Emerging Leaders Journal: Change and Growth Begin with Awareness

Liz Henderson, winner of Strategic Link’s Emerging Leaders Scholarship Contest, keeps us updated on what she learns throughout the 2015 Emerging Leaders Program.

Liz Henderson, Strategic Link’s 2015 Emerging Leaders Scholarship Contest winner.

I came into Emerging Leaders ready for something like “Leadership 101,” with basic lessons in leadership. What I got was very different.

We were fortunate to be led by Susan Geear and Peter Myers, who inspired learning, thought, and self-reflection.  Emerging leaders took a holistic approach to learning about leadership, starting first and foremost with awareness of our own selves.

You  Can Only Attend to What You Are Aware Of

When discussing emerging leaders with a 2014 graduate of the program, he mentioned a few times “you can only attend to what you are aware of.” At the time I didn’t really connect with the statement, but after the first week of emerging leaders I understood completely. You cannot work on improving your leadership skills and abilities if you are not aware of yourself both personally and professionally.

Who are you as a leader? What are your areas of strength and weakness? Where is there room for improvement?

This process, while informative, was also difficult. Most people don’t like to hear negative feedback, or to reflect on what they could be doing better. But we learned it is hugely important in order to develop as a leader.  

Don’t Bring Someone a Butter Knife When They Ask for a Wine Opener

When I finished college I moved overseas to Italy, I started working at a wine bar. I spoke the language fluently, but nonetheless when I started that first evening I was very nervous.

I went to my first table, and all I could think was “what is he going to ask? Am I going to know how to provide what he needs? What if I completely flop, and can’t understand?”

After he made his request, I walked away to go get what I thought he was asking for. I brought him a butter knife. He laughed and said he was actually needing a wine opener. Had I taken a moment to really relax and just listen to him I probably would have understood him in an instant.

How often do we do this at work? We are so focused on what we are going to say next, or what we think the person needs, that we are not taking the time to actively and openly listen to what they are telling us. 

This scenario played through my mind during the first week of emerging leaders. I was able to identify that, in that situation, I wasn’t practicing active listening.  I learned it is so important to take the time to stop what we are doing, center, focus, and openly listen.


Peter Myers leads the Emerging Leaders cohort as they ‘explore the seasons of organization.’

The DISC profile is a self-assessment of preferred or dominant behavior styles. The acronym stands for the four key areas of behavior generally recognized:

D – Dominance/Decisive
I – Influence/Interpersonal
S – Steadiness/Consistency
C – Compliance

I am the first to admit, I cannot resist the temptation to take any personality or traits quiz that I can fi nd. I find it fascinating, and usually find many elements of truth in the “assessment.”

What I learned about DISC is that it is not an assessment of who you are as a person, it is a behavior assessment. It allows us to become aware of how others see our behavior.

Through the process I learned that I am a very high I (influence/interpersonal) and a very low D (dominance/decisive). This profile gives me the opportunity to build on my strengths, and really work on developing my weaknesses. It also serves as a tool for connecting and communicating with others.

After week one, I feel very inspired and excited to see what comes next. I spent three days with a group of inspirational leaders who I am proud to call my peers.

My biggest takeaway from week one: Change and growth begin with awareness.

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790, jpearson@nwcua.org.

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