Speaker Highlight: Brandon Shamim, LSC' 04

Recently we connected with Leadership Southern California (LSC) Alum, Brandon Shamim to talk about his experience as a leader. Brandon returns to SCLN to impart his years of leadership and management experience on this year's LSC Class during their Effective and Inclusive Collaboration Seminar on Friday, August 26. We look forward to his session "Key Learning Concepts on Problem Solving and Cross-Sector Innovation."

We asked Brandon to share more about his leadership journey and what skills he believes cross-sector leader's need today.

Please explain a little bit about who you are and the work that you do.

Throughout my life, I have been a boundary crosser. Guided by my immigrant roots; I grew up in rural Appalachia, lived in the South and eventually settled in Southern California. My career spans working for two decades in corporate, government and educational settings, which has catapulted me to coach, train and advise decision-makers to pursue bold and confident decisions.

Having founded and managed multiple businesses and nonprofits, conducted public affairs at a leading Fortune 100, designed communications strategy for a national think tank, and overseen a U.S. Department of Commerce agency, I value cross-sector collaboration and social innovation.

As an adjunct professor at several top 50 universities, I’m proud to work with aspirational leaders striving for growth and opportunity. Drawing upon my versatile experiences, I have proudly served as an appointed LA City Commissioner, and on boards of nonprofits such as Habit for Humanity, Tournament of Roses Foundation, PBS SoCal and Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

SCLN works to inspire, prepare and connect leaders and you have been both a fellow and speaker, please describe your experience working with SCLN fellows/alumni.

I am deeply passionate about advancing my own understanding of civic engagement and public policy, and I have been energized by SCLN’s forward looking vision. I have proudly served in various capacities - as a fellow, alumnus, presenter and even recruited changemakers that pursued political office, appointed commissions, and service on nonprofit and corporate boards. These cadre of committed SCLN fellows, alumni and board members, such as myself, remain steadfast to the power of the possible and a commitment to be more and do more.

Leadership Southern California explores the systems, trends and issues that shape the Southern California region. For leaders working in or aspiring to work in cross-sector or regional spaces, what skills and competencies should they develop to be effective?

At the onset of the millennia, there was a growing belief that Southern California would experience oversized population growth that would constrain resources and adversely impact our quality of life. Today, even though that trend of migration seems to have reversed, we are still left with intractable challenges in SoCal. The need to connect with hyperlocal social networks - to gain access to vital resources, information and people has become more pronounced during the last few years. It will continue to be imperative for policymakers to changemakers to invest in our social capital and provide agency and equitable access to those that have been forgotten. By becoming data informed humanists and humble heroes, we can start addressing the root causes of wicked problems rather than pursuing expedient and unsustainable solutions.

Describe your thoughts on leadership. Do you have any advice for aspiring leaders?

We live in the Netflix era - a constant barrage of ideas and information in on-demand environment. Instead of feeding this voracious appetite, leaders may wish to embrace a different mindset - AOR - Action, Observation and Reflection. Organizational pressures often place unrealistic demands on leaders to take bold, swift and decisive action. Through observation, leaders would be well served to evaluate the consequences of their words, decisions and behaviors - both intentional and unintentional. Finally, through reflection, leaders can understand the true nature of successes and failures - asking themselves what worked, perhaps why it didn’t and how can we do better in the future? This mindset allows leaders to remain anchored to their values, vigilant of the evolving situation and open to constructive dissent that can potentially lead to transformative change.

Often our failures are our most valuable lessons learned. Describe a failure and the lessons and adjustments that you took to overcome it.

It should not be shocking to anyone that failure is the essential building block of growth, learning and eventual progress. There have been several disappointments, setbacks and missteps that have littered my highway towards success. One that stands out, is recognizing that even a well-intentioned and well-funded initiative has a sunset. For several years, I served as a co-director for a regional consortium galvanizing community colleges, businesses and workforce development agencies to create a talent pipeline for a major economic cluster in SoCal. While we enjoyed the attention and interest of various cross-sector stakeholders, the seeds of collaboration were sewn but could not be fully harvested year after year. It was both a sobering realization of the structural limitations and also a reminder that building trust and cooperation takes time, talent and treasure to cultivate.