Reflections from the Field

I am writing from Oaxaca, Mexico, as my friends and colleagues in the United States adjust to the new Trump administration. I was also in Oaxaca on Election Day with the inaugural class of the Vista Leadership Institute during our intensive week-long retreat. The day after election, we grappled with what the results meant for each of us individually, for the United States, and given that we were physically in Mexico, we had the additional perspective of, “What did the election results mean for our neighbors to the South?” I learned a word in November from our tour guide, pesadumbre, or grief. We were all experiencing grief the morning of November 9 as we headed out on our site visit.

Lessons from Institute Partners

Our site visit that day gave all of the Institute participants context and motivation toward action in their own communities, We traveled to Vida Nueva, the women’s cooperative that was founded more than 20 years ago. Doña Pastora shared with us the journey and struggle that she and the women in the Teotitlan de Valle community overcame to gain economic security, political voice and sustainability as an organization. It was very inspiring and incredibly timely to hear what she and the cooperative members had overcome.

After the visit with Vida Nueva, we traveled to Hierve el Agua, a natural rock formation resulting from thousands of years of calcification of minerals. It allowed us to look toward beautiful vistas and think about what was possible for our individual action plans. It was also a strong reminder that lasting change doesn’t happen overnight, it is a journey.

Plotting a Course of Action

Institute participants, nicknamed Vistaleras, spent the final sessions of the retreat weaving together lessons from the Institute to create their personal Leadership Action Plans. These action plans clarified professional and life goals and their first steps to get there by articulating “What will I do in the next week? What will I do in the next 20 days?”

We finished up the Vista Leadership Institute with three sessions, accelerating the action planning to launch each Vistalera on their way. They had clarity of their purpose, a vision of how to align their work with purpose and the first draft of a plan to get there.

Group photo credit: Elaine from

Vista Leadership Institute 2.0

Just as the Vistaleras were designing their individual action plans, I’ve explored my own “What’s Next?” chapter: making Oaxaca my home for 3-4 months every year. Officially settled in Oaxaca, I’m taking this time to reflect and redesign the Institute for the next class. With valuable feedback from the inaugural class we will make some adjustments to the 2017 program. Some of the reflections of our participants include:

This is an incredible program that I can’t stop telling my friends and colleagues about! I am so glad I joined this group and have the Vistalera community for life.

What was most valuable was having time cut out of my daily life to think about my passions and how to make them realities. Looking at life and learning what is important to live a fulfilling one. The trip to Oaxaca was incredibly impactful.

Where will your journey lead you? Get started with the Class of 2017 application requirements and apply today! We are looking forward to engaging another group of amazing community-minded Vistaleras who want to align their purpose, vision and career.

Are you ready to start your leadership journey?