Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Spring 2008Kellogg School of Management
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Making a world of difference
Big picture in focus
Sally Sharp Lehman '88
Joseph Hasten '78
James Reynolds '82
Jamee Field '04
Rick Waddell '79
Daniel Hayden '01
Melanie Chan '06
Horace Allen '04
Joseph Seminetta '05
David Pope '94
Cory Zanin '91
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Lehman with Roots and Shoots National Youth Leadership Retreat
Lehman (far right) leads a nature walk in Virginia with participants in a February Roots & Shoots National Youth Leadership Retreat. "Some of the kids had never been on a walk in the woods before," Lehman says.  Photo © Mitch Paine
Strategic plan for life inspires environmental advocate Sally Sharp Lehman '88

By Kari Richardson

"You can choose a career that brings in money and give it away," says Sharp Lehman, who is New England regional director for Roots & Shoots, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young people effect positive change for communities, animals and the environment. "Or you can choose to do something with your time that has greater significance. I consider my contribution of time as my philanthropy."

That's not to say Sharp Lehman's résumé isn't dotted with prestigious work for consulting firms and Fortune 500 companies. It is.

  Making a world of difference
  Jane Goodall and Sally Sharp Lehman
  Primatologist Jane Goodall and Lehman work together at a Roots & Shoots wildlife sanctuary on Martha's Vineyard in 2006.  Photo © Christine Ellersick
As a new Kellogg School graduate, she helped top firms hone their strategies and organizational effectiveness, as well as provided executive education to a variety of industries. But a seven-year career hiatus to raise her two young boys helped Sharp Lehman rethink her priorities when it was time to restart her career.

"The job needed to be something that really mattered to take me away from my children," reflects Sharp Lehman, whose sons are now 14 and 17.

She found it in a short jump from the consulting world to the nonprofit world. In fact, many of the skills that had dazzled her for-profit bosses could be put to good work doing good works.

In her position with Roots & Shoots, a program of the Jane Goodall Institute, named for the famed primatologist and established to encourage young people around the world to take on serious environmental and community issues, Sharp Lehman is developing a strategic direction and plan for expanding the organization in the Northeast. The organization, founded in 1991 by a youth group on Goodall's porch in Tanzania, encourages small teams of young people to work on an issue — protecting sea turtles, for example — in their own communities, while connecting with peers around the globe. More than 100 young people from some 100 countries currently are involved with the program.

Working in her new role for a few months, Sharp Lehman has already helped plan a global youth summit to be held in April at Walt Disney World in Orlando, which will convene 100 young leaders from around the world.

Sally Sharp Lehman  
Sharp eyes: Sally Sharp Lehman oversees work of the Coastal Waterbird Program with a colleague. The effort includes beach management and monitoring of endangered Piping Plovers and Least Terns.  Photo © Andrea Jones  

But that's not to say nonprofit work has been a snap. In fact, Sharp Lehman says she finds management work in a nonprofit organization to be more challenging than in the for-profit world, especially when comparative lack of resources and an often hard-to-change organizational culture are factored in.

"In a nonprofit, mission is what guides you," Sharp Lehman reflects. "It's how you measure the impact you're having. The for-profit world is much easier that way. Everything is measured in terms of the bottom line."

In a nonprofit, she adds, limited resources constrain the scope of activity.  "There's only so much you can do and there may not be another organization that can step in and take over the project, so when you say 'no,' it's very difficult."

Case in point: In her previous position as regional director for the southeast and islands region of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, where she worked for 10 years, Sharp Lehman sometimes had to accept that the organization did not have enough staff to monitor all the beaches that needed protection or to save every parcel of land from encroaching development.

But the victories are sweet. While working for Audubon, she once stood on a beach after a disastrous oil spill watching a front-end loader build a sand berm to seal off an inlet to a 165-acre coastal salt pond and marsh, home to countless young fish and shellfish, as well as a breeding and nesting habitat for endangered shore birds. Minutes after the land movers finished the job, oil began to wash up on the beach.

"It was a huge victory and such an incredibly satisfying moment to see the impact of your work in protecting such an important place," she says.

Through it all, her Kellogg education has assisted her, particularly as she's analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of the different organizations she's helped. "Kellogg teaches you to develop a strategic plan," she says, a useful skill whether one aims for the bottom line or the common good.

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