What a leader looks like

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Since September 2018, I have been a part of a yearlong leadership program set up by the Fremont Chamber of Commerce called Leadership Fremont. This has been a fantastic way to meet other professionals in Fremont, learn about leadership skills, and get to know different departments in Fremont. Leadership Fremont also culminates in a project for a local non-profit that the group has chosen. This year, we decided to work with HERS Breast Cancer Foundation on creating a video to highlight the work the organization does for its clients and the community.

The tagline created for the project is, “Empower HERS. Empower them.” We hope that our video will demonstrate how giving back to and working with HERS not only lifts up those who are specifically benefited through the services, but also the entire community who is touched by breast cancer (which really is everyone). I worked with a local graphic designer on a logo for the project, which was a fun collaborative effort. It reminded me of working with my husband in 2017 to create the logo for Liu Shair Law. Making a logo requires a lot of discussion, tinkering with different features, and making side by side comparisons of others. Each logo has many meanings and purposes, which we sometimes don’t even realize until we have the finished product.

This logo includes a colorful hand comprised of geometric shapes cradling the HERS logo (represents that everyone is welcome, regardless of color, sex, or gender).  Our hashtag “Empower HERS” supports the colorful hand, demonstrating our project’s mission that lifts up both our goal and HERS.  The hands in the HERS logo and our logo face different directions, representing the yin and yang working together. 

I look forward to sharing the final video with everyone in a few months at the HERS gala in May and also a special event we will be planning. If you are interested in learning more or getting involved with this very meaningful project, please get in touch.

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Here’s the logo Lisa Stambaugh designed for the 2019 Leadership Fremont project with my novice input.

Anyways, to get to the point of this post, for our January meeting, each participant had to give a speech about “Leadership” that was videotaped. Even though I regularly give talks, it can be nerve wracking. I particularly do not like to be videotaped so this was outside of my comfort zone. I decided to give a presentation on how my four year old daughter is a leader. Here is the video of my speech, which I hope you enjoy.

Here is the text of a (longer) version of the presentation.

We were asked to give a presentation on the topic of Leadership.  At one of our first Leadership Fremont meetings, a speaker asked us to take a few minutes to draw a picture of what a leader looks like.  I took a different approach to this than most would have, deciding to draw a picture of my four year old daughter, Madison.

When we often view leaders as adults who have reached some level of professional or personal success, it may seem unusual that I chose a preschooler.  Madison, however, reminds me that leadership skills are developed from a young age, should be honed, and also celebrated. Madison exemplifies leadership to me for a few key reasons.  She is kind, unafraid to speak her mind, and is resilient. 


         Madison is known for her silliness, but also her kindness.  She attends a great preschool where children are taught about inclusivity, thinking about how others feel, and expressing how something makes them feel.  At the beginning of the school year, a new batch of students (including Madison’s little brother, Ripley) started.  One mother approached me and told me that Madi was like a welcoming committee.  When she saw a new student, she went up to her to give her a hug and showed her around.  Madi understood that the first day of school could be overwhelming for a new student who needed a friendly face and time to get adjusted. 

         Often, as people grow up, they may be hardened or feel too busy to think about being kind to others.  Madison’s actions demonstrate that kindness can be found not only in the grand gestures, but also the small acts of hospitality.  A leader finds ways to appreciate those around them, understanding that no man is an island and everyone is important.  Leaders know that we not only need to focus on the big picture, but also work on the fine details and value the process AND the people.  In doing so, we are able to cultivate opportunities to show our gratitude in the specific ways a certain person may really respond well to.  A leader does not stand on her own, but rather supports those who surround her and make her work possible.  She knows she can both share what she thinks AND value others’ contributions.

-Unafraid to speak her mind:

         Though there certainly have been times when Madison said the darndest things and I was mortified, she more often uses her many words to express her understanding of right and wrong.  She lets us know what it means to make a good choice or a bad choice.  When she is aware of a rule that is being broken by others, she has no qualms about bringing it up.  For instance, one time, she noticed the Amazon delivery person driving away without buckling his seat belt.  Madison told me, “He didn’t put his seat belt on.  That’s not making good choices.”  She made it clear that a rule was being broken and she did not approve because it was unsafe.  This observation of something so small is one others might easily miss, but not only did she notice, this made an impression on her and she wanted to express what that meant to her.  This also reminds me that I need to be careful about what I say and do since she will notice.

         For leaders, it is important to be able to both share one’s ideas and communicate these effectively.  This means a few things: taking the time to listen to others, see what’s going on, and understand the context.  After gaining these important insights, then a leader needs to find an appropriate way to share this information.  A leader knows that his voice and insights are needed.  Depending on the audience, he may use different words, examples, or tone of voice.  He has to read the situation carefully, so that his ideas are received with open minds and also so he can use others’ feedback to make the idea even better.  It takes a lot of trial and error, but a leader knows when to bring something up both for the good of the team and the higher purpose.


         Madi has a strong curiosity that is evident in her desire to observe others and then participate when she is ready.  She took an interest in dance so we enrolled her in dance classes.  She was so excited to wear her dance dress, tap shoes, and ballet shoes.  Nonetheless, during the first few lessons, she felt reserved and didn’t always do what the teacher asked of her.  After she understood the structure of the class and how things worked, she was excited to get involved and try new dance moves.  When dancing around, she is full of energy, she does stumble and fall sometimes, but she always gets back up.

         Leaders often face challenges and failures, but they bounce back and either approach the problem from a different angle or collaborate with others to find a workable solution.  We frequently hear about leaders who had multiple ideas that failed before finding the “big one.”  They had to face criticism, doubt, and rejection along the way.  What makes leaders special is that they not only persevere through these difficult seasons, but use that grit to develop strong character.  They do know when an idea may not be ready or isn’t the best one, but they also know how to keep going, even when it will be a lot more work than anyone signed up for.  This resiliency allows them to not only get the job done well, but also hopefully act as a mentor to lift others up as well.

Though Madison hasn’t even started elementary school yet, there is a lot to learn from her about how to be an effective leader.  A great leader is in essence, someone who can inspire others through the big and the small things she does.  A leader doesn’t have to be someone who has done something significant in the workplace, but can be someone whose effervescent personality influences those around her to create a better community and kinder world.  As Madison is likely to remind others in song, “Each of us is a flower, growing in life’s garden,” “It’s a small world after all,” and “I give thanks for the blue skies over me, green grass under me, good friends beside me, and peace all over the world.”