Live from the American Express Leadership Academy Global Alumni Summit

April 16, 2018


Tim McClimon

5:00 PM
And the winner of the 2018 American Express Leadership Academy Alumni Award is... Carlos Lejnieks!

The president and CEO of Big Brothers & Big Sisters (BBBS) of Essex, Hudson and Union Counties took over the then struggling agency in 2008. Within four years, he went from serving approximately 100 youth to serving more than 1,000. Under his leadership, BBBS has received numerous awards from local, state and national organizations.

I had the chance to chat with Carlos on how he leads with purpose, check out what he shared with me below:

Tim:What is your organization’s mission?
Carlos:To mentor "at risk" youth through professionally supported, one-to-one mentoring relationships.
 What is your average day like?
 A little bit of everything - fundraising, programmatic development, staff management, advocacy, cultivation, and partnership development. Jokingly, folks call me the "CEO" – the Chief "Everything" Officer.
 Why did you choose a career in the social purpose sector?
 There is a gap in this country between the aspirations of our foundation and the reality of many in our communities. The social sector fills that gap - it creates a bridge towards our country's potential.
 What does leadership mean to you?
 To me, leadership means helping others be their very best. That includes:

  1. Representing and standing up for those who are marginalized in our communities;
  2. Understanding my colleagues needs and aspirations to best help them achieve their current and future goals; and
  3. Knowing when to step back and allow another team member to shine or lead a task.
 How have you leveraged your experiences at the American Express Leadership Academy to drive change in your community?
 We have extended Leadership Academy fellowships to emerging leaders throughout the BBBS of America network. My current COO is an alum and over a dozen of my BBBS peers are too. All of us our using our experiences to fight for thousands of children in our respective communities.

As part of the award, BBBS of Essex, Hudson and Union Counties will also receive a $25,000 grant. Carlos plans to use this funding to invest in international service-learning experiences to develop the youth he works with.

Congratulations Carlos – we look forward to following your journey with BBBS!

3:50 PM
In case you missed it, this afternoon, Angela Fernandez, Esq. (executive director, Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights) and Dan Parks (managing editor, The Chronicle of Philanthropy) held a riveting conversation on leading during times of transition at the American Express Leadership Academy Global Alumni Summit.

With more than 20 years of experience, working in a variety of sectors, Angela has been a true advocate for human and civil rights in the U.S. and internationally. She has devoted her expansive career to educating, defending and protecting the rights of immigrants – driving impactful changes for communities.

Here are the top four leadership lessons from Angela:

  • Identify what type of leader you want to become. As the child of immigrants, from a young age, Angela played a critical leadership role in bridging a gap between her parents and America. This experience ultimately led her to take on many of the positions she has. Along the way, she has asked hard questions – both of herself and others, developed her personal voice, and learned to express herself with confidence.
  • Transitions are a good thing. Angela has had many – she started her career working as a reporter, then for a U.S. Senator. She later founded two elementary schools, and spearheaded the first of its kind Women’s Studies Program at Riker’s Island. In each role, Angela has been able to translate what she has learned across a variety of sectors.
  • Constantly educate yourself. Angela is a life-long learner and reads a great deal about leadership. At the moment she is reading Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The book delves into why leaders who have “skin in the game” encourage fairness, commercial efficiency and risk management.
  • Innovation happens at the margins. The most effective policies are created by people who are directly impacted. Anyone can step up and lead if they do it with integrity and authenticity.

Angela and Dan’s fireside chat has inspired all of us to embrace transition and use it to inspire others – a critical trait of strong leaders.

To hear more, be sure to watch the replay of Angela and Dan’s conversation available at

Greetings from the fourth annual American Express Leadership Academy Global Alumni Summit in New York City!

Over the next few days, we’ll be celebrating eleven years of a transformative program that has developed more than 3,600 nonprofit and social purpose leaders. Seventy-two distinguished program alumni from around the world are here today and tomorrow to grow their networks, enhance their leadership skills, and discuss key challenges facing nonprofit organizations.

This Summit is part of American Express’ commitment to championing the development of nonprofit and social purpose leaders globally – providing essential training and resources to enable these leaders as they drive change where it matters most.

Our conversations are pertinent to the challenges currently facing nonprofit professionals. And, we are thrilled to invite you to be a part of a discussion on Leadership During Times of Transition, featuring Angela Fernandez, Esq., executive director of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, moderated by Dan Parks, managing editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Our Alumni Task Force unanimously voted to hear Angela speak, noting the relevancy of her top-level governmental experience and collaborative work with affected community members in all five boroughs of New York City.

Be sure to livestream the event at 4pm ET today via and tweet questions in real-time using #AmexLeads. Dan will also host an exclusive live preview of the conversation on The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Facebook page at 2:15 p.m. (ET).

We’re also preparing to announce the winner of the 2018 American Express Leadership Academy Alumni Award, which recognizes an Academy alumnus who consistently demonstrates strong leadership while significantly impacting their community. The recipient’s organization will receive a $25,000 grant to support operational programming.

Our sensational nominees are:

I’ll be blogging about the Summit throughout the day, including a real-time reveal of our 2018 American Express Leadership Academy Alumni Award winner at 3:50 p.m. (ET). So, stay tuned for more!

  If you have a comment or question, please follow me on Twitter at @timmcclimon and start a conversation there. Thanks for reading and sharing this blog posting with friends and colleagues. 

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