Testimonials

Testimony of Leadership Seminar Participant

Amy Kemp
Programs Associate
NAMIC
Leadership Seminar Graduate July 2022

It wasn’t as if I hadn’t been to leadership seminars previously. Sure. Maybe not as intense. Maybe not as lengthy. Maybe not as involved. Nonetheless, I had been to several and enjoyed most. I’d even taught leadership skills to others. How different could this be?

Much.

Day 1 began with a tremendous assessment, and the perspective was such that the result was even more intriguing than former outcomes from other similar tools. This assessment was framed by how others saw me as a leader, as an individual. Some qualities surprised and shocked me. Surely that is not who I am, and yet, as I ruminated on the assessment, I could tell that, indeed, it is me. What do I do now, armed with this information?

One might think that your next step is to work on your deficiencies now that you can assess your strengths. Why pour more effort into something that you and those around you already understand to be your strength? Why not work on the deficit areas (much like bringing up the grade in a subject area that you are failing, but maintaining a high mark in the area where you succeed)? Here was my first novel take-away: science proves this rarely happens. Not only can you effectively build upon your own strengths, you can and will improve upon your satisfaction and sense of self as well. Lean in and embrace what already makes you strong. Why has no one taught me this?

With whom do I surround myself? Formal mentorships might be commonplace in some companies, but I had never experienced such. My experiences were almost always a result of personal “seek-and-find” efforts. And, perhaps blessed and favored, they had been successful heretofore. Even so, there were exceptional concepts shared in this presentation. Namely, surround yourself with peers and with those both above and below you professionally. Pay attention to gender, diversity, and whether your contacts all represent a specific industry, company, or microcosm. EXPAND. GROW. And, not just for self, but make an effort to push the limits ever wider, because no one is alone. Together, we make one another better. That is something I had always believed. I immediately reviewed my LinkedIn contacts: did I just abandon the colleagues from previous places of employment? Why didn’t the collection of contacts there include each of the areas where I had formerly developed and grown my own talents and engaged in collaborative work with great colleagues? My social media profile would suggest that I had moved ON; but truly, I had just moved forward, and there was space for my network to grow with that forward movement.

As life would have it, the Leadership Seminar was hosted in between two untimely deaths for me personally: my 57-yr-old cousin who died of a heart attack suddenly and a basketball coach from my former days who had suffered from pancreatic cancer in his final few years. Both friends and family would tell you of these two that they made life sweeter for those around them.

I am struck that the concepts being taught this week are simple in nature but profound in practice: good people getting better and helping others to be better as well. Our English language wraps the word “leadership” around that concept and ties a bow on it. Do I improve lives around me? Will others say their days were sweeter, better, more fulfilling because of what I brought to them?

Being heard, being acknowledged, being seen, these are the very marks of fulfillment for many of our professional colleagues and our personal friends and acquaintances as well. How am I at being the listener so that others can be seen, heard, and acknowledged? And, potentially more probing is this question: how well do I engage and include those who are quiet or even resistant to my inclusion attempts?

Here’s a concept that made me pause. My notes read, “Get buy-in from resisters to the transition process. They represent holes I might have missed. They are allies, and they are courageous.” Amy, take note. This is an area where you need growth. Adopt resisters as allies. Listen, and listen with intent only to absorb their words, body language, and passion. Prepare each day to expand your capacity to listen without interruption, redirection, or response.

Leadership includes organizational savvy, which was, frankly, a term I’d never encountered, but grew quickly to appreciate. I was asked to think back to my best work experience. I captured it in my mind quickly. I’m sure a fly on the wall would have seen a smile sneak across my face and my countenance improve. In my mind, I took the step backward in my memory to feel the pride, the satisfaction, the collaboration that brought the project to grand fulfillment. It had been three years since I’d walked those very steps, but the shoes were still comfortable.

Here’s what I learned: the overarching principles of that satisfaction I felt were shared when compared with the principles expressed by other colleagues as they recollected as well. Collectively, our best experiences are 1) challenging, 2) shaped by appropriate boundaries (not micromanaged), and 3) involve teamwork. But here is the real take-away: why not vet all new jobs and new opportunities with these “best-case” dimensions? The next career step might not be an answer to “What can I do with all of this experience?” but “What will be the most fulfilling for me and best for my new company knowing where I have been and what I have experienced?” If organizations reward problem-solvers, then I need to become that for myself and my career. How I command my own career path speaks to potential supervisors.

Then, perhaps it was the day of the week, my frame of mind, or the warmth of the speaker, but I was touched on Day 4 by the session on Executive Perspective, a title that, quite honestly, didn’t intrigue or engage me initially. . .oh, but the messages! They were so clear, so common, and yet so transformational. At one point, I pulled my phone from my pocket and took at quick photo of my computer screen, which displayed the speaker’s slide deck. I sent it as a text message to my husband with this note: “You are amazing! I am listening to a presentation that your life gives legs to daily. No one had to teach you this. You inherently own it with your whole being.” This written testimony of my experience with Leadership Seminar is meant to be personal, vulnerable, and real. This is my reality. I have the sheer pleasure of watching a person who WAKES UP, RISES UP, AND SHOWS UP each day (with a nod to John Kobara’s mother for those three defining phrases). I was sitting in a webinar hosted for people literally around the world, but I also knew that in my little microworld I was blessed to see this “best-life” kind of living every single day. I’ve seen the results all our married life, and here I was brought to a level of appreciation that I hadn’t ever acknowledged. Thank you, NAMIC, for causing me to realize the beauty of those around me – people who put their pants on one leg at a time and make an impact in their world, whether it is large or small. I appreciate now that “impact” is the same word (and carries the same meaning) despite the footprint from the effort.

My marriage to a thoughtful, profound man is a special privilege for me, yes, but it made me believe that EVERY participant could likely point to a colleague, a friend, a neighbor, a community servant, or a spouse who wakes, rises, and shows up every single day. We need to celebrate them, learn from them, and come alongside them for good works to grow exponentially. Again, thank you, NAMIC, for sharing the stories that made me see my microcosm with new eyes.

Day 5. The conclusion. As work/obligations would have it, my time in-session was far too limited for my liking, but that didn’t keep me from engaging in a moment here and a moment there, gleaning nuggets of wisdom, casually mining for gold. It was in this space that I caught five words that resonated: power used effectively is leadership. Like a magnet, the phrase drew me in and caused me to reach for a pen (quick, where is my pen?) to write it down and circle it! Where do I perceive my power to be? Do I wisely use it? Because if not, I waste that leadership opportunity. What does wise use of power look like? There was so much more to the session as well that I so wanted to hear – particularly the bits on influence. Oh, that every nugget could have remained in my mining pan! Yet, that is life. If your mind and your eye are opened and readied, you can catch the gold. Otherwise, it slips by, and first-hand I watched it happen with multi-tasking on Day 5. Future participants, take heed. Stay present. Stay engaged. And, with credit to Aerosmith (because I am an 80s music lover): “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”

Oh, but graduation! The speeches, the collection of friends, family, and colleagues online, and the continuously scrolling chat that included kudos, kindness, and celebration – it was inspirational. I had to wonder if I was just in the most extraordinary cohort group E.V.E.R. or if this kind of comradery, collaboration, and family-feel was true for every group. I’ve come to believe it does happen just like this, over and over and over for these NAMIC programs. I trust that the reason is that the space we were given to step away from all the “dailys” gave us room to relax, to breathe (even though we needed guidance just to do that well), and to appreciate. That space – open space, readied space – was the vacuum where we filled up our wells with the goodness of others who were also there to experience refreshment.

The act of unwinding makes us less guarded, and where retaining walls crumble, there is room for vulnerability. That is the space for growth, and that is the space that NAMIC’s leadership seminar provided for all participants, and for the presenters as well, I dare say. I was blessed with this growth opportunity, and I will try to now make myself a better leader and a better person because of the favor.