Richard Wiltshire and Elisha Muskat, are the 2015-2017 Co-Chairs of our Emerging Leaders Network. Previously, at Ashoka Canada – an international association of leading social entrepreneurs who develop solutions to pressing social problems – Elisha has shared her expertise on stages, inside classrooms and in the pages of top publications. She is an established leader who brings both fresh eyes and a tremendous background in social innovation and entrepreneurship to the ELN, and is currently the Executive Director of Peacebuilders International (Canada). Her partner in crime, Richard Wiltshire, is currently a Regional Sales Manager at LinkedIn Canada, and previously worked at Accenture and GlaxoSmithKline in Canada, the U.S., England and Hong Kong. He was a 2011 CivicAction DiverseCity Fellow, served on CivicAction’s Escalator Champion’s Council, and is a 2015 member of the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference.
Learn more about their amazing leadership journey below, and see who they are, the work they do, and how this experience has impacted their outlook on our region! If you’re craving a unique opportunity, apply to be an ELN co-chair here.
Tell us a bit about yourself- where did you grow up and how would you describe this place/how is shaped you?
ELISHA: I grew up in Toronto (though I was born outside the country) and, like many people my age, had no idea how great a place it was until I left and came back. Around that time, Toronto also started to get global acclaim as a world-class city. In public and private school, city-run camps and ROM camp, I took tons of field trips all around the region. I grew up with a sense of diversity, exposure, city life and local engagement that has contributed profoundly to how I see the world and this city today.
RICHARD: I lived in both Scarborough and Pickering through elementary school and high school before coming downtown for university. I grew up with a big, diverse family (40 uncles and aunts!) and lived in diverse communities.
What are some pivotal moments in your life that have shaped who you are?
ELISHA: Watching 9/11 on tv in my first week of university and processing it and the events that followed throughout that year. I had a near breakdown the last week of the school year that helped me understand how much I care about the state of the world. The process of interviewing for a permanent role with Ashoka – the conversations dig deep into what drive you, your lifelong patterns making change and how you see the world. Spending a year in Amsterdam with a group of global, brilliant, creative individuals who helped me fin myself.
RICHARD: The July War: I was vacationing in Lebanon in 2006 when conflict broke out in the region. The airport was bombed and I could not leave the country. It was the first time I felt my freedom severely restricted. This experience crystalized to me the privilege of the Canadian passport, which ultimately got me evacuated from Lebanon and the injustice that war brings to the world.
What city-building accomplishment are you most proud of?
ELISHA: The 2016-2017 ELN Executive! Working with Rich and the team these past 2 years has made me feel part of an amazing initiative to make the city better and to learn constantly about the people and issues at the heart of doing so.
RICHARD: As a 2011 DiverseCity Fellow, I co-founded the Aboriginal Professional Association of Canada (APAC). This organization continues to serve hundreds of Aboriginal professionals across the GTHA and the country. My experience with impact greatly increased my education on indigenous issues in Canada and helped me meet some of the most inspiring people I know.
What experiences (professional and/or lived) have shaped the city-building work you currently do and why?
ELISHA: Besides living my life on my bike and public transit, which gives me a very specific perspective on the city and how it compares to others, it’s my work in social innovation that has most influenced me. Being exposed to so many new ways of doing things is a constant reminder to move beyond the status quo. We’re locked into so many ways of being and doing that we forget to ask why, how we got there, and to redefine the problems. I’m constantly questioning norms, which can be frustrating – to myself and to others, no doubt!
RICHARD: I previously worked for Allen O’Dette, Chief Investment Officer for the Province of Ontario. He instilled in me the idea that business leaders need to be actively involved in the community. Since then, I’ve always looked for ways to stay engaged in the community generally and specifically get the companies I work for more engaged.
With a wide range of volunteer leadership opportunities out there, why did you choose to invest in the ELN through your role as Co-Chair?
ELISHA: Getting deeply involved with ELN has exposed me to new, outstanding networks of leaders – from corporate CEOs, to non-profit gurus, emerging leaders from across all fields, and the richness of our region from Durham to Hamilton to Scarborough and Mississauga. I took the leap to get involved because this was where I wanted to deepen my engagement. With solutions-oriented city builders from diverse backgrounds and experiences.
RICHARD: Over the last few years, I’ve been focused on doing fewer things, better. Specifically, I try to pick one or two areas to get involved in and then drive a significant impact. I’ve been involved with CivicAction for six years and it’s been such a rewarding experience that taking on the ELN leadership was a natural step in escalating my commitment to CivicAction. Another theme I have been focused on is leverage – how can I get involved in initiatives that have potential for a 10X outcome. ELN is built for that – if we can help create and accelerate more diverse and civically engaged next generation leaders that will have a huge impact across our region.
What is a hobby/talent of yours that people may not know about you?
ELISHA: I am REALLY good at cryptic crosswords.
RICHARD: Too many have gone by the way side in recent years. I do have an incredible ability to sleep through loud noises – which helps with two toddlers at home!
What is one key quality you think every successful leader has?
ELISHA: Empathy and a long-term view. When we think about the quick wins, we risk the long term, whether that’s in terms of impact, relationships or finances. Empathy is not just about relating to one another, but being able to predict, understand and feel the impact of one’s actions.
RICHARD: Talent identification and development – great leaders are known to be great because of the outcomes their teams produce.
Wild card question here! What’s your favourite song from the 90’s?
ELISHA: First, the fact that 90s music is making such a major comeback makes me feel old and nostalgic! Probably Shoop by Salt N Peppa.
RICHARD: The Puff Daddy No Way Out album probably makes up 10% of all music I’ve ever listened to…