Popular Nonprofit Program Leading From Within Aims to Transform Every Community Sector

by | Jun 30, 2024 | Featured Nonprofits

Many people dream of transforming their community. Ken Saxon achieved that goal and he’s not done.

After finishing a successful business career, Saxon put his entrepreneurial skills to work on behalf of Santa Barbara’s nonprofit sector in 2008 by founding Leading From Within, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing leadership skills for nonprofit executives and community leaders.

“I could easily relate to executive directors of nonprofits because their jobs are similar to running a small business — except that in many ways it is harder,” Saxon said. “Most of these executives were never formally prepared to do their job, and they have multiple bottom lines to manage.”

With the critical support of the Santa Barbara Foundation, Leading From Within quickly developed two unique programs—Courage to Lead, providing leadership development and peer community for experienced nonprofit executive leaders, and Emerging Leaders, encouraging the next generation of leaders. Leading for Community Impact was launched in 2016 to invest in leaders in northern Santa Barbara County.

Courage To Lead Transfoms into Growing Edge Leaders

After 15 years of running Courage to Lead and serving close to 200 social sector leaders in that program, Leading From Within is now replacing that program with something new.  Growing Edge Leaders (GEL), a new intensive executive leadership program designed for motivated high-impact professionals is set to begin in September.  Applications are due June 26.

“I benefitted from a group called Vistage when I was in business,” Saxon said. “I spent a day a month with 14 fellow small business owners, supporting each other in improving our businesses and our lives. GEL is a somewhat similar model, but focused on the needs of social sector leaders.”

GEL membership is open to all Central Coast community leaders from nonprofits, philanthropy, healthcare, education, government and the private sector. GEL equips these seasoned community leaders to stay on their “growing edge” where they will find new ideas, frameworks, skills, energy and trusted companions on their leadership journey.

Each GEL group has a dedicated professional facilitator, and each GEL member has an individual executive coach acting as a partner to help support their development in a customized way. The coach helps the member set goals where they want to expand their growing edges.

Each GEL group, comprised of a cross section of community leaders in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, meets off site monthly for a facilitated day-long forum. In the morning, expert presenters lead workshop sessions focused on specific leadership and management topics determined by the group.

In the afternoon, GEL participants bring important challenges or opportunities to their fellow members, where they will get to hear a variety of views to help them move forward their critical work. As members support one another step into constructive action, their organizations and missions advance.

GEL membership costs $800 per month and requires a minimum 12-month commitment.  Leaders can apply online on Leading From Within’s website.  For smaller social sector organizations that can’t afford the full cost of GEL membership, they can apply for a scholarship to help cover the costs.

“When we conducted our strategic plan back in 2022, we heard from a wide variety of regional leaders who struggle with cascading natural disasters on top of their already heavy workload,” Saxon said.

“They operate with scarce resources and often deny their own needs while taking care of others. But self-denial is counterproductive.”

GEL is for leaders who want to grow

“GEL is where leaders go to learn and connect,” said Leading From Within consultant Judy Hawkins. “Members step back from day-to-day concerns to reflect on ways their life and work can be enhanced. They form a trusted circle where they can share perspectives, inspire each other and explore new goals for themselves.”

Modeled after executive groups in the private sector, GEL will motivate members to build lifelong leadership excellence that elevates organizations, strengthens communities, delivers meaningful results and fosters sustainable growth.