Emerging Leaders, Evolving Leadership

Devon Turner, Director of Nonprofit Leadership and Effectiveness • April 9, 2024

Congratulations to the Greater New Orleans Foundation’s sixth Emerging Leaders cohort! On February 29, 32 nonprofit staff completed the Foundation’s six-month intensive called Emerging Leaders, our signature leadership development program designed to create a pipeline of senior and executive leadership in the nonprofit sector of southeast Louisiana. This program equips participants with the technical and relationship skills, as well as the critical systems-level thinking necessary to lead strong, healthy, and impactful nonprofits.

Representing a range of organizations and communities, members of the 2023-2024 cohort participated in a host of leadership and skill development trainings on topics, such as sustainability and care, organizational finance, fund development, network building, supervision, and cultivating internal and external relationships. They also engaged with local, national, and federal funders and local visionaries – relationships which will undoubtedly prepare them to assume their next formation of leadership.


As we conclude this cohort of Emerging Leaders, I invite you to reflect on leadership in our region and opportunities to promote sustainable leadership at any organizational level. Leadership is not static, and the development of leadership is an ongoing process. It is a series of actions – practices and processes – that bring people together. We ask a lot of our individual leaders – to represent our needs and communities and be our connectors and changemakers – and we often hold them accountable for actions and outcomes that are beyond their immediate control. The responsibilities of leadership can be weighty and overwhelming. Emerging Leaders provides an opportunity to encourage more sustainable forms of leadership and nonprofit cultures where leaders can thrive.

Emerging Leadership

Leadership requires practice. During last year’s redesign of this unique leadership development opportunity, our team periodically debated the program’s name: Emerging Leaders. We understood leaders and leadership existed on a knowledge and experience spectrum, and leaders are constantly growing through relationships, challenges, and opportunities. We knew that the people participating in Emerging Leaders had already established themselves as leaders through their programs and partnerships and, like all of us are still actively in a process of growth and development. We strengthen our leadership through the practice of it.

Because the Foundation’s research has documented there is a racial leadership gap in the greater New Orleans area, like there is in many regions across the country, Emerging Leaders centers Black and Indigenous leaders and other leaders of color (BIPOC leaders) in this learning community and affirms their strengths, experiences, and the unique challenges they face.

Emerging leaders in our program continue to practice leadership through skill development, application, and periods of reflection. This program provides space to examine leadership styles and how power, justice, and equity shape leadership practices and development. With these skills and resources, participants should be better prepared to move into new areas of leadership and be better equipped to lead organizations that are equitable and just. Prior to our program, these leaders were leading and learning, supporting teams, managing budgets, and cultivating partnerships. In our program, and from a position that acknowledges their experiences, they can elevate their leadership in a supportive community of peers and trainers.


Evolving Leadership

Leadership is a process. As the nonprofit sector is adapting to hybrid work environments, funding shifts, alternative structures, and more equitable practices, our leaders and ideas of leadership must also evolve.  As we hold leaders accountable, we must also reflect on our own actions and behaviors. Are we co-creating environments where our leaders can thrive, be creative, and iterate solutions? Do we offer the mentorship and sponsorship leaders need to access resources and opportunities to evolve? Do we extend grace during the challenging moments of leadership and recognize that leaders require a community of changemakers to live into our awesome visions for change? Impactful leaders need us to meet this moment with care, support, and action.

The Emerging Leaders cohort – with authenticity, passion, and joy – answered the call to leadership. We intend for Emerging Leaders to nurture their strengths, offer care and grace, and hold space for their leadership to evolve.