October 2020
Leaders in the Field:
Profiles from the Pandemic

Celebrating Exceptional Leadership and
Codifying Lessons Learned
During Unprecedented Times
In alignment with our value of mutual support, Leaders in The Field: Profiles from the Pandemic is offered as a resource to share wisdom, experience and creative responses to an ever-changing nonprofit landscape rocked by COVID-19.

An extension of our monthly Leaders in the Field publication, the next three editions will feature some of the leadership frameworks used by members of the Fieldstone Leadership Network San Diego as they have led through these unprecedented days.
Effective leaders understand how to balance emotion with reason and make decisions that positively impact themselves, their teams, their clients and donors, and their organizations. Making good decisions in difficult situations is no small feat because these types of decisions involve change, uncertainty, anxiety, stress, and sometimes the unfavorable reactions of
Decisive leaders know when to move quickly and proceed with the available information, versus when to take more time and gather additional information. When leaders opt to pursue additional information or avenues, they must also know when to stop. While a large amount of data may be desirable in a perfect world, the data gathering process can utilize too much time, and the vast amount of data can also be paralyzing and take attention away from the big picture or key data points.

(Three Qualities to Take the Paralysis out of Decision Analysis by Larina Kase, PsyD, MBA, Pepperdine University)
Profiles in Decisive Leadership
Gloria Corral

“As a leader, you can either be scared and use that fear of the unknown to not act or to innovate


Leaders need to hold themselves accountable for creating change, especially when it comes to addressing systemic racism 

ON THE FUTURE: She hopes that the innovation and creativity required by the pandemic continue going forward.                  

Executive Coaching Program
Torrie Dunlap

“Hope for the best, plan for the worst”


Crisis can bring clarity if you pay attention to what is most necessary

ON THE FUTURE: Nonprofit leaders need to become much more intentional about scenario and continuity planning

Learning Group Graduate, Fieldstone Fellow & Executive Coaching Program

Walter Lam

“The thing that I would say only I could do as a leader, and me alone, was making early decisions”


The rise and effectiveness of virtual meeting spaces and the unity online space can bring to international teams are the positive aspects to this crisis

ON THE FUTURE: He is motivated in knowing that “God is in control and in the end, this pandemic will ultimately make us better at our work”

Learning Group Graduate
Continue reading for more on our featured leaders!
Seventy-two hours, one long weekend—that is all the time Gloria Corral, the new President and CEO at the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE), had to transform her 33-year-old organization from an in-person school-site program to an on-line one. PIQE provides families the tools and support they need to partner with schools to ensure their children achieve their full potential. Their services are focused on low-income, English learner and immigrant families, and communities of color—many of whom have limited internet access and digital literacy skills. Despite this huge structural challenge, Gloria knew that pivoting quickly was a risk the organization had to take. If school was going to be on-line, then PIQE had to be there too. To make this happen, Gloria had to act quickly to make decisions around overhauling their IT infrastructure, supporting parents in on-line programs, and finding new revenue sources to replace the school-site funds. 

For Gloria and her staff, it was clear from the beginning that COVID-19 was not just a health crisis, but a social justice one as well. Gloria understands that identifying and addressing systemic racism is a core part of her job and the work of her organization. Bringing this social equity piece of PIQE’s mission front and center has invigorated her and her staff “with the sense of the ‘why.’” This knowledge has fueled them as they have worked diligently to re-design their services during the pandemic. PIQE staff are also doing their own internal work to understand systemic racism, explore biases and, most importantly, hold each other accountable for their actions. For Gloria, accountability is an important part of leadership and an area that she has been working on during this year with her Fieldstone coach.  

The pandemic has provided Gloria with time to reflect and a call to action. Going forward, she hopes the sense of openness to creativity and innovation that this time has fostered continues. She encourages nonprofit leaders to seize this moment to have courageous and uncomfortable conversations about systemic racism. The question she hopes others consider is: how are nonprofit leaders holding themselves accountable for behaving and leading differently to create the enduring change that is necessary? 

Kids Included Together (KIT), led by CEO Torrie Dunlap, was well-positioned to operate remotely during the pandemic because it already was. KIT shifted to an all virtual workforce 3 years ago and currently has staff living and working in 15 different states. KIT provides training and support on disability inclusion to people and organizations who serve children. By working remotely, they have expanded their reach to over 220 domestic locations and 49 international ones. It is no surprise that when it comes to remote work Torrie says, “we already know how to do it, and we do it well.”

But, knowing how to operate remotely did not prepare Torrie for how to deal with the uncertainty that came with the pandemic. Torrie professes that she is typically a “collaborative leader” preferring to give staff autonomy to make decisions to act on their own while she focuses on long-term planning. When the pandemic hit, Torrie had “to get much more decisive and be much more out-front.” She and her leadership team had to make rapid-pace, top-down decisions without a lot of information. Being forced to act outside her comfort zone provided Torrie with “clarity” and a reinvigorated sense of purpose. As she sees it, her role as CEO is to set a clear and informed vision for the team to follow and to make sure the business survives. It is a role that, especially now, requires decisiveness in the face of uncertainty.

Torrie is encouraged by how her team has adapted to their client’s needs while staying true to their mission. Their commitment to KIT’s mission despite the uncertainty and turbulence gives her hope for the future. This uncertain time has also made Torrie appreciative of the FLNSD network and the value of the reciprocity of helping and receiving help from other leaders. She’s found resilience in taking “the opportunity to be a giver”, demonstrated during the first days of the pandemic when she answered a call to share her wisdom and experience working with remote teams on FLNSD’s first webinar. That webinar helped support nonprofit leaders throughout San Diego as they established “work from home” protocols and set the tone for the unforeseeable future.

Torrie’s gift to the network, the Crossroads and Turning Point webinar: LEADING REMOTE TEAMS – Concentrating on the three C’s: Communication, Collaboration and Community is available on the FLNSD YouTube channel and website
When the pandemic arrived, Walter Lam, the President and CEO of the Alliance for African Assistance (AAA), had already planned an April trip to Uganda to celebrate the grand opening of their new 200-bed hospital, but his plans quickly changed. AAA aids refugees, immigrants, and other underserved populations with the goal of helping them become self-sufficient in their new communities. Due to public health travel restrictions, the number of new refugees arriving in San Diego effectively dropped to zero in the spring. Without refugees to serve, AAA decided to change course and re-center its focus on current programs such as immigration, translation, and non-emergency medical transportation. Because the newly arrived refugees that were here did not have phones or access to the internet, Walter decided to restructure how his staff worked, utilizing neighborhood networks to get resources out to their refugees.

A bright spot for Walter in this dark time has been learning how to connect virtually with and capitalize on his organization’s network of global offices. As the pandemic was unfolding, Walter was able to connect his staff with other AAA teams around the world to prepare for what was coming. After his colleagues in Italy alerted him to the serious impact of the virus in their country, Walter made the decision to close the San Diego office even before the county public health order went into effect. This ensured the safety of his staff and gave them extra time to prepare to work in a new way. Moving forward, Walter now sees the need for his organization to have an emergency preparedness plan and a stock of protective gear for future emergencies.

In a time of hardship and uncertainty, Walter appreciates the training he received in his FLNSD learning group, especially the permission to be vulnerable as a leader, to admit that handling a pandemic or other challenges “is something that we don’t know.” While he’s also seen how important teamwork, flexibility, and effective communication are during this time, its quick-decision making that was the skill that he needed most early on and the one that, as their leader, his team and their clients needed most. 
Thank You to our Network Members...
Our thanks to each of our profiled leaders for taking the time during stress-filled days to share their experiences in hopes of supporting others as they lead. 

Next Installment: Decisive Leaders Part 2
Interviews were conducted by our summer intern, Nathan Burns. We are grateful for his work on this project. 

Interviews were conducted in July 2020 and reflect learnings and activities through that time.