Thriving in This Time

(Six minute read)

Guest bloggers Dr. Janett Cordovés and Dr. Raja Bhattar created a web series called “Thriving in This Time”. Today, they’re here to tell us about the series and the #HappyNow.

“How to lead and thrive?” is the perfect place to begin this conversation and to understand how we came to Thriving in This Time, #HappyNow. Amid these unraveling, disrupting, polarizing, grieving, and difficult times it seemed necessary to forge a path forward that ensured our communities did more than survive and bare scares, but thrived, thus Thriving Leadership emerged. As is our Thriving in This Time series, a conversation, and a digital community, it is also our pedagogical inkling to begin this post with some insight into who we are and how we live in the #HappyNow. 

Raja G. Bhattar, they/them/theirs, Higher Education Leader, Consultant & Author  

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  ~ Howard Thurman

This quote from Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman, a former dean of the chapel at Boston University and mentor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been a pillar of my personal and professional journey for over 15 years. I was introduced to Thurman and his writings by a dean and former colleague of Thurman’s at Boston University where I was a first-year seeking direction. While I had enjoyed taking part in the Common Ground program, an orientation program focused on diversity and inclusion, I was still trying to figure out my own role on campus. I was a first-generation student who had to fight my parents to attend the university of my choice and to explore who I am vs. who my family expected me to become. Being a college student during the 9/11 attacks has become a defining moment in my memory of college and also my own racial identity within this U.S. context. I remember feeling lost and confused as White people gave me glances of fears as I walked down Commonwealth Avenue and even more unease when I became aware of how I had internalized Islamophobia growing up in a conservative Hindu family.  

Understandably, college is difficult for everyone as we understand ourselves and the world around us. As a student, this quote gave me solace and inspired me to change my major (learning that not liking Chemistry is not good for pre-med majors) and also got me to figure out a way to spend my whole junior year abroad. Definitely not my parents’ plan for me. But I’m so grateful that Dr Thurman’s work entered my life when it was most needed and continues to inspire me. While this quote has been my email signature since then, only recently have I fully appreciated how this quote is shaping my life in this uncharted global socio-political moment today. 

Recently, in light of a global health crisis, the anti-Asian racism, disenfranchisement of immigrants, and blatant murdering of Black people, I’ve found that it’s easy to get stuck into a cycle of asking myself what can I really do to make a difference? What needs to be done to advance racial justice? What is my role in dismantling internalized anti-Blackness in myself? How can I be a transformational leader in this work? While my first instinct is to ask others I trust for advice and to go through various layers of insecurities and voices in my head, I have realized that there is no perfect answer for undoing four centuries of Anti-Blackness, racial trauma, and disenfranchisement that I have also been complicit with, consciously and unconsciously. What makes me come alive? For me, I am most alive when I am pushing for social change by working with organizational leaders, developing equity-minded processes and supporting students in embracing their own agency to cultivate a more inclusive world. In the midst of the COVID pandemic, I’m learning a new way to come alive: art. Never in my life did I imagine I would make art, let alone create a mindfulness coloring book. I just kept doing what brings me joy and it transformed me. Now this art book is inspiring others and having ripples of change in communities I will never know! 

Janett I. Cordoves, she/her/hers, Director of Higher Education Partnerships, Interfaith Youth Core 

As a vibrant and boisterous undergraduate at Montclair State University, I spent a great deal of time learning about and living out authentic, spiritual, organic, authoritarian, communal, and other leadership styles. I studied, lived out, and practiced leadership. Each organization I was involved in (including those I had formal roles in such as serving as an Orientation Leader, Residence Assistant, Chapter President of Lambda Theta Alpha, and Spiritual Leader for the Newman Center) required a variety of skill sets, some outlined in the paradigms listed above and others I had to discern and cultivate on my own. When I reflect upon my leadership style during those years and how I lead today, I have realized that leadership, at my foundation requires me to seek understanding; encompass the whole situation, person, and/or group; and to honestly communicate. To fully understand those that you lead and to effectively adapt one’s leadership style to meet the needs of your team and organization, you must gain an awareness and be knowledgeable about how individuals’ culture, religion, sexual orientation, social-economic status, and gender manifest in leadership. 

Although I don’t always get it perfect, which isn’t my agenda anyway, I am more aware of how I lead and what type of leadership the situation I am in requires. In our current times as we bear witness to a global pandemic, astronomical unemployment rates, global grief, digital relationships, racial injustices and the countless lives gone too soon, mental health issues, and police brutality, this time also requires a position of gratitude and strategically finding and sharing ways to thrive. 

This specific time brought Raja and me into a more pronounced and sacred friendship and we have collided around these exact things — gratitude and Thriving in This Time. 

Here are some previews of our videos:

Dr. Janett I. Cordovés (she/her/hers), Director of Higher Education Partnerships at Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) equips and empowers campus staff and faculty to be interfaith leaders. Prior to joining the IFYC team, Janett worked in higher education for over a decade, elevating the importance of engaging worldview identity and creating religious and spiritual accommodations and policies to support students’ holistic development and retention and success efforts. Janett has a bachelor’s in applied mathematics, a master’s in higher education, and a doctorate in ethical leadership and became a Cluster Facilitator in 2016 and LeaderShape Facilitator in 2017. Her research interests include first-generation, #digitalfaith, leadership development, and spirituality. In her spare time, Janett travels to spend time with family and friends, volunteers with Beyond Younger and the Food Pantry, Catholic Charities, and at her place of worship City Church Chicago.

Dr. Raja Gopal Bhattar (pronouns: they/them/theirs) is a nationally-recognized higher education leader, advocate, consultant and author. Most recently, Dr. Bhattar served as the Assistant Provost and Executive Director of the Center for Identity + Inclusion at the University of Chicago, overseeing the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, LGBTQ Student Life and Student Support Services along with campus-wide climate and inclusion work. Previously, Raja has held positions at the University of California – Los Angeles, University of Redlands, University of Vermont, Champlain College and Semester at Sea (University of Virginia). They hold a PhD and Master of Arts degrees in Higher Education and Organizational Change from UCLA, a Master of Education in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration from the University of Vermont and Bachelor’s in Psychology with a minor in Spanish Literature from Boston University.

Things Feel Different in the Passenger’s Seat

(296 words, 3-minute read)

Individuals in leadership positions are in the driver’s seat.

When you’re the driver, you have control of the wheel … at least until autonomous vehicles become the norm. 

You not only know where we’re going, but more about each decision you’ll make along the way. You’re proactive, on offense, moving things forward.

In the passenger seats, things feel different.

We don’t have the same sense of control and comfort with our speed, direction, degree of the turns, etc. 

We can’t prepare for your sudden veer left or rapid acceleration because we don’t know they are coming.

We’re on defense, reacting to what’s happening to us.

What’s true in the car may also be true right now in your life, your community, your organization. Overall, more people in more situations find themselves in more of a defensive position than usual, managing and reacting to the changing conditions of the current challenging environment.

Despite present uncertainty, individuals in leadership positions still must go on the offensive and take action. We have to put both hands on the wheel and try to steer the organization through these difficult moments.

You’ve likely charted an initial path, anticipated adjustments to make along the way, have your hand on the gear shift, and are ready to accelerate and brake as feedback indicates.

But it won’t look or feel quite that same way to your friends, family, or colleagues if they’re only strapped into the passenger seats. They don’t want to be taken for a ride, particularly right now.

Rather than relegate them to back seat drivers whose hesitance you may interpret as resistance, elevate and engage them as co-navigators for the journey. Communicate more often and more frequently about the final destination, the paths being pursued, the milestones to measure progress, and the planned rest stops along the way.


Jeffrey Cufaude is a long-time member of the LeaderShape community, having served as an Institute Co-Lead facilitator, presenter at Co-Lead training, and contributor to curriculum for both the Institute and Catalyst. He blogs at and can be found on Twitter @jc46202.

He currently does limited consulting on learning experience design, organizational development issues, and building facilitators’ competence and confidence.

A Just, Caring, and Thriving World

Our Vision

A just, caring, and thriving world where all lead with integrity and a healthy disregard for the impossible. 

LeaderShape is struggling to engage in this moment as much as everyone else because the possibility of our vision feels very far away right now. But it doesn’t mean we stop believing in it.

In good times, this vision feels hopeful and possible to achieve for the world. It’s a bright spot to look towards and remind us of how far we’ve come. In bleak times, it’s difficult to stay focused on this vision. But in bleak times, it’s more important to hold tight to that vision and dig deep into the work that must be done to achieve it.

We believe that a just world is one where behaviors, policies, practices, systems, relationships, and engagements are done from a place that is morally right and fair.

We believe that a caring world is one where we each display deep kindness and authentic, genuine concern for others and ourselves.

We believe that a thriving world is one where everyone has the chance to grow, develop, prosper, and flourish vigorously and with the most liberated access to all possibilities that exist.

We aren’t in that world, yet. But it doesn’t mean it’s not possible.  

We believe and know that Black Lives Matter. But the ways that we, as a nation and as a world are acting right now, it seems like those are just empty words.

A just, caring, and thriving world is one where black lives matter.

The racially motivated events of the past week have been examples of how our world is not just, caring, or thriving for people of color. While these events are not new examples of these injustices and systems of oppression, they are being brought to the forefront of everyone’s attention.

During our Institute program, we talk about integrity and the role it plays in our lives. We believe at this moment, integrity is at the core of the work we need to be doing individually and collectively. As a staff, we are asking ourselves these questions. And that’s where integrity comes in.

  • What are the values that create the world that you want to see?
  • How can you have better alignment to your values?
  • How do you practice them?
  • How do we dig into our values in a way that helps us know that when we go after a world where Black Lives ACTUALLY DO Matter, we all will thrive?

As an organization we believe in the power of people working in community to make change. We encourage each member of the LeaderShape community to use your voice, your actions, and your power to make change. We also recognize that for some in our community, you have been doing this all along. You’re tired and you’re weary. We hope that you find space for rest and healing. We hope that you are feeling the support of others to carry you through a difficult time.

We will continue to do all we can to use our voice as an organization to help people to grow in community with each other until the world is truly just, caring, and thriving for all people – not just some people. Until we get there, the work will continue with compassion, curiosity, kindness, integrity, and hope.

One thing that LeaderShape values is the ability to gather in community and learn together. We believe that everyone is a teacher and everyone is a learner.  Since people cannot gather in person at this time, we want work to connect people to opportunities to learn, spaces to heal, and to have conversations that matter to make meaningful change. We’ll be posting more events and resources to our social media accounts in the coming weeks, but here are a few we’d like to share with you now:

  • White Supremacy and the Making of America – A Zoom Presentation (this Thursday, June 4). This will be facilitated by Roger Moreano, a LeaderShape Co-Lead facilitator.
  • White Accountability Virtual Groups: Free Zooms – White Accountability Groups (for 1st 300 to join): Tu 6/2 from 3-4:30pm ET & Fri June 5th from 5-6:30pm ET. To access Zoom link, please be sure to send an email to: This will be facilitated by Kathy Obear, Rachel Forester, and Craig Elliott, who is a LeaderShape Co-Lead facilitator.
  • Free Zoom: Ways to Convene White Accountability Groups in These Times, Wed June 3rd 5-6+pm ET (for those who are ready to explore ways to start and convene a group in your area/organization. 1st of several) To access Zoom link, please be sure to send an email to: This will be facilitated by Kathy Obear, Rachel Forester, and Craig Elliott, who is a LeaderShape Co-Lead facilitator. Feeling deep outrage at centuries of police terrorism and racial violence, supporting all who are effectively protesting, creating systemic change, and engaging other whites to create racial justice – AND, our work in these sessions is self-work: interrupting our racist attitudes and behaviors as well as those of other whites, recognizing and effectively shifting white supremacist culture in the moment in us & other whites and in practices/policies, and developing capacity and courage to effectively speak up and intervene to shift racism at the interpersonal and organizational levels as we truly partner with & follow the leadership of colleagues of color in creating true racial justice.
  • Affirming Black Lives Without Inducing Trauma – educational resources for the classroom and workspace.
  • 1619 Podcast – a 6-part long-form podcast on the history of slavery in America and how this history is still relevant today.
  • A Kids Book About Racism – If you have children in your life and want to start a conversation with them about racism, this book is a great resource.

If you have other resources that you’d like to share, please send them to us at