RVC’s Four Leadership Principles Prioritize Leadership that is Collective, Adaptive, Transformational, and JustBy Jondou Chen, Evaluator, Rainier Valley Corps While, communities of color have always had strong leaders, they face tremendous systemic racism that continue to undermine and sap community energy, which often drives away our leaders of color. In response to this, the dominant, mainstream, white-centric culture has characterized our communities as troubled and has swooped in, trying a number of methods to save or “fix” us. Look around. At any given time, there are so many cultural critiques, charity campaigns, and service-learning opportunities that allow folks from the dominant culture to enter our communities with a predetermined narrative of us and to tell us what we should do to fix ourselves. Tired of this, Rainier Valley Corps (RVC) has developed a model to enact what we have known all along: that we are the ones that we have been waiting for. This doesn’t mean that we’re already perfect or have already perfected leadership. If anything, what we have learned is that good leadership — the leadership that our communities of color need — takes a long time to build in a community and that good leadership also is always building up the next generation of leadership. The good news is that often, powerful community leadership already exists. We just need to know where to look. Paraphrasing the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, “We are each the heirs of a thousand generations.” What does it mean to witness leadership? To learn, develop, and then put our values to practice? What does it mean to mentor others in our organizations and communities in developing their leadership?
A New WayOver the past three years, we have worked on and refined a set of leadership principles that we have brought together from different communities as well as from past nonprofit experiences. We have asked ourselves and each other tough questions and have considered what it means for the next generation of community leaders to grow and develop the values needed for progressive leadership themselves. We have identified RVC’s Four Leadership Principles. Effective leadership is: