By Anne Jin Soo Preston

Earlier this summer I was listening to a radio segment featuring the accomplishments of famous leaders. The host of the segment specifically noted that even though we knew all about what these famous leaders contributed, often what we didn’t know is that they were actually one half of a “duo.” Over the last three years I’ve been fortunate enough to have the experience of being a part of a duo several times over, particularly in my work with Carlo Cuesta and Creation In Common.

Nonprofits have several duo constructions in the relationships of the Executive Director and Managing Director; a CEO/President and a Board Chair; or even colleagues within a department or small unit. Like most collaborative partnerships, nonprofit duos have to balance power dynamics, hierarchies, and competition. They need time to build trust, embrace similar core principles, and embody belief in and respect for the differing strengths each other bring to the table. They need to have the ability to offer objective and sometimes conflicting opinions without malicious intent and offer constructive encouragement to foster a great idea to be even better. They also provide checks and balances when you need it, making you show your convictions, and then laugh and appreciate your passion for your position. For Carlo and I, we’ve solidified a great deal of our duo status during our long road trips across the state while doing work for our clients.

In my own personal leadership exploration, I’ve realized that being a part of a “duo” is my preferred place for now. It allows for working independently, while knowing there is someone to reach out to when I’m feeling stuck. It allows me to be creative, innovative, and super productive, all the while thriving in what I’m trying to accomplish.

While thinking about this topic, I couldn’t help but think about childhood TV duos that had similar qualities to what Carlo and I both bring to Creation In Common, though I should clarify we often take on traits of both halves of these duos at different times:

Spock and Captain Kirk: the perfect combination of leadership and pragmatism

Laverne and Shirley: strong opinions and convictions challenging each other but ultimately appreciating the other for who they are and what they bring to the situation

Ponch and John from C.H.I.P.S.: Confidence, charisma, the ability to speak with authority, and a fun attitude paired with cool headedness, reminder of the rules, and a keeper of order who can always tie things back to the mission/purpose.

Though I’ve been a part of Creation in Common for almost two years, I’m excited and thrilled to become a full colleague of the “duo” and continue to build and foster the expertise and efforts of the many organizations we touch. Together we enjoy helping individual leaders forge dynamic duos and build collaborations that have a meaningful impact.

Anne Jin Soo Preston is the Director of Projects and Research  for Creation In Common