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.

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The New Workplace: An Evolving Professional Environment

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the “new workplace” and what it is evolving into.  I know you are conjuring in your mind something akin to the Jetsons with robots scampering around and lots of glass.  As much as I would love a robot to get me coffee in the morning (no assistants at this non-profit), the evolving workplace is happening right now and isn’t all about technology.  There are a number of trends emerging that affect workers and business alike including: multi-generational workplaces, diversity of the workforce, and technology.

Okay, I know that most of the hoopla is around Millennials in the workplace, but the fact is that we now have four generations in the workplace: Traditionalists (born before 1946), Baby Boomers (1945-1964), Generation X (1965-1984), and Millennials (1984-2000).  Right now the focus is on Millennials but the real issue is accommodating and working with folks from so many different frames of reference and tendencies.  It is not helpful for so much energy being taken up with rants about why all the other generations “hate Millennials.” To succeed in this workplace stew, we need better awareness of the difference, similarities, and motivators of each generation.

Demographic shifts in this country tell the story of increasing diversity, especially among younger generations, which is driving increased diversity in the workplace.  As Baby Boomers and Traditionalists retire, younger and more diverse populations will be moving into the workplace.  This is also happening at a time when more companies see the value of diversity and the buying power of People of Color is growing; demanding products and companies that meet their needs.  The second part of the equation is women.  More women than ever are in the workplace and are going to college while the participation among men in the workforce and in higher education is on the decline.  Fewer women are completely stepping out the workforce after the birth of a child which will shift policies around work/family balance.

The last factor to consider is technology.  The use of technology in the office has become ubiquitous in a way that was hard to imagine just twenty years ago.  Videoconferencing, smart phones, and other connectivity applications are allowing workers to exist remotely.  There are also increasingly better tools for collaboration.  This is reshaping personnel policies and creating new possibilities.  Workers are arriving with their own technology which is forcing companies to figure out how to integrate our tablets and other devices into the networks.  The cost of technology will be an increasing cost for businesses whether it is just the cost of keeping up or training workers.  With such rapid change, it is hard to imagine how the workplace will look in 20 years.

The 21st century workplace is evolving before our eyes becoming more diverse and technology-driven.  Understanding how to navigate these new waters will be incumbent on leaders to be aware-of and responsive to the trends.  Workers also need to be aware of how this will affect them to allow them to pivot and take advantage of new opportunities.  The companies and leaders of the Pioneer Valley can’t afford to ignore the trends or we will be left behind.

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Leadership Pioneer Valley Unveils 5th Anniversary Class

37 Emerging Leaders Participating

HOLYOKE, MA — Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) officially kicked-off their program and introduced the Class of 2017 on Sept. 27 at the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke at 5:30 pm at its annual Reach Beyond Reception. The reception marked the inception of an intensive, ten-month regional leadership development curriculum for the new cohort. This year marks the 5th Anniversary of Leadership Pioneer Valley.

LPV’s regional leadership development program annually features a diverse class from Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties—representing private, nonprofit, educational and public organizations. This year’s class includes 37 emerging leaders from the Pioneer Valley that filled the room with energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to the future of the region.

“The LPV Class of 2017 represents the future of our region,” commented Leadership Pioneer Valley Executive Director, Lora Wondolowski. “They bring a wide variety of backgrounds and skills to bear while all of them are committed to deepening their community involvement. With LPV in their toolboxes, they will go far.”

Leadership Pioneer Valley addresses the critical need to build a diverse network of leaders who aspire to work together across traditional barriers to strengthen the region. The region-specific curriculum is designed to help the participants refine their leadership skills, broaden connections, and develop a greater commitment to community trusteeship and inclusion within the Pioneer Valley.

In January of 2014, Class of 2014 member Isabel Serrazina passed away suddenly.  To honor her memory and leadership, fellow-class members, alumni, and the board created the Serrazina Scholarship Fund to enable potential participants to attend LPV.  This year’s annual Serrazina Scholarship was awarded to Intiya Isaza-Figueroa, who works for Home City Housing to provide housing for low-income individuals and families.  Intiya embodies Isabel Serrazina’s longtime work on low-income housing issues in Springfield.

LPV Class of 2017 Participants

Galina Abashina of Westfield Jewish Family Service of Western MA
Ryan Barry of Easthampton Bulkley Richardson & Gelinas LLP
Latoya Bosworth of Chicopee Springfield Public Schools
Chelan Brown of Springfield MGM Springfield
Drew Christensen of E. Longmeadow MassMutual
Sarah Crouse of Granby Appleton Corp
Tasheena Davis of Springfield City of Springfield
Morgan Drewniany of Westfield Springfield Cultural District
Patrick Egan of Longmeadow YWCA
James Farrell of Chicopee Health New England
Jillian Ferguson of Northampton Chicopee Office of Community Development
Melissa Fernette of Greenfield Baystate Franklin Medical Center
Dawn Gatzounas of S. Hadley Cooley Dickinson Hospital
Emily Gaylord of Easthampton Center for Ecological Technology
Johnathan Griffin of Greenfield UMass Amherst
Gillian Hinkson of Springfield State of MA
Mark Hudgik of Hadley Greenfield Community College
Justin Hurst of Springfield Self-employed
Intiya Isaza-Figueroa of Holyoke Home City Housing
Kimberly Lavallee of E. Longmeadow Greater Springfield YMCA
Yaileen Medina of Springfield MassMutual
Daniel Nietsche of Greenfield Franklin Regional Council of Governments
John O’Leary of Westwood Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
Julia Ortiz of Springfield Springfield Housing Authority
Katherine Person of Easthampton Veterans Inc.
Karen Pohlman of Northampton Baystate Health
William Reichelt of West Springfield Town of West Springfield
Jessica Roncarati-Howe of Chicopee Chicopee Chamber of Commerce
Kristine Rose of Holyoke Mount Holyoke College
Daniel Schwarting of Longmeadow ISO New England
Jill Scibelli of E. Longmeadow Baystate Health
Jane Sicard of Holyoke Baystate Health
Renee Tastad of Holyoke Holyoke Community College
Giselle Vizcarrondo of Springfield Self-employed
Bianca Walker of Chicopee Alzheimer’s Association
Laura Walsh of Springfield City of Springfield
Brian Westerlind of Agawam The Markens Group, Inc


About Leadership Pioneer Valley:
The mission of Leadership Pioneer Valley is to identify, develop and connect diverse leaders to strengthen the region. Formed in 2010 to fill a critical need for a leadership program that builds a network of emerging leaders to address the challenges and opportunities of the region, Leadership Pioneer Valley combines both classroom and hands-on, experiential learning at different locations throughout the Valley. The curriculum is designed to foster the skills, collaboration, and commitment needed to further a vibrant and culturally competent Pioneer Valley. The inaugural class launched in the fall of 2011.

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Whatever Happened to 20% Time?

It’s common knowledge that innovation is tied directly to creativity. Companies and organizations that foster creativity create a well of new ideas that can spur growth. Creative environments strengthen morale, engagement and productivity among employees. Or so we’re told.

One of the more famous programs aimed at promoting creativity was adopted by Google. Known as “20% Time,” it invites employees to allot 20 percent of their time to work on individual or group projects that they think would most benefit the company. Some accounts suggest the program resulted in products like Gmail and AdSense, which are now widely used products. I thought this was an interesting idea. Employees, to some degree, have the most knowledge of a company’s operations as they are the one’s working the frontlines. By allowing them more time to work on what they consider most important, they will be able to come up with innovative ways to improve the company’s performance. Surely such a simple and effective idea would spread to other industries- or so I thought.

I read some personal accounts of Google’s 20 percent time and learned that the many people are not as enthusiastic about the program as early media coverage suggested, and it hasn’t seemed to spread much beyond tech. Even at Google, less than ten percent of its employees were using it and those that did sometimes referred to it as “120 percent time.” 20 percent time ultimately requires employees to take time off from primary projects to work on individual ventures, a sacrifice many people are unwilling to make voluntarily, and those that do, just end up working longer. It seems that creativity requires context, and the 20% time program didn’t offer the right one for everyone. A few years back there was some media attention to the program’s discontinuation, although there was disagreement over whether it was extinguished entirely

Silicon Valley tech companies like to give off the impression that their management techniques are a form of enlightened thinking, especially when compared to other industries. They pride themselves for their innovativeness and attract many great talent as a result. However, I wonder if these “special” methods act more as decorations to disguise these companies from the fact that they operate and manage like any other profit driven business. Google HR boss said it himself, “In some ways, the idea of 20 percent time is more important than the reality of it.”

Despite the program’s discontinuation, it still serves a vital purpose as a part of Google’s story that potential employees can relate to. People want to work at a place that appears to have a laidback, creative culture, regardless of whether or not that’s how it actually is. 20 percent time still serves that purpose.

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Leadership Pioneer Valley Class of 2016 makes it into El Sol Latino’s July edition!


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Leadership Pioneer Valley Welcomes New Board Members




Community Leaders elected for two year term


July 19, 2016 – Springfield, MA Leadership Pioneer Valley is pleased to welcome, Raymond Berry Jr., Ed Kubosiak Jr., Russell Peotter, and Francia Wisnewski to its Board of Directors. Each brings a passion for both the work of the organization and the continued success of the Pioneer Valley.


“We are delighted to have these dynamic and community leaders join us,” said Lora Wondolowski, Leadership Pioneer Valley Executive Director. “Ed, Ray, Francia, and Rus bring important skills and experience to the board and will help to fulfill our mission of building and connecting more diverse, committed and effective leadership for the Pioneer Valley.”


Raymond Berry is the Senior Vice President & CFO at the United Way of Pioneer Valley a regional non-profit organization and founder of White Lion Brewing Company, the first craft brewing company in the city of Springfield’s history. Berry is currently an appointed member of the United Way Worldwide’s Financial Issues Committee, is a board member for Partners for Healthier Communities, Black Leadership Alliance, STCC Foundation and the local YMCA.  Recently he served as a mayoral appointed and city council approved Commissioner for the city of Springfield’s License Board.  Ray is also an inaugural class alumnus of LPV.

Ed Kubosiak Jr. is the Editor-in-Chief of, a position he has held since 2005, and has spent the past 23 years as a journalist. Kubosiak has helped MassLive grow into the second-largest digital media organization in the state, trailing only the Boston Globe properties (, with more than 3.5 million monthly unique visitors. Previous to joining MassLive in 1998 Kubosiak spent five years as a sports reporter at the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton.

Russell Peotter is responsible for the management of WGBY Springfield, the WGBH-affiliated public television station serving western Massachusetts, northern Connecticut and southern Vermont. He oversees programming, production, development, engineering, and administration. Rus came to WGBY in 2001 from Maine Public Broadcasting. He has served on numerous PBS national committees, helping senior PBS management develop policies and services in support of stations across the country. Outside of work, he is currently Chair of MassCreative, the Commomwealth’s Arts advocacy organization, Chair of the Hampshire Regional Chamber of Commerce, and on the boards of CISA and the Hilltown Land Trust among others.

 Francia Wisnewski grew up in Colombia and worked as a biology teacher before moving to this country to pursue a master’s degree in education at UMass Amherst. After settling in Greenfield, she immersed herself in volunteer work and selflessly continues to give time and effort to causes she believes in.  She just stepped down as an elected school committee member and is Regional Program Manager for Raising a Reader MA.

About Leadership Pioneer Valley:
The mission of Leadership Pioneer Valley is to identify, develop and connect diverse leaders to strengthen the region. Formed in 2010 to fill a critical need for a leadership program that builds a network of emerging leaders to address the challenges and opportunities of the region, Leadership Pioneer Valley combines both classroom and hands-on, experiential learning at different locations throughout the Valley. The curriculum is designed to foster the skills, collaboration, and commitment needed to further a vibrant and culturally competent Pioneer Valley. The inaugural class launched in the fall of 2011.


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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.

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