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The Essential Skills of Cross Sector Leadership

Stanford Social Innovation Review

Dave Smith & Jeanine Becker

Winter 2018

Becoming an effective cross-sector leader requires a set of skills built around three broad areas: building teams, solving problems, and achieving impact.

Complex challenges are often approached through siloed solutions—whether policy, markets, or social programs. But rarely are these attempts sufficient because the challenges we face are the result not of one policy, investment, or program, but of the interactions between them. This is why we’ve been seeing increasingly urgent interest in cross-sector collaboration.


The question we face is: How can we best help such collaborations address our pressing challenges at the magnitude and complexity at which they exist?

At the Presidio Institute we believe that developing effective cross sector leaders is a critical piece of the answer to effectively meeting these challenges. Leaders who have trained for and accumulated experience in leading a single organization, or in a single sector, often find the shift in perspective challenging and the learning curve steep.


To help flatten that curve, this article offers a framework and examples of the skill sets that cross sector leaders need and an invitation for new and experienced leaders to join their colleagues in a growing community of practice. This article is also helpful for leaders who are already deep into the collaborative process, and who want to continue to diagnose the challenges in their current efforts and think strategically about using diverse resources to scale their impact.


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