The Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) Blog Series is designed to share key insights from our ELP program with the entirety of our membership. After each program session, we will share key highlights and resources for those interested in delving further into the topic.

Led by Dr. Leela Viswanathan RPP, FCIP

Our seventh module, Accountability and Ethics, was led by Dr. Leela Viswanathan, RPP, FCIP. Dr. Viswanathan is Founder and Principal of Viswali Consulting, a firm that focuses on human-centred policy and planning, and design for systems change. Dr. Viswanathan drew from her lifelong commitment to promoting the rights and needs of racialized and other equity-deserving communities, and from her 20+ years of experience in the not-for-profit and government sectors, and in academia. Equity, diversity, and inclusion informs all of her work.

Pre-Session Readings

Prior to the session, Dr. Viswanathan invited ELP participants to read a chapter from Stephen de Groot’s (2016) book “Responsive Leadership in Social Services: A Practical Approach for Optimizing Engagement and Performance” which covered some of the basics of responsive leadership and offered a foundation and context for the subsequent conversation. Dr. Viswanathan also assigned an excerpt from Rhonda V. Magee’s (2019) book “The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities Through Mindfulness” to encourage participants to appreciate the importance of taking a pause and practicing reflection in the process of ethical decision making.

Participants were also asked to complete a free online Life Values Inventory and then to reflect on the following questions:

  • What strikes you the most about your listed values from your inventory and how they were prioritized?
  • Thinking about the future, what are some of the values that reflect your leadership aspirations?

Other resources offered included posts from the Viswali BlogHow Can We Cultivate Intersectionality in Leadership and Growing a Community of Practice, as well as episode Planning with Empathy from the podcast 360 Degree City.

Speaker Presentation

In this session, Dr. Viswanathan began with an exploration of what it means to be a responsive leader as someone who practices ethics and accountability. Dr. Viswanathan drew from aspects of her own values-driven and goal-oriented career to discuss the attributes of a responsive leader being empathy and trust. She described the importance of aligning your values and your goals, something she has done to create a successful planning career.,

Dr. Viswanathan highlighted the difference between what it means to be a responsive leader from what it means to be responsible, and how ethics and ethical practice are rooted in values. Knowing one’s personal values and how they align or diverge with the values of one’s workplace culture and profession is crucial to understanding how to be accountable to one’s colleagues, the public, and ultimately, to oneself.

Following her presentation, ELP participants were given time to reflect on their experiences with responsible leadership, their current experience with leadership, and what values can inform an ongoing practice of responsive leadership as they look towards their future leadership goals. While sharing in plenary, recurring themes from past ELP discussions emerged such as the importance of empathy; being your authentic self; imposter syndrome and how to counter it; unconscious bias and the affect on team dynamics; equity, diversity, and inclusion; as well as the importance of transparency, and maintaining a growth mindset.

Participants of this session were given the space to ask open-ended questions and to receive valuable insight from Dr. Viswanathan. The Emerging Leaders Program will conclude in June with Module 8 on Business and Strategic Planning facilitated by MP Andy Fillmore.