October 6, 2022 – During a time of tremendous societal transformation, not-for-profit organizations provide support and stability for individuals and their communities. Executive recruiters say today’s not-for-profits face a growing need for exceptional leaders. Carlos González Peña and Travis Hillier of Peña Search were recently called in to find a new executive director for Leadership ISD (LISD) in Dallas.
Since its inception, Leadership ISD has developed a reputation for exceptional programming and a track record of preparing advocates to lead and support public education in Texas. Financial hardships related to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, have resulted in a contraction of the organization’s size and a refocusing on its core programs.
Leveraging a committed board, broad alumni base, and dedicated staff, LISD requires an executive director with an entrepreneurial spirit and a vested interest in improving student outcomes to build on LISD’s firm programmatic foundation, said Peña Search. The ideal candidate will bring proficiency in the public education space, the ability to manage multiple initiatives simultaneously, and a deep understanding of attracting support for mission-driven organizations. As a vital member of the education ecosystem who contributes to opportunity gap reduction in education, the executive director must also be wholly committed to implementing the programming of LISD through the lens of racial equity.
While Leadership ISD’s next executive director may come from any number of professional backgrounds, the following key attributes and experiences will be necessary to ensure a successful leadership transition: Passion for Leadership ISD’s mission and vision; unwavering commitment to racial equity and the belief that every student deserves an excellent and equitable education that prepares them to pursue their boldest aspirations; strong belief in the potential of public education as a mechanism for closing opportunity and achievement gaps; students-first mindset and understanding that to create an exceptional experience for all students, specifically students of color, certain policies and practices must be dismantled in the classroom, on the campus, at the school board, and at all levels of government.
The search firm is looking a visionary leader equipped to develop and execute strategies, monitor and evaluate results, and work closely with team members on all aspects of the organization’s day-to-day work to develop and execute effective strategies. They are seeking candidates with a strong track record of developing and managing high-performing teams and creating an inclusive and accountable organizational culture that attracts and retains talent.
Leadership ISD is a non-partisan education advocacy non-profit that, since 2011, has equipped thousands of effective education advocates, created a pipeline of qualified school board trustees, and cultivated highly accountable school boards and school districts in North Texas. With programming in Dallas and Tarrant counties that serves over 850,000 public school students, LISD is student-centered, governance-focused, and advocacy driven in the pursuit of improved student outcomes and closing achievement and opportunity gaps for students of color in its communities.
Headquartered in Dallas, Peña Search focuses on the placement of leaders in mission-driven organizations. The firm’s specialties include: non-profit organizations, mission driven organizations, foundations, higher education, independent schools, religious organizations and educational institutions, human services organizations, museums, collective impact organizations, professional and trade associations, art culture and humanities organizations, environment and animal welfare organizations, fundraising, chief financial officers, chief executive officers, healthcare organizations, chief development officers, and advocacy organizations.
Non-profits are emerging from the pandemic as more vital than ever, say recruiters who serve the sector. But they need strong leadership. The growing demand for such talent, and a lack thereof, poses tough challenges.
Mr. González Peña’s fascination with non-profits began while earning a master’s degree at the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs. It was there that he was exposed to how influential these types of organizations are in improving quality of life across the U.S. He helped found Peña Search in 2009 to serve mission-driven organizations. Mr. González Peña is committed to finding the best cultural fit for each individual candidate and institution. He currently leads many of the CEO-level searches while also focusing on growth and team management.
Mr. Hillier joined Peña Search in 2015. He conducts and supports searches at many different levels, and is committed to finding and placing the right leaders that will have a demonstrable impact in their communities and organizations. Mr. Hillier has search experience across a broad array of sectors and positions, bringing expertise to searches on behalf of educational organizations, those with religious affinities or affiliations, and agencies with international programmatic or fundraising components. He has also carved out a niche on the Peña Search team for his skill identifying development officers.
Related: Replacing a Longtime, Non-Profit CEO
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media