What Leadership Means To Me

My mother sent me to all kinds of camps and trainings in high school that “conditioned” me to understand all things leadership. One year, I participated in a weekend program for young women called The L.E.A.D.E.R. Institute, a curated group of girls from multiple school districts with diverse backgrounds, brought together under the Institute’s slogan “Some Leaders are Born Women.” There, I was encouraged at an early age to lead…maybe this was the springboard that launched me into both my current role as President of SMPS New York and as a manager at my firm.

Fast forward to 2020, SMPS-NY’s Leadership Committee kicked off the new decade with a program entitled Never Too Young to Lead – Leadership Tips for Emerging AEC Industry Professionals. The event consisted of a panel of eight Top 40 Under 40/30 Under 30 leaders shared their personal strategies and insight they’ve used to inspire action in others and themselves. Needless to say I was extremely inspired and one of my key takeaways from discussion was how we, as leaders, should build up our team without tearing them down.  It’s the support, guidance and encouragement of PEOPLE that truly make a leader a good leader.

Leadership is a mixture of conditioning by supporters and mentors along with emotional intelligence (along with hard work and extra effort, of course.) I believe, one must have both the tactical skillset along with a deep understanding of people.  It comes naturally for some and is hard earned by others. I was recently reading the Harvard Business Review’s article entitled “What Makes a Leader? where author Daniel Goleman writes: “…the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but mainly as ’threshold capabilities;’ that is, they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. But my research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.” I tend to agree with Goodman, as not all in leadership positions are occupied by my definition of a leader. Thus, proving to me during our lively discussion, that good leaders will make sacrifices for the betterment of their teams and that factors like age don’t always define a leader’s level experience and relationships.

A Change of Perspective

As President of our Chapter, I truly value our entire membership’s contributions that keep this organization thriving! All the shared ideas on future programming, attendance and participation at events, the willingness from my Board of Directors to explore new tactics that attract and retain members create a connection path of learning stitched throughout our programs this year. In my time so far as President, I’ve learned to really push myself to both LISTEN and HEAR what challenges marketing and business development professionals in our industry experience; how we can push the envelope and drive progress (we recently added a new Director of Diversity & Inclusion to our Board as a result) and how to care for my team of leaders (Board of Directors) so they can feel comfortable in their roles to make confident decisions. You can influence change and achieve more than you think you can when you apply yourself!

How We Can Achieve Progress

Our Leadership event concluded with a comment by Sarah Salem, Council Member, City of Poughkeepsie, that hit home for me. She said: “I carried on doing the work I believed in and found people that wanted to be a part of the process that were driven by results and the ‘Big Picture’ through collaboration.” This is in total alignment with my motto in leading the Chapter to be better than I found it in hopes to continue its progress in empowering the next generation of leaders to rise up and care for something I have always believed in over my last decade+ of SMPS membership and leadership roles in multiple chapters. I want to look back in a few years and see the evolution of new leaders and their initiatives that advance our Chapter. Who knows, maybe those of you who attended this event will become active Board Members as a result…what a reward that would be!