LeadBoston – Advancing your Leadership through Sustaining Relationships and Self-reflection

Kathryn Henderson, Assistant Vice President
LB connections
Photo: Sophie, Jo, & Julie of LeadBoston Class of 1997.
L to R: Sophie, Kate (Sophie’s partner), Jo, Sheridan (Julie’s wife) & Julie. Photo taken Thanksgiving Day 11/24/16 in Dorchester.

As lines between work and home become increasingly blurred, clarifying and living in alignment with our core values can sustain us professionally and personally. A network of diverse leaders who share those values becomes increasingly important to advancing initiatives at work and in our communities. I recently spoke with three groups of LeadBoston alumni from 1997, 2011 and 2014 who reflected on their experiences in our year-long executive leadership program, including the relationships they developed, and its impact on how they lead at work, at home, and in their community.

Though our rich conversations several themes emerged:

By focusing on leadership as an agent for change, participants develop in ways that transcend the workplace.

LeadBoston’s exploration of the challenges facing the city and socially responsible leadership, means that each cohort has a shared goal – how to build a better Boston.

A recent survey revealed 40% of alumni developed business collaborations and 63% developed personal friendships through LeadBoston. That effect was echoed when I met with Julie, Jo and Sophie, from class of 1997. During a lively conversation, full of laughter and reminiscing, Sophie reflected that LeadBoston helped her clarify what she stood for and how she wanted that to inform her emerging consulting business. Julie & Jo echoed that LeadBoston provided an opportunity to reflect on their own values and also experientially learn from their classmates’ leadership. As the conversation turned to their roles as caregivers, Jo & Julie reflected that LeadBoston had shaped their parenting and clarified the values they wanted to pass down to future generations.

Innovative collaborations blossom when diverse cross sector professionals connect.

While professionals often refer to operating in silos, LeadBoston intentionally brings together diverse leaders from the corporate, public and private sectors such as Connie and Eileen in the 2014 cohort.  

Eileen, then a leader at Cubist Pharmaceuticals and Connie, then executive director of Science Club for Girls, crossed paths at the program’s start.  As Connie reflects, “the retreat allowed us to hear and see each other beyond our professional roles and personal backgrounds, giving insight into each other’s perspectives and values. That level of dialogue coupled with lunch time banter and casual conversations are how I begin to relate…” Eventually, Connie & Eileen developed a partnership to launch an S.T.E.M. related initiative as part of the inaugural HUB Week in 2015. They also drew upon other LeadBoston contacts: their classmate Jackie secured the president of National Grid, MA as a speaker; and alum Christy provided the venue at a major hospital.  Eileen reports that LeadBoston expanded her thoughts on what’s possible through collaboration, and has gone on to lead several innovative partnerships in her community.

Following their LeadBoston program year, Julie, then leading The Boston Institute for Arts Therapy (BIAT) and Jo, involved with the Boston Chapter of the Coalition of 100 Black Women and where she chaired the Sister to Sister Mentoring Program, launched “GirlsWorld” in 1999. Partnering with Dimock Community Health Center, GirlsWorld programming worked to provide “a world where girls are given an opportunity to investigate their creative possibilities to change the world.”

Shared powerful experiences lay the foundation for enduring relationships.

Priya L & Priya N met at orientation in 2010, both surprised to find another Priya in a class of 45 participants. Through the deep discussions held throughout the year and similar timing of pregnancies, a connection developed. Moves out of state, coupled with demands of work and family, reduced the frequency of connection.  However, with the help of social media they remained in touch.  Priya L reached out to Priya N a few times for professional connections. Both reflect that the foundation of a shared LeadBoston experience enables them to easily reconnect with classmates for advice when they’re grappling with a professional or community effort. Recently, when Priya L posted that her daughter was seeking a pen pal, it was Priya N who replied. Their daughters communicate regularly, and Priya N shares “Mostly it’s knock-knock jokes and happenings of the day, but the relationship is budding and you can bet that with the two Priya’s at the helm, this is the start of a “powerful” evolution of two amazing girl leaders.”

Keeping abreast of each other’s endeavors, Eileen was able to introduce a former colleague to Connie who became directly involved in supporting Connie’s latest project. And Connie made an introduction leading to Eileen joining a selection committee for a local bio-tech’s grant programs.


Perhaps most striking was how themes raised in one conversation were echoed by people in other conversations. There is a power unleashed when a group of diverse leaders are brought together to explore socio-economic challenges, and encouraged to share both their professional expertise and their lived experience with a common goal of making a meaningful impact.

The class of 2018 is forming now.
Whether you’re an alum or new to LeadBoston,
share this experience with others.
Visit here or email Sheera Bornstein, Partnerships
(sheera@ywboston.org),to learn more.