SCLN would like to congratulate Juan Devis, graduate of Leadership L.A. 2012 and Chief Creative Officer for KCET as this week’s 30-in-30 honoree, a campaign to celebrate SCLN’s 30th anniversary. Juan is an engaged alumni, regularly lending his time and expertise to attend seminars, speak to fellows and make meaningful connections. SCLN caught up with Juan to learn more about his leadership style and work in the creative community, continue reading to learn more!
SCLN: What does leadership mean to you? Juan Devis: I come from a creative field that requires the collaboration and coordination of a very diverse group of people. From fundraising, story development, production and distribution, making documentaries, digital media or TV shows of social, cultural and educational relevance, requires the capacity to bring distinctive voices and points of view to the table, balancing the needs of the stories and the people that we are covering, with the creative team that is bringing them to life. This requires patience, negotiation and a clear sense of mission. I often say that we work at the service of a story, not in service of the authors and producers who are creating the story. Building a selfless team that is focused on the value of stories (and histories) is one of the most difficult but rewarding parts of being a leader in the role that I’m currently in.
SCLN: When did you first become aware that you had exceptional qualities as a leader? JD: I am not sure one becomes “aware” of being a leader…. you become a leader through the work, decisions and opportunities you are afforded, and you need to reflect on them constantly if you are going to learn and grow from them.
SCLN: Tell us a little bit about your current role as a leader. JD: I proudly lead a creative team for the largest independent public television station in the United States, KCETLink. With them, I have tried to develop and produce content that questions, celebrates and imagines the future of California and its people.
SCLN: How did you come into your role as a leader? JD: I have always wanted to do what I do ever since I was eight or nine years old. Although the form, methods and stories that I have told throughout the years may have changed, the goal and the need have been the same. As I’ve matured as a man, a father, husband and colleague, that need has expanded beyond my reach. I have come to realize that my passion for storytelling and the social good can be shared by many and the roles that each of us play in bringing those stories to life is different. Understanding each person’s role in the ecosystem of the work has allowed me to come into my role as a leader.
SCLN: Who played a significant role in your development as a leader? Do you have any role models? JD: I grew up in Colombia surrounded by a family of artists, social workers and cowboy-style DIY entrepreneurs; this gave me the tools to find connections between the public sector, the art world, and the pioneer spirit of my grandparents’ generation.
I have brought these three sensibilities to my work in film, television and new media, not only in terms of the content that I choose to produce, but the way in which it is presented.
The resourceful mindset of the Colombian, paired with the tools that I’ve been provided in the United States, have allowed me to propose a new economy or mode of production and engagement with the community.
SCLN: What are ways in which people can become more involved in civic and community work? JD: Our lives and our professions are not hermetic; they belong to a wider society, our contract as people and professionals is to honor our role within that ecosystem. That requires us to transmit our professional skills for the greater need of society. If we are willing to put our intellectual and personal assets on the line for the service of the community, the work and society will benefit. Not to mention, ourselves.
SCLN: Describe a challenging time or obstacle you had to overcome as a leader. JD: Vulnerability is an interesting state to be in (and have) as a leader. It can both weaken you and make you stronger. Learning how to balance your doubts, insecurities and assertiveness, all at the same time, is the key to an open, generous and decisive leader… but it is not often easy to achieve.
SCLN: What is your biggest failure and biggest success to date? JD: I may be a leader at work, but I am a man who loves, cries and fails at home. My biggest success is being a father. My biggest failure… being a father.