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White Room


Coaching Innovation

As we celebrate Women's History Month, we're reminded of the indelible impact women have had and continue to have in shaping our world at every turn. This month, we honor the legacy of influential women from the past and those who walk among us, carving paths of generosity, brilliance, and grace. In this spirit, we commemorate three remarkable women: Lucy Jordan Dortch and Thelma Sydnor Towns, my grandmothers. Their values and visions have been the bedrock of Jordan Sydnor's vision to be a creative force for good.


Also, this weekend, we gathered in Decatur, Georgia, to celebrate and remember the life and legacy of a philanthropic leader who embodied the essence of leadership: Janine Lee, the late President and CEO of Philanthropy Southeast. Janine, through her unparalleled commitment to people and philanthropy, especially in the American South, demonstrated what it means to lead with genius, grace, and generosity. Her work has left an indelible mark on the community, striving tirelessly to make it more inclusive and connected. 


As one who was blessed to work closely with Janine for nine years as part of the Philanthropy Southeast board of trustees, I've witnessed firsthand on countless occasions how Janine could lead transformative change with an invitation, an expression, a conversation, a smile, subtle suggestion and with vision. When I remember Janine, Dr. Maya Angelou's words continue to encapsulate her spirit elegantly and what we aim to celebrate: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." This sentiment resonates profoundly with the legacy Janine Lee has left behind—a testament to the lasting impact of genuine kindness, wisdom, and inclusivity.


Three Lessons from Janine Lee's Life for Thoughtful Innovation:


  1. An Expression of Genius: Janine's intelligence wasn't just in her knowledge but in the wisdom of how she applied it to create meaningful change. She understood the complexities of philanthropy and navigated them with innovative solutions that broadened the scope of generosity.

  2. Leading with Grace: Janine was a courageous leader in every endeavor who approached challenges with grace and integrity. This poise under pressure and unwavering commitment to her principles served as a guiding light for those of us around her, showcasing how we, as leaders, can lead with courage and maintain our values even in the face of adversity.

  3. Cultivating A Spirit of Generosity: Perhaps the most profound lesson from Janine's life is her spirit of generosity. She gave not just in terms of resources but also in time, attention, and mentorship, fostering a community that values growth, learning, and inclusivity.


Engaging with Janine Lee's Legacy: Questions and Exercises for Leaders


To truly honor Janine Lee's legacy, consider these questions and exercises:


1.    Expression of Genius:

  • Question: How can you leverage your unique skills and knowledge to foster innovation within your community or organization?

  • Exercise: Host a brainstorming session with your team, focusing on innovative solutions to longstanding challenges and encouraging out-of-the-box thinking inspired by Janine's approach.


2.   Leading with Grace:

  • Question: What strategies can you employ to remain poised and maintain your values when faced with challenges?

  • Exercise: Develop a personal or team "grace under pressure" plan, outlining steps to take when facing unexpected challenges to ensure integrity and calm decision-making.


3.   Cultivating A Spirit of Generosity:

  • Question: In what ways can you expand your acts of generosity to include not just financial contributions but also mentorship, time, and support?

  • Exercise: Initiate a mentorship program within your organization or volunteer for one in your community, focusing on sharing knowledge and experiences to foster growth and inclusivity.


As we move forward, let's carry the torch of genius, grace, and generosity that Janine Lee and the many influential women before us have lit. Their legacies inspire us to build a more inclusive, thoughtful, and innovative future. This Women's History Month, let's commit to being creative forces for good, embodying the values that have shaped the path for partnerships and progress.



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