What Makes a Leader?

What does it take to be an effective leader today?

If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said experience, vision, and the ability to motivate and inspire.  Not to mention, the capacity to guide staff in times of change. This last one is très important because, if you ask me, the times are always a-changing.

Kim Nguyen and Stephanie Scollo, LEAD San Diego staff.

Finally, I would have thrown in, a side of moxie, simply because that’s my specialty.

Yet, while these qualities can be found in the finest of leaders, I now know, there’s so much more to being a leader today.  For, after spending my first day in a leadership development program called “Impact San Diego,” I see now that it’s not enough to strive to be the best in your job.

An effective leader needs to look beyond his or her responsibilities at work, and consider their responsibilities to their community. Their diverse community, that is. A leader should look for ways to contribute and help find solutions to issues and concerns that are impacting the region in which they live.

I’ve been a director in my job for more than a decade, but despite this, I know that I can always use more training. And now that I’m working in the area of diversity, it seems to me, this is as good a time as any to expand my understanding of my community and the diverse people who live here.

Which is why, I recently joined 59 other civic- and community-minded individuals in our first IMPACT San Diego class. This is a 10-month program offered by LEAD San Diego.  We’ll be meeting monthly through June 2012 and, together, we will discover a whole new side to our city. I’m hoping to gain a better understanding of many of the issues that impact this region, including the economy, education, the military, the environment and health care. And as long as I’m learning to become a good leader, I might as well blog about the process.

Emmanuel Arellano, San Diego Housing Commission, is also a member of the Class of 2012.

So I’ll be reaching out to my fellow students, who represent a broad spectrum of area businesses and non-profits.  I’m really looking forward to getting to know them, and I hope they don’t mind me being nosy and asking them lots of personal and irreverent questions, or taking impromptu photos of them, like this photo to the left that I took of Emmanuel, who I got to know a little bit on our first day. Yes, they might as well all know that I’m planning to take lots of pix–all for the sake of my blog!

As you can imagine, I was very nervous going to the first session. For starters, the class begins promptly at 7:30. In the morning! Which totally does not take into account the fact that I often am blogging until 2:00 am.  Plus, unlike most people who can jump out of bed, take a shower and be at work by 8:00, I first have to walk Henry, my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. That dog descends from royalty and likes his walks on a certain schedule. Needless to say, these wee hours are going to do a number on mine.

Which is why, to help me make it through my first day, sleep-deprived and all, I went ahead and asked some LEAD alumni for much-need advice. Here’s what they had to say:

Bryan Lubic, San Diego State University:  My advice is to have fun, enjoy, and meet everyone. (Over time, not all today!). Great people, great program, so glad you’re a part of it!

Myrian Solis Coronel, REI:  Congrats!!! You’ll love the program and people. My only advice: Be in the moment and don’t get distracted by your phone. This is your time.

Cathy Lloyd Bauerle, CBS Radio’s KyXy and Sophie 103.7:  I totally agree with Myrian– the work will still be there when you get back to the office! You’ll LOVE LEAD! Can’t wait to hear more about it.

Audrey Patterson, Ark Marketing & Media Solutions:  How wonderful that you are in LEAD this year. Get to know everyone throughout the year and really take it all in. It’s so much fun. And a huge learning experience. I still am friends with some of the people I met through LEAD.

Leah Singer, San Diego State University:  Yes, have fun. Do everything they tell you with enthusiasm. You’ll be glad you did. And enjoy! It’s an amazing experience!

Tami Sandke, Estate Planning Attorney:  I agree with all of the above. Take advantage of every single opportunity, both educational and social. The small group work with non-profits is key. Have Fun!

So, it looks like fun seems to be an essential part of making the most of my experience in LEAD. And, thanks to all the encouragement, I’m now ready for the coming year.  And, if you play your cards right, I’ll be sure to let you know what else I learn about being a successful leader.  In the meantime, I hope you’ll share here, on what you think makes a strong leader. Oh, and, wish me luck!