When I married and moved to rural Oregon more than 25-years ago, I learned quickly how personal is the work of building a community in which to live and raise a family. From a parent member of my toddler son’s private school board (two decades ago!), charter membership and board leadership of my town’s Rotary Club, editor of the local newspaper, state political party leadership, and elected membership on the board of the local fire district, I’ve been pulled into leadership roles time and again, and I continue to grow and serve as a leader in my community.
Before entering the Organizational Leadership program at Gonzaga, I hadn't been one to exercise clear discernment, but flow I did from one opportunity to the next. For a time, I met with success enough. But nagging burnout and dislocation dogged my efforts.
Over the years I’ve witnessed and experienced the confusion and dislocation resulting from the effect of decades of undiagnosed ADHD on my extended family. I've learned of friends who've endured the pain of mental, emotional, and physical abuse. And in my coordinator role bridging representatives from behavioral health, public safety, courts, corrections, and victims' services, I’ve learned of the troubling loss of certain skilled practitioners and programs, work that seems critically necessary, but I am unqualified to do.
Distress and dislocation prompted me to make a change and apply to Gonzaga. Through my coursework I came to understand and apply leadership skills and approaches that I previously could only intuit my way toward. I found the ability to articulate a leadership philosophy that expresses my whole being and acknowledges the importance of seeking God's will through community building. These skills led me to pursue a final project (the Leadership Summit project) in service to those who serve.
Like many I entered adulthood with a conception of leadership viewed as the province of larger-than-life visionaries who inspire action and change. But I’ve learned through the roles I’ve held and that leadership can be personal, can act quietly, and with profound effect. I've learned that leadership is needed at every turn, and we must be discerning in how we navigate those needs. Therefore, a leader's first job is listen for opportunity to nurture leadership in others. As important, perhaps, is careful discernment of when and how to serve others.