I think there are two distinct skill sets that folks in philanthropy work on developing over the course of their careers:
The “Hard Skills”—due diligence, research, communications, metrics, etc., and the “Harder Skills”—honest listening, quiet leadership, good citizenship, and honest engagement.
At these kinds of meetings, we’re torn between the two dynamics—how do we learn both in a way that makes us better technical functional specialists, as well as better generalists.
This struggle was articulated in the session “Next Gen: What Else Do I Need for the Journey? Skills for Leaders Aiming for the Top.”
What I particularly appreciated was Richard Woo’s reminder—there is power in being invisible. When you are the person who actually writes up the agenda or crafts the reports, the way you think about word choices or statistics to highlight means that you get to define the parameters of the conversation, and move it to a place that you might think is important. Embracing the different strengths of each part of the ladder is important, and something I think we, as ‘next gen’, can often lose track of.
That begs the question, though—where are we learning these lessons?
Who is talking to us about where our strength lies, where we can still grow, and who we should be striving to become within the field?
When professional development opportunities are presented to emerging leaders (which is rare to begin with), they are often about technical proficiency. While I think the technical proficiency is valuable, what about being a good leader, teammate, partner, and philanthropist (in the lover of mankind way)? Can’t we find more space for some of the less concrete but very important skills that often get overlooked in the process of creating good program officers, executive vice-presidents, and the like?
Mary Galeti is the vice-chair of the Tecovas Foundation