Poet and leadership consultant David Whyte visited Santa Barbara this week for a UCSB Arts & Lectures engagement. Before his evening appearance, Whyte addressed a group of local non-profit, foundation, and other social sector leaders at the Orfalea Foundation Downtown Center, in a program co-hosted by the Orfalea Foundation and Leading From Within, an organization devoted to leadership development and renewal for both professional and volunteer non-profit leaders.
Whyte offered insights from his work on “conversational leadership” and the idea that we must learn to navigate the frontier where one’s self – and its ongoing monologue – intersects with others, and multiple monologues must become dialog. Likewise, exploring the frontier allows us opportunity to find the place where vocation and avocation meet.
The fifty attendees represented a broad cross-section of the local social sector, including Ron Gallo, president and CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation, Erik Talkin, CEO of the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, Fran Forman, Executive Director of the Community Action Commission, and documentary filmmaker Paul Lynch, of Cage Free Productions.
Many of the attendees are alumni of the Courage to Lead program, which offers skill and network building retreats for non-profit leaders. Whyte has carved out an impressive niche with his ability to integrate the act of discovery that is writing into the arts of management and leadership.
As Natalie Orfalea pointed out in her introduction of Whyte, “David understands well the role that language plays in helping us connect with others, and – just as importantly – ourselves. David Whyte has been bringing his unique blend of poetry, storytelling and insight into the world of corporate business for over twenty years now. His sessions have been woven into executive leadership programs with organizations such as Wharton School of Business, Stanford University, Microsoft, Mattel, The Gap and Boeing and he is an Associate Fellow with Templeton College, Oxford University.
Though his work speaks to organizations, it is an expression of compassion for the individuals who make up those organizations, and a desire to reintroduce these people to their authentic selves and deepest talents.”