What does leadership mean to you?

It’s a loaded question, but one that’s been on my mind lately. After perfecting my playbook as one of those pesky grumbling outsiders, I find myself flattered and a bit disoriented at being selected for the Leadership Dallas class of 2013.

Founded in 1975, Leadership Dallas (a Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce program) develops community leaders through an intensive 10-month program of community service, education and project work. The end goal: leaders prepared with the skills, networking and resources to tackle the shared challenges of our region.

Most days, I get to wear jeans to work. I dyed my hair a couple of weeks ago, and most of my co-workers were like, “Meh.” So how exactly did I get in?

Giving back is part of our history at Imaginuity Interactive, and we as a team participate in an annual giving-back project. One of our partners, VP of Business Development Gary Hooker, is a Leadership Dallas alumnus, and Imaginuity Interactive sponsored my application.

Wow. Thanks! Now, what does all this mean? Don’t get me wrong. As a 21-year resident, I love living in North Texas. I am also painfully aware of the challenges we face. In no particular order:

  • DISD graduation rates are improving, but still below the statewide average.
  • Dallas is putting together a bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics; can we pull this off?
  • The new series Dallas is coming back to TNT this fall; the world understands this is only a television drama, not reality, right?

Education, poverty, infrastructure, economic development, diversity, equality, crime, recreation. There’s plenty of room to grow … and plenty of work to get done. My philosophy of leadership is organic. Whether you recognize it or not, you are already leading something important. The care of your loved ones, your department at work, your kid’s sports teams.

The important question is: What’s the next step for you?

A list of quick tips:

  • Do something. You are already passionate about any number of challenges. Pick the one that bugs you the most and get involved.
  • Invest in yourself. You are worth it. Take a class at a Dallas County Community College, or check out free online courses.
  • Over communicate. Always. It’s always better than having to clean up the mess when something falls through the cracks.
  • Use your time wisely. Are you spending too much time on micro details but neglecting the big picture? Life is short; if you aren’t needed in a meeting, state that fact and politely leave. If the group isn’t going anywhere and you can’t get it moving, bow out.
  • Set goals up front. Ask yourself and your group, “What’s the point of this?” If there are several goals, prioritize them. Get buy in up front, or you’ll never get anywhere.
  • Listen to your role models. My dad, Dink, learned some great lessons in the Army. One of his favorites: “Don’t assume. You know what happens when you assume, don’t you?” [Draw the lesson on your nearest whiteboard.]
  • Trust your instincts. Of the train wrecks I have had the good fortune to learn from, there were telltale hints along the way. My lesson: trust my intuition and ask more questions, earlier.
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