Desperate Times Call For Different Leadership

Desperate Times Call For Different Leadership.

5 Adaptive Leadership Stances that will Change the Conversation & Ignite Transformation on your Team


For many, the state of the world is frightening right now.

Divisive discourse is ubiquitous, and many communities are experiencing a rise in tension and conflict.  

Some people feel paralyzed and afraid to speak up about race, class, politics, and ethics- and, others speak up so loudly their community members’ voices can’t be heard.

The truth is, many leaders are navigating unchartered territory, which can be challenging, especially when leading multigenerational and multicultural teams.

Why? Blind-spots and biases are real. We all have them, and when we’re under pressure or stress they tend to amplify.

Our biases impact our communication and how we show up for our people.

During times of transition and increased conflict, communities and leaders need more tools, resources, and strategies for engaging in respectful dialogue around complex topics.

Since I geek-out on neuroscience, organizational theories, and leadership development research, I want to share something William Bridges, PhD., (the author of Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change) points out that has informed a great deal of my work:

“Change is something that happens to people, even if they don’t agree with it. Transition, on the other hand, is internal: it’s what happens in people’s minds as they go through change. Change can happen very quickly, while transition usually occurs more slowly.” –William Bridges

During times of transition, we don’t need to a quick fix. We need experiences that acknowledge and allow space for our emotion.

Plugging-in to  devices only distances diverse groups from one another.

So, we need more opportunities to deeply and meaningfully connect with one another.

The essential question I aim to answer in my work is this:

How do we prepare visionary leaders of diverse (multicultural, multigenerational) teams to be adaptive, proactive, and intentional in their approach–during times of uncertainty, transition, and tension?

The truth is, my whole life I’ve been searching for the answer to a more simpler version of that question: Is it possible to be a part of a community where everyone feels a sense of belonging *and*  freedom?

I am not naive, but I am a relentless optimist, so I believe it IS possible, with extraordinary leadership.

I happen to have seen first-hand what’s possible in my coaching practice.

I have supported leaders and communities to come together across racial, gender, and sexual identities, as well as cultural differences.

I have witnessed inside-out transformation.

I care so much about this topic that I even created a community-building card game, SPARK For Humanity, to offer a solution for diverse teams to share stories on meaningful topics in a fun way.

I’ve seen complete strangers connect and inspire one another over the course of 30 minutes.

Over the past ten months I have had transformative experiences that allow me hold on to my relentless optimism with a tight grip and a sturdy backbone informed by praxis (theory and practice).

And here’s the truth: leadership is everything.  

In order to truly make and sustain transformative impacts on diverse teams, a drastically different type of leadership and community experience is required.

These three assumptions drive my work:

  • Leaders of diverse teams must communicate, build relationships, & create systems with intentionality
  • Emotional & social intelligence is required for leaders to navigate big changes and transitions with grace and integrity
  • Transformational leadership doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

My approach emphasizes the importance self-reflection, self-awareness, and cultural consciousness.

It’s imperative that leaders act with integrity, prioritize actions with intentionality, and communicate with awareness (especially of blind-spots and biases) if they want to support their teams into, through, and beyond the emotions that come with big transitions.




Here are The 5 Adaptive Leadership Stances that will

Change the Conversation & Ignite Transformation.

S.P.A.R.K. Leaders:

Show up authentically and with love.

When we lead with our values and share our honest perspective with transparency, integrity, and vulnerability, we feel a sense of both liberation and belonging—two human experiences all people need. Also, when we see our team members as though they could be family, we are able to assume positive intent authentically.

Pause. Listen with fearlessness and intentionality.

Our identities impact how we experience the world and how others experience us, so it’s important that we slow down, listen with fearlessness, and reflect on our intentions before experiences. When we listen to others with empathy and intentionality, we become more compassionate and understanding of others.

Ask. Don’t assume. Show courageous curiosity rather than certainty.

Neuroscience suggests that we are wired to be oriented towards our tribe, YET we’re also wired to be curious about those who live different lives than us. With the division in the world, we must practice showing curiosity before making assumptions about other people’s’ experiences.

Respect multiple perspectives and see one another as equals

Multiple perspectives allow for richer, more textured experiences. Seeking out and designing spaces that include ALL voices (race, gender, sexual orientation, generation, ethnicity, etc.) is a critical attribute of S.P.A.R.K. Leadership.  

Kindly expect tension. Create space for vulnerability.

Change and transitions involve emotions, and emotions are not expressed or experienced in the same way for everyone. We must create and hold space differently, if we really want to foster spaces for our team members to be fully present.

Being a visionary, adaptive leader during these times is not for the faint of heart.

There’s no silver-bullet for lasting transformation.

S.P.A.R.K. Leadership development experiences involve:

  • Acknowledging and accepting unproductive mindsets and old patterns of behavior, raising awareness of blind-spots and biases that impact one’s leadership
  • Interrupting those patterns by setting intentions and taking small steps to shift habits
  • Embracing the unique strengths and assets that each leader has, which in turn helps them lead authentically with intentionality, conviction, and confidence.
  • Increasing comfort navigating the transitions, tensions, and complexities of their organization.

And, tremendous results and experiences are on the other side of each development opportunity.

So, what’s your learning edge? How would you describe your Leadership S.P.A.R.K.?

I’d love to hear from you. Comment below and share what resonates the most.

Curious to learn more?


S.P.A.R.K. was founded in 2016 by Rachel Rosen, a seasoned facilitator, racial equity leadership coach, and LGBTQ advocate. S.P.A.R.K. offerings sit at the nexus of Rachel’s personal and professional passions, and she is on a mission to bring more empathy to the world, one conversation at a time. With a Masters from Stanford, and extensive training in leadership, coaching, team and organizational development, S.P.A.R.K. experiences are grounded in theory and practice. S.P.A.R.K. offers experiences that support leaders and teams to unleash their potential to facilitate powerful experiences, collaborate, and build trust.

S.P.A.R.K. offers experiences (both a product, SPARK! For Humanitythe game where everyone belongs–and a service). Interested in purchasing your own deck or learning more about it? Awesome!

PS: If you’re in the field of education, check out The National Equity Project (the amazing NonProfit Rachel works with too) for leadership development learning opportunities and feel free to join our upcoming Webinar, Intro to Equity: Starting the Equity Conversation.