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Reasonable Leadership

From January 2016, African American Point of View, by Lora Wondolowski

Every summer I try to read a classic novel and chose Orwell’s 1984 this summer.  Little did I know how relevant his dystopian future would be right now.  One of the things that really struck me in the novel was how their leaders were rewriting history and facts and changing the language.  Today we are having a national conversation about “post-facts” and “fake news” that echoes the world in 1984.

While co-facilitating a training on racial injustice, one of the participants responded to the historic “facts” that were presented with challenge on “white slavery”.  They cited a website that has information about people of European decent that were supposedly enslaved by Africans.  This person used that “fact” as a reason not to listen to anything we presented as if having one “fact” negates the other.  Facts are the foundation for any decisions that we make as humans.  We interpret the facts based on our own experience, reality, interpretations, and assumptions leading to what actions or decisions we make based on the “facts”.  This progression is known as the Ladder of Inference.  If facts don’t match our experience or frame of reference we reject those facts to justify our interpretation.  This doesn’t mean that they are not facts, but don’t match our reality.  In the case of the person in the training, they didn’t want to accept the facts presented and looked for a justification for rejecting them.  They found their own facts that matched perception.

Reason is the ability of leaders to interpret reality and bring others along.  Leaders have the ability to align perceptions with reality and increase their leadership by being reasonable.  Reality is reality regardless of whether or not it is perceived.  The challenge is when we perceive things that are not real or fail to perceive things that are.  The ability to shine a light on that reality is being reasonable and is a powerful tool as a leader.  Reason is the quality of a leader to be accord with reality, even when it is not convenient, expedient, or comfortable.

We are alarmingly faced with leaders that are acting unreasonably by presenting a reality that is false and using fake news and post-facts to justify that reality.  It is being argued that facts are not facts but just interpretations.  If you can’t rely on reason or foundational facts in making decisions, what can you rely upon?  We have to resist the seductive nature of following leaders that provide “facts” that don’t challenge us or are easy.  It is also easy to think that being reasonable as a leader is not bold.  Yet Rosa Parks’ perception of the word and the reality of the world were in alignment.  She acted boldly but with reason when she refused to move.  As a leader, that reasonable move engaged others.  What are the reasonable moves that you can make as a leader in this post-truth era?  How can you highlight reality?  These are the new questions that the leaders we need face and must rise to.

How ‘Leadership Pioneer Valley’ can help grow leaders – and our community

Published on MassLive OPED June, 17, 2016

By Paul Stelzer and Tim Brennan

As a local business and regional planning organization, we see the critical need for investment in leadership development in our region. Future leaders are key to our economic growth and the health of our communities and community organizations. We at the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission are proud to have helped found and incubate Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV). Over the last five years, we have also had our staff participate in their 10-month leadership development program. Each time, they learned not just how to work effectively with others but also made contacts that are invaluable to the work of both of our organizations. We believe that this kind of development and relationship building is vital given the aging population of the Pioneer Valley and the need to increase the leadership skills of existing and emerging leaders.

According to the Census, by 2020, 35 percent of the U.S. population will be 50 years or older. This age group primarily holds the leadership and managerial positions in our workforce, which creates a need for leadership skills in our region among those coming up the ranks. Currently, 23 percent of the population in the Pioneer Valley is 55 or older.

Our team at Appleton Corporation also believes in the importance of Leadership Pioneer Valley, and we have invested in leadership by promoting LPV’s Leadership 2.0 seminars. We think the value of a program like Leadership Pioneer Valley cannot be underestimated. Nearly everything in business begins and ends with great leadership, and because it’s a complex topic, no one has a complete formula for what makes a better leader. Overall, we are seeing the development of small and large companies as fluid and decentralized, and one that continually reinvents itself and operates locally, regionally, and now more than ever, globally. This puts an added burden on leadership competence.

Leadership Pioneer Valley tackles regional issues of importance and connects leaders through its program of teaching leadership values, using case studies, and peer management of a joint project. Trust, goal setting, and team building skills are developed through this intense program. Building leadership competence is critical to our workforce needs, as noted by the census data. If you want to know why so many organizations sink into trouble, look at that company’s leadership. That’s the value of a program like Leadership Pioneer Valley. It examines, quite holistically, the leadership paradigm and their graduates are more competent and ready to assume leadership roles in any sector they choose to work in. This is not text book learning but real practical, hands on personal development.

We think if you study leadership and watch closely, the real job of leaders is to inspire the organization to take responsibility for creating a better future, and a responsibility to communicate effectively. Leadership Pioneer Valley not only develops those skills, it also creates a regional network of leaders who can work together for the betterment of all in the Valley.

By working with other leaders from both the private and public sector, Leadership Pioneer Valley graduates return to the workplace with a stronger understanding of how to be inclusive. In fact, by the end of the program, 76 percent of participants showed increased cultural competency. Our region is increasingly diverse and our companies and organizations need inclusive leadership to thrive.

Our staff who have participated report that LPV has helped to deepen their understanding of our community’s biggest challenges and opportunities, built important relationships, and further developed their skills as leaders.

As Leadership Pioneer Valley prepares to graduate its 5th class and accepts applications for their 5th Anniversary Class, we agree that Leadership Pioneer Valley is an invaluable resource that local employers can use to help cultivate and retain top talent, much like each of our organizations have done. We urge employers to join the more than 80 other employers who have taken advantage of this critical resource.

Paul Stelzer is president, Appleton Corporation, Tim Brennan is executive director, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.

The New Workforce

How well do you understand the diversity in your workforce?  There are now five generations in the workforce which creates both real assets and is the potential for friction.  Here’s a recent post about the much talked about Millenials:

UWPV Basic Needs Grant Program

United Way of Pioneer Valley announces we are accepting Request for Proposals (RFP) for the 2016-2017 Basic Needs Grant Program.These grants will support programs and services that provide temporary, short-term food, shelter, and heating assistance to individuals and families faced with an emergency due to loss of employment, housing, escaping domestic violence, natural disaster, fire etc. Grants will be awarded for a period of 12 months from July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017. The purpose of the Basic Needs Grant program is to support and sustain strong communities in Hampden County, South Hadley, and Granby, Massachusetts.



The Basic Needs Grants are intended to fund and support basic emergency services provided by organizations located in and serving the people of Hampden County, South Hadley and Granby, Massachusetts. The organization’s grantmaking programs are one of several ways that UWPV provides support for the communities and people in our region.


Organizations with current UWPV funding through June 30, 2016 may apply if their proposed program or service is consistent with the criteria as outlined in this RFP, and will provide the indicators and outcomes identified in the RFP.  Organizations should apply for a single program or project where UWPV funding can have the most impact.  Applicants who have current grant(s) with United Way and have outstanding requirements due, must submit these requirements before applying through this RFP.


The purpose of the Community Impact Grant program is to support and sustain strong communities in Hampden County, South Hadley and Granby, Massachusetts. Your proposal must discuss how you plan to improve the services you currently offer or expand the number of people you will assist.


This grant program has three areas of focus to assist people in meeting emergency, basic needs:


Shelter  Short-term housing for people  who are: homeless, escaping domestic violence, displaced due to a natural disaster, a fire, etc…


Food:   Support short-term food assistance for people facing economic hardship, homelessness, isolation (homebound), etc…  This will include food pantries, meal services, and completing SNAP applications.


Heating Assistance:    Short-term heating assistance for individuals and families whose household incomes are 201%-350% of federal poverty levels and 60%-80% state median income levels, and therefore not eligible for public assistance, up to $500 per household per year.


All organizations interested in applying for this Community Impact Grant will be required to submit aLetter of Intent by Friday, February 12.

Organizations will be notified by Feb. 19 if they are selected to submit a full application.


KEY DATES for this RFP


Request for Proposal released – January 25, 2016


Orientation session for applicants-Tuesday, Feb. 2, 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. or Wednesday, Feb. 3, 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. both sessions are at United Way, 1441 Main St, Springfield, MA


Online Letter of Intent to apply due – Friday, February 12 by 4:30 p.m.

Notify Agencies IF selected to submit a full Application- Friday, February 19


Online Full Applications  due- Friday, March 4 by 4:30 p.m.,


Notification of funding decisions – by May 31


Signed Memorandum of Understanding due – June 24, 2016


Funding released to 2016-2017 Basic Needs Grantees (quarterly)-July 2016

LPV Announces Addition of Amy Proietti as Leaders On Board Program Coordinator

Leadership Pioneer Valley Announces Addition of Amy Proietti as Leaders on Board Program Coordinator


Greenfield, MA– Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) announced that Amy Proietti of Greenfield has joined the LPV team as program coordinator for their new Leaders on Board Program which is being piloted in Franklin County.  In this role, Proietti will be responsible for coordinating and organizing LPV’s Leaders on Board program to develop new and existing members of non-profit boards and provide matching of new members to boards.  This position was made possible through collaboration with the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, Franklin Regional Council of Governments and Greenfield Community College.


Amy ProiettiAmy L. Proietti comes to Leadership Pioneer Valley as the Coordinator of Financial Aid at Greenfield Community College. Her twenty year career in colleges and universities covers the spectrum of higher education administration. Along with financial aid, other positions have included database administration, residential housing, and college athletics. Amy has previously held leadership roles in three professional organizations, the Massachusetts Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (MASFAA), the Northeast Association of College and University Housing Officers (NEACUHO), and the Membership Committee of the American College Personnel Association (ACPA).

Locally, Amy is a licensed foster parent and has previously facilitated a support group for foster and adoptive parents. Since 2006, she has volunteered countless hours each spring to assist college-bound students and their families with the submittal of financial aid applications. Currently, she serves on the Executive Board of her union local chapter, the Greenfield Community College Professional Association. She has a BS in Political Science from SUNY Brockport and an MS in College Student Personnel Administration from Western Illinois University.



Becoming The Woman With The Torch

January article in African American Point of View, by Lora Wondolowski

“A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”– Ezra Lazurus

Last month, Leadership Pioneer Valley focused on inclusive leadership in our core leadership program.  Our leaders dug deep into themselves to explore differences, micro-aggressions and ways to enhance understanding of one another.  There were frank discussions that built trust and better ways to talk to each other about difficult subjects.  We are incredibly proud of our cohort for their honesty and willingness to be uncomfortable in order to be better leaders.

This day was in stark juxtaposition to the current discourse in this country around Syrian refugees.  Many governors (including our own), members of Congress, and other leaders have suggested closing our doors to these exiles in need.  Our communities are filled with refugees from around the globe, yet some want to single out one group undergoing a humanitarian crisis.    In the 1970’s and 80’s Vietnamese refugees and immigrants came to the US and Springfield-area.  Central American refugees fleeing dictators and war settled in the Amherst-area in the 1980’s.  Recently, lost-boys and refugees from genocide in Sudan and other countries in Africa have come to the Springfield-area.  They all have left unimaginable circumstances to brave unfamiliar shores away from home, friends, and family.  All of these refugees have added to the richness of our communities by bringing new perspectives, ideas, and ways of doing things.  They have started new businesses, become our co-workers, community leaders, and married friends and family. We are better off because they are in our midst.

Leadership calls upon those who presume to be leaders to make difficult decisions during tumultuous times.  Inclusive leadership is not always easy.  It can be hard to include those that others perceive as “different” or a “threat”.  Inclusive leadership relies on leaders that can bring out our “better angels” when the task is difficult.  Being truly inclusive calls upon us to move along a scale from repugnance to tolerance to finally acceptance.  Leaders can model the way by taking risks and showing others how to be inclusive.  I call to mind the church leaders in Indiana who have drawn the ire of their governor for accepting refugees into their homes.  That is true leadership.  To be inclusive leaders, we must become the woman with the torch lighting the way to acceptance and tolerance so others can follow the way.

Job Opening: PVPC Seeks Manager of Communications

Pioneer Valley Planning Commission seeks Manager of Communications and Public Engagement.

See link below for more information.