Thursday, January 23, 2014

EMERGE 2013 Session V Takeaways

Guest post from recent EMERGE 2013 graduate Jessica Sager, reflecting on the December 5 EMERGE program day on community engagement. Jessica is an account manager with the International Matrix Management Institute.

To effectively recap the power and magic of our 5th EMERGE classroom session, it's important to know that the seeds for Session V were sown back during Session III. It was during that class when, having learned about and identified our core energies (Maven/Relater/Evangelist), we were grouped into triads of the three energies and given an envelope. Within it, there was the name of a Leadership Austin alumni member who had generously contributed their time to meet with us. Our assignment: to meet with these leaders and learn how change takes place in the community, including insight on how the leader's own core energy, values and guiding principles influenced their effectiveness. We all knew what an opportunity this assignment and classroom represented—to be able to connect and network with some of the giants of the Austin community, spanning all aspects of the nonprofit, corporate and public sectors. We met with leaders like Cookie Ruiz (ESSENTIAL 1995), Kelly White (Honorary Alumni 2007), Kirk Watson (ESSENTIAL 1984) and many other passionate leaders connected with Leadership Austin who are a large part of what makes Austin so great.

During our 5th session, we reconvened to share the insights that we had gathered through our interviews. The classroom experience was amazing and rich, like getting a "daily dose of wisdom" on steroids. Each group shared highlights of the advice, wisdom and humor of the leaders they had interviewed, whom cumulatively have centuries of experience causing change, being the difference, and leading in the community. The resulting wisdom and anecdotes ranged from pithy advice, such as the words shared by Clarke Heidrick (ESSENTIAL 1982), "Be Humble, Be Merciful, Do Justice," to the good humored humility offered by Sam Planta (ESSENTIAL 1991), encouraging us to "Do a daily gut check," to self inquiry, such as Suzanna Caballero (ESSENTIAL 1993) asking "What do you want to be known for?" and Pastor Joe Parker’s (ESSENTIAL 1985) deep question on responding to the call to leadership, "Am I willing?" And, lest we were to get carried away by all the inspiring causes we are now aware of because of our time in this program, we can reflect on the wise words of Eugene Sepulveda (ESSENTIAL 1988): "There is an infinite number of good causes, but only a finite number of resources." A good reminder to choose our causes wisely.

As a quintessential Relater myself, I was in heaven; this was not only an opportunity to personally meet with outstanding members of the community, but it was also the classroom equivalent of having 18 deep and meaningful conversations about leadership and change with the Who's Who of the Austin community—getting to talk to the people who do things that matter, about what matters to them.

Beyond their generosity with sharing their time and stories, what I was most struck by—as I listened to my peers share stories from their interviews—was the incredible multidimensional and diverse energy of leadership in the Austin community. In previous classrooms, we had dialogued about what kind of energy was needed to be a leader. Must you be an Evangelist, and have the drive to get things done? Or perhaps being a Relater is key, as they are the connectors of the community. Or should you be more Maven, to be able to correctly address the problems? Through this assignment and the sharing in classroom, it was clearly evident that leadership is not about you having a particular kind of core energy. More so, it's about your willingness to bring your energy—in its totality—to the cause that calls you the most. To make a difference in the community you need to be able to integrate the energy of everyone; as Kerry Tate (ESSENTIAL 1995) shared with her group, "You have to collaborate… you cannot stay in silos."

Lastly, this session brought home in a new way what it means to be a part of Leadership Austin, and to soon take our place among these distinguished alumni as our program comes to an end. The words from one interview shared ring so true: "We are a part of something much bigger than ourselves."

For other highlights from this EMERGE session, check out my classmate Ethan Brisby's summary of quotes.

NOTE: The opinions of Leadership Austin alumni, faculty members, and guest bloggers are their own, and do not represent an official position of the organization.

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