascinated with the Kennedys and the civil rights movement since I was young. So when a book called Of Kennedys & Kings came out in 1980, I bought it right away. The author, Harris Wofford, seemed as interesting as the subjects of the book. The characters he wrote about may have been more famous, but he lived a pretty fascinating life himself. As a friend to both MLK and JFK, a student of Gandhi, a U.S. Senator, Harris has made major contributions to American history.
And then, just 11 years after I bought his book, I found myself sitting across from Senator Harris Wofford in his new office on Capitol Hill. We were discussing a job, and I was delighted to discover I liked the man just as much as I liked the author. That meeting began what has now been a quarter-century friendship.
Harris isn’t the kind of mentor you might expect. He doesn’t dispense advice. Instead, he befriends, tells stories, shares ideas, and tries to live up to his ideals and beliefs. Harris has been involved in big, bold and historic undertakings, he has operated in difficult arenas, dealt with difficult and often divisive issues, and he has suffered considerable setbacks. Harris never tells me (or anyone) what to do. But he sets a strong example, he shows the way through his actions, and he invites and encourages people like me to act in the same way. Thank you, Harris, for showing me the kind of man I want to be.
Executive Director & CEO, Point Foundation
I held a political appointment in the Clinton administration from 1993 thru 1996, serving as Director of External Affairs at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) in Washington, D.C. A person who inspired and supported me was the head of the SBA and my boss, Erskine Bowles. Erskine never referred to anyone as a “staff member” or “employee,” but rather, as his “colleague” – even when introducing us to the President of the United States. He taught me that we are a team; each of our roles is important, makes us equal, and we are colleagues united for one purpose. Even though at the time my family was not comfortable with my being gay, Erskine taught me to be proud of my identity, my talents, and my abilities. Thanks in large part to Erskine, working at the SBA was the first job where I felt comfortable being open about my identity as a gay man.
President & CEO, BoardSource
When I worked at the Human Rights Campaign (@HRC), I had the opportunity to work with and learn from Elizabeth Birch (@BirchElizabeth), who is an amazing and visionary leader that did incredible things for the movement for LGBT equality. She taught me about what it means to inspire and lead, including the importance of investing in strong talent and good ideas, regardless of where they come from in the organization. Her approach enabled young(er) leaders to grow and flourish, and I am grateful to her for the opportunities that she created for me and others.
Founder, Developer and Director, Pipeline Project
I would like to honor a few institutions who invest in leadership and who are made of some amazing leaders--too many to name! The Arcus Foundation was the first willing to invest in the idea that became the Pipeline Project, which speaks not only to a willingness to support innovation but also to make and maintain a commitment to LGBT People of Color. The second was the Haas Jr. Fund, who was willing to guide and collaborate with the Pipeline Project to create the 21st Century Fellows Project to help realize our vision: visible and sustained LGBT People of Color leadership
CEO, California Association of Nonprofits, Founder and Publisher, Blue Avocado
The question “who has supported you?” is a much more intriguing one that “who has inspired you,” in part because there are so many candidates for the latter question. As women nonprofit leaders of color, we are sometimes reluctant to shine a light on the white, for-profit men who have been supportive in many ways. So I want to thank my husband, Paul Rosenstiel, who has worked decades in jobs he hasn’t often liked, and his higher salaries have over the years let me work part time, work at lower wages, and pay for childcare, cars, and life-easing measures that have given me the time, money and space to find my voice and my work.
Professor of Philanthropic Studies and Founding Dean Emeritus, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, President Emeritus, Indiana University Foundation
As a person who has spent a career in philanthropy and fundraising, I have to cite Henry (Hank) Rosso as the most influential mentor in my life. He helped me and so many others understand the relationship between fundraising and philanthropy. I try to remember in my work not only in fundraising but other leadership areas one of his key maxims: “Fundraising is the servant of philanthropy.” Fundraising only supports the act of philanthropy. The case for support is central. Our purpose in anything we do is more important than any of us engaged in it.
President and CEO, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation
Garland Yates, principal and founder of Mobilizing Communities, is a man of purpose, vision and integrity. He believes in me. He inspires me. He supports me. I love him. I thank God for blessing me with Garland as my friend, mentor and angel.