Context and Ambition: The Formula for Peer-to-Peer Leadership

Olivia Davis and Lucy Friedland are interns at CarrotNewYork this summer. They spent two months learning about social impact marketing and developing a thought leadership project titled, Girls Inspired: You Can Be What You Can’t See. The following is part of what they learned this summer.

In the field of social impact, the work is different than that of a traditional agency; more complicated, harder to fund, and harder to always move the needle in a timely fashion. More and more of the work we are doing is cooperative and not simply because we cannot do it all ourselves. Collaboration is actually a more effective tool that can enhance the outcome of a project in a way that would have been impossible to achieve alone (See Step Two of our latest blog post, Five Steps for Launching a Social Impact Program). As interns this summer at CarrotNewYork, we learned that peer-to-peer leadership is an effective style to accomplish the end goal of social impact projects.

What is Peer-to-Peer Leadership?

Peer-to-peer leadership (P2P) is a style of management that is based on a lateral approach, rather than a top-down strategy. When engaging in social impact (especially where funding can be hard to find), working on the ground is just as valuable as managing the group. As part of our Thought Leadership piece on women in leadership positions, we interviewed Nina Kancheva Tushev, an advisor to the Tribal Link Foundation and longtime consultant to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). “Leadership,” says Ms. Kancheva Tushev, “is not about being in control. It's about convening people and providing a good space for people to be in for everyone to do their best to contribute.”

As a part of The Tribal Link Foundation, Ms. Kancheva Tushev works to promote the interests of Indigenous Peoples around the world. Prior to this work, she spent a number of years working on the UNDP with indigenous peoples. In her time working with these various organizations, Nina indicated that context and ambition are the foundation for her management style. When this formula is followed, many different types of companies in social good can find success.

The Formula - Context and Ambition

Ms. Kancheva Tushev spoke to us at length about the power of P2P leadership in terms of her non-for-profit work. “Leadership where it's one leader and everyone is following is such a flawed concept because it's not sustainable and it's not workable,” Ms. Kancheva Tushev said.

Ms. Kancheva Tushev also noted how P2P management has driven her career, especially as a woman. “You can completely create your own path and your own position, so [if] you have an idea, propose it.”  A sense of ambition is key to this type of leadership as it takes courage to break from the hierarchical norm. Ambition and confidence will help to create the right mindset to accomplish the organization’s goals through P2P. As Ms. Kancheva Tushev likes to say, “We acquire discouragement. [...] so give yourself five minutes to be discouraged or disappointed. But then decide to step out of it. Because it is not to be believed.”