Have you ever found yourself entranced by a particular leader? Someone who was presenting at a conference (in the olden days) or participating in a panel on zoom? Someone revered as an expert and thought leader? Or perhaps a dynamic CEO or exceptional practitioner?

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to get to know them, work directly with them, or simply have an hour to pick their brain?

As a fellow with The Patterson Foundation (TPF), I am fortunate to have those opportunities often. And believe me when I say it is rarified air that never loses its luster, even as the frequency of such opportunities has been predictably consistent.

"John, what in the world do you mean by predictably consistent?" Well, reader, let me explain.

From my very first day as a TPF Fellow, I have had the privilege of working closely with Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of a $230+M foundation. Every week we meet one-on-one for at least an hour to discuss everything from leadership philosophy, current trends/issues in the philanthropic sector, special projects, the pursuit of my next chapter post-fellowship, and any other relevant topic that may arise. This is in addition to working closely with her and many other philanthropic leaders both locally and nationally on complex projects that drive community impact and meaningful change.

Each fellow joins TPF with an already strong skill set and an aspiration to become a leader and change agent in the philanthropic sector. Our fellowship is focused on building upon each individual fellow's existing strengths and skills while building new muscles in areas that may be completely new or outside of our wheelhouse. This happens in various ways, but regular time with TPF's CEO is a primary vehicle for our continued professional development.

Another way this occurs is the ability to be in the room where it happens. The hit musical Hamilton (if you haven't seen it by now, you really should! It's on Disney+ hint hint) taught us the importance of this. TPF not only invites us into those rooms, but often we are charged with designing how our time in the room will be invested.

A recent example is when Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) President and CEO Patty McIlreavy visited our offices in Sarasota. All three fellows were given the opportunity to have a full hour with her—just the four of us, with whatever agenda we wanted. It was our responsibility to decide how to maximize our time together.

As our time with Patty commenced, we shared our winding career paths and aspirations for the future—our callings from the fellows' perspective and her goals for CDP as it continues to grow and evolve under her leadership. We listened intently as she explained her strategies and challenges with transitioning a now 10-year-old organization to meet her vision and as she shared both general and individually-tailored advice to us as we pursue a meaningful next chapter in the field of philanthropy.

As you might imagine, the hour flew by! There were so many takeaways from that conversation that it would need another blog to do them all justice, but I will highlight two that resonated quite loudly with me. To paraphrase Patty:

(1) Strategy should not be just a document on a shelf. It should be lived.
(2) When it comes to your career, never have a destination in mind. It shuts down other opportunities that may be precisely the right fit. Just find something you love and say yes.

Powerful stuff. Her advice rings in my ears as I continue pursuing new beginnings and contributing excellence through my work at TPF. It is not an everyday occurrence for a national thought leader and prominent CEO to walk into a room just for you. As #TPFFellows, we experience that sensation multiple times throughout our tenure. We are invited into the room where it happens so that down the road, we can provide the same access for the next generation of aspiring leaders. That's how we change philanthropy to change the world—one room at a time.

Comments (1)

  • Cheri Coryea

    Cheri Coryea

    24 August 2021 at 13:48 | #

    I loved reading about the way your experience as a fellow at TPF (as well as all other fellows) feels about the word time and how you spend it. I’d bet that if you asked Debra, she’d say it’s an extremely important aspect of her time to spend it with the fellows. You see, time passes, it means many different things to different people but it helps to frame the importance in your blog of spending time with someone or something that inspires you or lights up your creative side. I’m glad you decided to write about your experience with these meetings but I also wanted to express that your time is most likely just as valuable to people Like Debra and Patty because it reenergizes their professional development in ways that help build the path forward for people like you.


Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.