Anne Morriss (’94, ’95, ’96, ’97) and her wife Frances Frei recently published a book on leadership, Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You. Anne is a serial entrepreneur and Frances is a professor at Harvard Business School. We had the chance to interview Anne about her life, career, and time with AMIGOS. You can see her answers below and order a copy of her book here!
How were you involved in AMIGOS?
I think I played every role available to me. I started as a volunteer in Guanajuato, Mexico in the mid-90s, and I fell hard for the AMIGOS mission and community. I ultimately ended up working at AMIGOS HQ as the Regional Director for South America and the Caribbean, after spending summers in Ecuador, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Brazil.
What are some of your fondest memories of your time in the field?
It’s the small moments of shared humanity that have really stayed with me, as cliched as that sounds, memories of exchanging laughter and stories and experiences with local families, despite the differences in our lives. Playing in a schoolhouse in rural Ecuador. Drinking coffee with community leaders in a Brazilian corner store. Dancing in an outdoor disco near the Haitian border.
It was also such a profound privilege to be part of our volunteers’ transformation. To help a young person evolve into their better, future self, at sometimes astonishing speed, was completely addictive to me. My wife jokes that I’ve been chasing that AMIGOS high ever since.
How do you feel your AMIGOS experience has shaped your life, personally and/or professionally?
I owe the foundations of my worldview to my work with AMIGOS, including my conviction that human beings can evolve rapidly and that our shared humanity runs deep and wide. Those two threads have turned into the fabric of my life. I first tried them on — and the awesome power of weaving them together — at AMIGOS.
What is your new book, Unleashed, about?
Conventional leadership stories assume that the vision-having, strategy-making, troops-rallying leader is the most important person in the room. We wrote Unleashed to challenge that narrative, which wasn’t holding up for us in the real world. Our starting point is that leadership, at its core, isn’t about you. Instead, it’s about how effective you are at empowering other people and unleashing their full potential.
How did your experiences with AMIGOS help shape your new book, Unleashed?
AMIGOS convinced me that people could change quickly and permanently in the right conditions. It also showed me the enduring value of good leadership, the impact leaders can have on us, even long after we’ve moved on from a team. I’d like to pause here for an ode to Joe Crownover, who was my manager and champion for much of my AMIGOS career. Joe was a fair, wise, generous, tough and crazy supportive leader. He regularly dropped me in the proverbial deep end, at say, the office of a skeptical Minister of Health in Paraguay, and then convinced me of my ability to swim, upstream and in a foreign language. Joe was unafraid to communicate both his belief in my potential and his recognition of the times I wasn’t living up that potential. At some point in every difficult call I’ve had to make in the workplace, I’ve asked myself, ‘what would Joe do?’
Do you think leadership is important for young people today? Why?
Anything you want to change about the world requires leadership. You can only do so much on your own. When you add leadership to the mix, particularly good leadership, your impact is amplified in immeasurable ways. It’s like the ultimate superpower.
What advice would you give to students looking to be leaders in today’s world?
Remember that leadership is a learning-by-doing sport, one that doesn’t require formal authority to practice it. You can start making other people better tomorrow, from whatever position you happen to have on a team.
Anything else you would like to share?
I feel lucky to be a part of the global network of people who have been touched by AMIGOS. This is a righteous community, and we’re living at a time when the world needs all of us off the leadership bench. I’m also excited about Sara’s vision for the organization, the effectiveness of her leadership, and the team she’s built around her. She’s positioning AMIGOS for decades of impact.