Friday, September 28, 2012

I Am A Leader: Kate Stoker

Guest post from Emerge 2009 graduate and Essential Class of 2013 participant Kate Stoker. Cross-posted from the SOS Leadership Blog and their "I Am A Leader" blog series. View the original post.

We are human; thus, we are going to do our best to make positive changes in the lives and community around us, but we are also of course going to make mistakes. I’m not perfect; no one is. It took me years to recognize that, as a leader, I could still be vulnerable and accept support. My key to being able to do this is the incredible people in my life because they are the ones that make it worthwhile. I’m leading them; it’s not about an issue, a project, or an organization. Rather it’s about the people that issue impacts, the people the project includes, or the members or supporters or the organization you’re a part of.

I am by nature a doer, and I like being in the trenches. Delegation is something I only did when I had to and that was more about self-preservation than developing those around me. My leadership journey started with an organization called the Young Women’s Alliance. I joined in 2008 and hit the ground running because that’s what I do. I jumped into fundraising events for the organization, managing and planning one almost entirely on my own. I didn't need a committee; I could do it all by myself. As a result, my perfectionist tendencies overshadowed the relationships and opportunities I had available to grow closer to others. My leadership success was based in results: funds raised, event success, checking off all my to do items first. Years later, my focus has shifted to the people part of leadership.

Most of my leadership training, if you can call “on the job, real-time, think on your feet learning opportunities” training, has started with YWA. It was the gateway to my community involvement with other Central Texas organizations. It has also provided me with a network of amazing people that serve as cheerleaders, coaches, and friends. These relationships are my safety net, and I’m able to freely be brave and move out of my comfort zone knowing they've seen me make mistakes and celebrate successes and supported me the same either way.

You probably didn't force people to follow you; they chose to follow you. With that comes responsibility to those individuals as well as the causes and values you represent. Human nature is to want to contribute, to be valued, to matter. What others gave to me I have learned to pass on: the opportunity to be part of something bigger than they are alone. After all, without them what would all this be for?

Kate Stoker is the Immediate Past President and VP of Programs & Events of the Young Women’s Alliance, a professional organization that supports young women leaders through personal and professional development.

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