Feedback: September 2016

by Debbie Esparza, Christy McClendon, Terri Wogan-Calderón

Question: As a leader of a nonprofit working with many local business leaders as members of its board of directors, what leadership skills and values do you find most valuable?

Deb-EsparzaDebbie Esparza

Senior Associate
Girl Scouts – Arizona Cactus-Pine Council
Sector: Nonprofit
Valley Leadership Institute class 35

There are several leadership skills and values that are present in mutually beneficial relationships between leaders, whether they are nonprofit leaders or business leaders.

The first one that comes to mind is an ability to “hold the whole picture” in partnership with each other. This creates space for both parties to innovate, learn and celebrate together. This partnership is also what makes the experience fun.

Next, organizations can benefit when their leaders have an awareness that accomplishment sometimes comes in the small steps or even detours along the way. Tied to this awareness is the value of embracing the qualitative measures of outcomes in addition to the quantitative measures. Sometimes the real measure of success is in telling the story of how the game was played, not just the ending score.

Lastly, while we all have fiscal responsibility for the organization, it is important to affirm that innovation takes time and resources. Leaders see that these investments and decisions are not driven by short-term results, but by consistent investment in the long-term community benefit.

Debbie Esparza has enjoyed success in many fields, including banking, consulting, entrepreneurship, academia and nonprofit executive leadership. She blends all of this expertise in her career as a professional Girl Scout. Arriving at Arizona Cactus-Pine Council by way of Girl Scouts in Long Beach and San Diego, she helps to hold the vision of serving more girls and serving girls more.


Christy-McClendonChristy McClendon

President and CEO
New Pathways for Youth
Sector: Nonprofit
Valley Leadership Institute class 33

Developing strong, useful leadership skills in our staff and in our youth is something I take to heart. These skills come into play on a daily basis whether you’re CEO of a nonprofit or an at-risk youth enrolled in one of our programs, tackling life’s challenges and innovating solutions that work for your life and can adapt to changes along the way.

Leadership is as much about being proactive as it is about stepping back, listening and observing and taking the time to make the best decision in a given situation, and pursuing the most important outcomes. And it’s critical that every leader craft a vision for the short- and long-term success of their organization.

Some key skills for effective leadership include integrity; intentionality and focus on outcomes; investing in people; sharing empathy; and providing space for safe, productive interaction. And most important for a leader, you must follow through on your commitments to those who rely on you and look up to you. As a leader, you’re always making an impression on someone, whether you realize it or not.

New Pathways for Youth

Christy McClendon serves as president and CEO of New Pathways for Youth, a local Phoenix organization transforming young, at-risk lives through mentoring and life skill development. McClendon has a strong reputation leading organizations and developing accredited, collaborative programs. She is an experienced fundraiser, demonstrating keen business sense for diversifying funding sources leading annual as well as capital campaigns. 


Terri-WoganTerri Wogan-Calderón

Executive Director and Partner
Social Venture Partners Arizona
Sector: Nonprofit
Valley Leadership Institute class 22

At Social Venture Partners Arizona, our partners are business and community leaders who serve our organization as a melting pot of idea generators and drivers of social change. Given that our board members and volunteers make up 80 percent of our workforce, we thrive on those leaders who take action.

We love innovation and new ideas, but it rocks when a board member says, “Here is an idea and here is what I will do to make it happen.” I still remember fondly a board chair who called and asked, “What can I take off your plate today?”

The three leadership actions I’m most appreciative of include being accessible and responding to emails, engaging their networks on our behalf, and continuing to learn about our organization and our community. And, because we’re all in this together, those actions allow us to drive critical change in our vibrant community. I am so grateful for our partners’ time, energy, skills, connections and resources they give as volunteers.

Passionate about improving the nonprofit sector and public education in Arizona, Terri Wogan-Calderón has served as executive director for Social Venture Partners Arizona for more than 10 years. SVPAZ is an organization comprised of more than 100 business and community leaders as partners who invest their money, time and talent in schools and nonprofit organizations to strengthen those organizations’ capacity and sustainability.

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