Team Member Spotlight: Michelle Gislason

Luminare Group is all about inspiring connections. How did you get connected with the team?

Jara and Jill facilitated the Theory of Change process for CompassPoint several years ago when I was on staff there. I’ve been a fan ever since. When I began partnering with organizations working to end gender-based violence, Jara and I reconnected to share learning. We saw some opportunities to co-conspire.

As someone who works on Strategy and Capacity Building for Luminare Group, what “ah-ha” moments do you help people have?

My purpose and passion is all about walking with individuals and organizations as they become who they say they most want to be. I support others to identify and clear away the habits preventing them from getting there, and I help them implement the practices that shorten the distance. “Ah-ha” moments are generally around those habits and practices.

Luminare Group is unrelenting in its pursuit of an equitable and just world. What drives you to do this work? What is the special something you bring to Luminare Group?

I have a stance on leadership. Unlike the traditional, solo, heroic leader model, I believe leadership is a process, not a title. Therefore, it can live anywhere in an organization, a community or in a movement. Leadership at its best is about working with others to fully realize an organizational or community agenda and to mobilize to tackle adaptive challenges. The approaches I bring support this equitable shared leadership model.  

They include:

·         Coaching and appreciative inquiry

·         Relationship building and finding common ground

·         Storytelling and honoring multiple narratives

·         Leveraging strengths

·         Frameworks and common language

·         Strategic design thinking and using liberating structures

·         Margin to center and power analysis

Bright Ideas: What tip would you give to someone who is interested in learning more about your work?

I co-designed the Network Weaver Learning Lab with CompassPoint and Management Assistance Group. This program is a good way to learn more about what I value in my approach to leadership, strategy and equity.

You can also read the book I co-authored: “Coaching Skills for Nonprofit Managers and Leaders.”

Get Lit: What are you reading right now?

I am re-reading “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer. It’s a beautiful book on indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants. I teach leadership in academic settings as well as in nonprofit, social justice organizations. I often reference this book as a way to honor narratives and wisdom beyond the traditional white, male narrative western culture has been built upon. Hat tip to Elissa Perry from Management Assistance Group and to Cristy Chung for introducing and re-introducing me to this book.

Lighten Up: What’s been the funniest moment you’ve experienced as part of Luminare Group?

Any partnering with Jara or Cristy usually involves a crack up moment. And a curse word or two.

How can people get in touch with you?

I can be reached at:


When you are not working, what can people most likely find you doing?

Cooking and dancing in the kitchen with my son.  

Luminare ViewLuminare Group