We had the good fortune of connecting with Kaya Plansker and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kaya, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy, and mutual valuing.” – Rollo May
I love this quote because it’s the first time I’ve made the connection between all the things that I value about the power of communication to facilitate something abstract. There’s so much research and programming around community building strategies and communication as a tool. Knowing what you’re using the tool to build is important to me. It’s the part that keeps me grounded and motivated to keep talking, listening, and learning from people — for the goal of feeling more connected and accountable to each other. It’s lofty, but when I’m suffering from a bit of a personal and/or professional purpose crisis, I need an existential reminder like this quote!
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Leadership Pasadena does community leadership development. It has a 22-year legacy in Pasadena of pulling people from diverse corners of leadership and impact within the community together in a 6-8 month program with personal leadership development, Pasadena insights and speakers, and group project work elements. Organizationally, it’s an altruistic and selfish straddle. And that’s what I love about it.
People find us because they want to do more — for others, and for themselves. The constant flow of people who are “opting in” to their own areas of impact is inspiring. It’s also incredibly hard to recruit for every cohort. That is our biggest challenge. What we offer is valuable, but can feel optional in busy lives of professionals. It’s also a little bit of everything. We want to build local leadership. To do that, we need to teach broadly, but apply that knowledge personally. It can be hard to explain the value in putting in the time to learn about, say, Education in Pasadena, if someone doesn’t touch that area in their everyday life. But it’s an important (and complicated) issue to understand if you want to recognize the challenges other people in your community face, and see a way you can contribute to solution-finding in some small way.
This pushing of people from ‘me’ to ‘we’ thinking is a constant balancing act of not diminishing the challenges people are working through on their own and also championing the power of community to create impact.
I started out in Advertising – working at ad agencies with large corporate clients for 15 years – then went back to school late in life to get a Masters in Human Development (concentration in Social Change) with the intention of moving from working on business problems to working on human problems. That shift in thinking has been incredibly grounding for me. It’s also added layers of complexity. I love strategy and business strategies are finite, but people strategies are infinite; because every person has a different personal ecosystem of needs, there isn’t a neat and pat, one-size-fits-all approach. My goal in this role as Executive Director (for however long I’m in it), is to embrace the messiness and find as much that unifies us as possible to help develop stronger communities and businesses through stronger leaders.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Ack! In Covid times, this question taps into my wanderlust…Honestly, I’d take them into nature. And then around different neighborhoods. For Pasadena (and LA), this feels like such a luxury – there’s an option for anything you want to do. Vegan, gluten-free brunch? Go to Millie’s. Walk and talk with a dog? Pick a trail (I like the bat cave hike and the Arroyo). Feel like a cocktail? Come sit on my porch or have a beer at Doghaus in Old Town Pasadena. Need some fresh air? Manhattan Beach or Zuma can reset you in a few hours (and be a mini getaway feel). Want to window shop? Walk around Melrose – bonus cuteness overload, stop at the cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers. Want to tap into your inner nerd? Go to Vroman’s bookstore. It’s kind of endless…now excuse me as I go out for the afternoon…
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’m going to shout out to the happenstance people who become collaborators and support for me over time (like Eugene Hutchins of Altadena Arts who referred me here!).
Irina Logra Photography Brigitte Pavich