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What It Takes to Lead Transformational Change

FUSE fellows are responsible for developing tangible solutions to difficult problems. They have one year to produce transformational change, which is a significant responsibility, but they are not given traditional forms of authority, such as direct reports or budget control. They must quickly build trust-based relationships with numerous stakeholders who might have divergent opinions about the right path forward on a project.

Navigating these challenges requires a diverse set of skills. Having placed more than 100 fellows in the past few years, we have come to focus on a combination of overlapping leadership styles that will best position our fellows to achieve catalytic and sustainable change.

Facilitative Leadership

FUSE fellows are often charged with bringing people who have vastly different perspectives together in pursuit of solutions to long-standing problems. These stakeholders could include government officials, union representatives, corporate executives, nonprofit leaders, and residents. To do that, fellows rely on their ability to connect with people, inspire collaboration, create conditions for success, and highlight shared goals. This kind of leadership, which encourages project stakeholders to take ownership of decisions, also enables project momentum to be sustained in communities long after the yearlong fellowship concludes.

Adaptive Leadership

The problems that our government partners are trying to solve are dynamic and complicated. Adaptive leaders are proactive about finding solutions to challenges, taking risks and experimenting with approaches when no clear answers exist. They can quickly reorient themselves when priorities shift or new information becomes available, which is a frequent occurrence in FUSE fellowships. When circumstances evolve, adaptive leaders maintain a positive outlook, push through roadblocks, and modify their approach to meet changing realities.

Results-Based Leadership

FUSE fellows are highly collaborative, but they are also laser-focused on results. A results-oriented leader will home in on the most meaningful indicators and outcomes, investigate the extent to which those outcomes are being achieved, and develop strategies to maximize impact. Fellows utilize both qualitative and quantitative indicators, but at the end of the day, they know the truth behind the old saying, “What gets measured, gets done.”

Human-Centered Leadership

The goal of a FUSE fellowship is to make life better for the people living and working in the communities we serve. Human-centered leaders make decisions based on how a given action is likely to impact people, whether they are seeking housing support, assistance with attending college, or reliable public transportation. These leaders are focused on improving the experience of the people who interact with a given system, including those delivering services as well as the recipients. Utilizing the practices of human-centered design, rapid innovation, and prototyping, FUSE fellows can enable even large institutions to begin collecting information from end-users and adapting approaches to better meet the needs of those individuals.

In addition to having the skills articulated by our government partners, candidates for a FUSE fellowship must demonstrate a capacity to lead in these four ways. With this knowledge and experience, fellows are better positioned to overcome challenges and achieve meaningful impact.

 

[Photo credit: Mathias Jensen]