Effective Leadership is about the Team and its Purpose, not the Leader

Aug 20, 2018 by Piers Bocock Comments (0)

Piers Bocock is Chief of Party of the USAID LEARN contract.

The purpose of this blog post is to confirm and share some exciting news about the USAID LEARN contract. On October 1, 2018, when the fifth and final year of the contract begins, I am stepping down from my role as Chief of Party. Sarah Schmidt will become our new Chief of Party and Monalisa Salib will step into Sarah’s previous position as Deputy Chief of Party.

Over the four years that I’ve had the privilege of leading the USAID LEARN team in our collaboration with USAID’s Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA) Team, I’ve been transparent about my philosophy of leadership and what it takes to build effective teams. In line with that, here are the reasons for this transition, and why I believe the LEARN team is well positioned to continue to advance USAID’s efforts to become a more effective learning organization.

When I first sat down with Mihir Desai, CEO of Dexis Consulting Group to discuss the LEARN Chief of Party role, he noted that skimming through my CV and online profile, it’s easy to see a pattern: I serve 2-3 years and then move on - which is true. That day in July 2014, we agreed that by the summer of 2017 I’d likely find a different challenge to tackle. But, I have been having so much fun with the LEARN team and USAID’s CLA team that I stuck around a year longer than initially anticipated. (As with previous roles, I’m ready to move on to another exciting adventure that I’d be happy to share, but that’s not what this blog is about.) But knowing and recognizing this pattern, Sarah, Mihir and I have long since been preparing a succession plan.

In addition to being accountable for, and motivating a team to deliver on, priorities and deliverables and client satisfaction and the bottom line, good leadership requires longer-term scenario planning and succession planning. It also requires an intense, intentional focus on building the enabling conditions that create a sustainable, lasting culture that can stand changes in personnel and personalities without too much churn, angst, or disruption. This means establishing a values-based environment that puts the mission and the team above the personalities of their bosses.

Over the last year as we have been planning for the sustainability of CLA as an approach to doing development differently, we have also been investing in the sustainability of the LEARN team by developing the next generation of leaders in organizational learning and knowledge management by equipping them with both technical and soft skills.

LEARN team at Moving the Needle Conference

The USAID LEARN team at Moving the Needle, June 2018.

The LEARN team is committed to seeing USAID’s efforts to become a more effective learning organization continue beyond the life of this contract. Sarah Schmidt, Deputy Chief of Party for the past four years, is ideally placed to lead the team through the close-out of this contract and the start-up of the next, should we be fortunate enough to win it. She and I have been co-leading this great team since its inception, and she is more than ready to take on this new role. This is the next natural step for her in a career that has included effective and innovative approaches to organizational learning and knowledge management at DAI and Management Sciences for Health. She has the respect and loyalty of our team, and is a tireless champion for our USAID’s CLA Team and its missions around the world.

Monalisa Salib is one of the rock stars in our talented and accomplished band that is LEARN. She is our leading Organizational Development and Organizational Learning thinker who has helped shape some of our team’s most important contributions over the past four years, including USAID’s CLA Framework, the Self-Assessment and Action-Planning process, and our work on the Evidence Base for CLA. She is a strong manager and leader, and will provide excellent support to Sarah in mapping out a successful path forward for our team as well as USAID’s learning capacity.  

Building on their experience of working closely together for the past 4 years, Sarah and Monalisa have the respect and appreciation of our team and our clients, and will continue to deliver excellence.

Leading LEARN has been one of the proudest accomplishments of my career, and I can only expect continued success of such a talented and dedicated team.