Being Visionary

During the month of May, there will be 38 sessions of the Institute held all around the country! Somewhere around 2,000 people will spend six days considering how they can lead and live with integrity, hold a healthy disregard for the impossible, and work towards a vision that is rooted in their most deeply held values.

Creating a vision is an exciting, challenging, and moving part of the week. It pushes each of us to consider how we want to make a positive impact in the world based on what we care about most.

Beyond the actual vision that this exercise helps us to create, participants are taught a process that can move them from having a vision to being visionary! We are grateful to have visionaries in the LeaderShape community and want to introduce you to one of them.

faceMeet Varun Arora! Varun is the CEO at OpenCurriculum, a California-based nonprofit education technology company that is helping K-12 teachers all around the world teach better. In 2011, Google named him a Zeitgeist Young Mind. Varun has a Bachelors and Masters in Information Systems Management from Carnegie Mellon University and participated in the Institute in Doha, Qatar in 2009. This is what he has to say about being visionary. 

What does being visionary mean to you?
It actually is quite contradictory what it sounds like. It means being so so so close to the hopes, desires, and aspirations of the people whose lives you care to affect that you are able to see for their future what they are incapable of seeing themselves. And then believing in that future more than they can.

What do you think it takes for someone to have a visionary mindset?
A visionary mindset is a very hard skill be good or maintain because it requires a lot of work to build. It’s different from dreaming; dreaming involves casually thinking about a utopian future, but doesn’t actually focus on you understanding how to get from where you are to where you want yourself or your community to be in the future.

In my opinion, here are the quintessential traits a visionary mindset:

Discipline & focus
A visionary operates in the framework of the existing state of the world. To be able to imagine and create the future, he/she needs to understand the past and present in great depth and have a grounded understanding of why it is that something that does not work according to how he/she wishes it could. It takes enormous determination and effort to avoid distractions in this process of building understanding and making oneself skilled enough to do something about it. Distractions are hard to avoid because the entirety of human energy around you is hung up on the status quo.

It takes years and years of hard-work, and that’s only if you get lucky very often.

Practice
A vision is not something you see once and come back to on weekends or during “free time”. It is something you practice and improve upon every single waking minute. You practice the skills and tools at your disposal to achieve change. You practice how to deal with critique of your vision. You practice patience. You practice grit. Many of these skills are counter-intuitive, and thus, a visionary mindset isn’t something you have or don’t have, it is something anyone can build with hard-work, tradeoffs, and sincerity.

Progression
A vision is never static in nature. To conceive a complete change in how humans would behave or act in the future is impossible without making progress every single day towards that vision and evolving oneself and planned milestones during that journey. A vision is never achieved in its entirety – ever. Achievement is measured in progress towards that vision. A vision is only as beautiful as the progress made towards it.

What does being a visionary mean to you?
We hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments!

2017 National Sessions of the Institute

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As everyone quickly moves through their daily lives, it is difficult to make time for conversations. Many interactions happen with a quick text or message via Snap Chat. At the Institute, we intentionally slow down to allow participants to create a community in which they can engage in meaningful conversations about values, integrity, and their passions. The week is focused on asking participants to connect with their values and then put them into action by developing a vision for something they care about.

In 2017, we will continue to provide the Institute experience to participants giving them an opportunity to explore their values and develop a vision for something they care about.

We will host 5 sessions in two locations. The dates and locations of the two general sessions are May 14-19 in Boston, MA and July 23-28 in Champaign, IL.

For the past two years we have hosted a national session for a specific demographic. We have done this to help participants explore the concepts of the Institute in a community of individuals who share parts of their identity. These sessions with African American men have been profoundly impactful so we are expanding to other areas of interest in 2017. Here are the dates and specifications for the three special interest sessions, all to be held in Champaign, IL:

May 21-26: Institute for Residence Hall Leaders
July 30- August 4: Institute for Latinx Students
August 6-11: Institute for African American Men

If you are interested in learning how you can attend or how you can send students from your college/university or organization to a session, please email us at lead@leadershape.org.

Want to learn more about the Institute?
You can visit our website and check out these posts about our program.
Institute FAQs
A Nerd’s Reflection on the Institute
The Heart of National Sessions of the Institute

#toleadlive

LeaderShape Alive: Change

By: Joanna Lindstrom, L Professional Writing

Is change such a bad thing? Sometimes our reluctance to embrace change makes us think so. Or, perhaps it is a false notion that change is associated with the negative.

carolinekFor Institute graduate, Caroline (Welch) Kipp, change is an important part of her vision.

A year before her roommate, Heather, attended the LeaderShape Institute, Caroline created a vision to change the journalism industry with journalists who report with integrity.

That vision started with her. After graduating one of her first jobs was working for a small, weekly newspaper in Denver. In the newsroom and during interviews, Caroline dedicated herself to her vision, leading by example. She maintained all ethical reporting practices – distance between advertisers, interviewing multiple sources, reporting controversial topics, and ultimately creating unbiased, professional stories.

Then, somewhere between the world of social media and rising independent bloggers, the journalism industry radically changed. Journalists of today work for themselves, instead of papers. Blogs and social media have all but replaced paper newspapers.

Caroline changed with it but has ultimately stayed true to her vision.

After her job at the paper, she worked in communications for the school board association and now, working in public relations for a growing town in Colorado.

“My profession and the world of journalism has changed, but the essence of my vision remains the same,” Caroline said.

Caroline continues to lead by example, but this time in her office and not in the newsroom. She has to tackle difficult communications projects like writing the town’s “blue book” for every election season. This requires her dedication to writing with integrity, and writing both sides of the issue with an unbiased perspective.

No matter where her professional life takes her, Caroline’s dedication to communicating with integrity will come with her.

“Information will always be a vital piece of our world, and the way we get it is changing rapidly,” Caroline said. “In a time where facts become true just by virtue of being posted online, journalists who report with integrity – and the PR folks who provide that information in many cases – are simply vital.”

What’s your story? We want to share all stories of LeaderShape visions and the ways they have adapted and changed over time. Leave a comment below or send us an email.

img_20160307_201446Joanna (Thomas) Lindstrom is a writer/editor and the third roommate of Caroline and Heather. She primarily writes grants for medium-sized nonprofits but also dabbles in blog, newswriting, and fiction. Joanna lives in Colorado with her husband, toddler, and slightly neurotic Schnauzer. She loves living close enough to meet with Caroline and Heather regularly. Visit her online: lprowriting.com