DAYL President’s Page

Leading with Heart

February, 2018

Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” – Confucius

It’s February. The aisles at Target are filled with Valentine’s candies and cards, and as you’re grocery shopping or running other errands, it seems you can’t escape the sight of cupid and hearts in every size and color. I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic, so I like this time of year. I enjoy the opportunity to refocus on my marriage and who doesn’t like to get flowers and chocolates? This year, I am especially excited to dress my littlest Valentine in red and send him to school with the most adorable Paw Patrol (his choice) valentines for his class.

February is also American Heart Month, and having been personally impacted by heart disease, I think about those my family has lost to the disease and others I know who struggle with it on a daily basis, like my Mom. I think especially about my Pepaw, who was high school educated, but always dreamed of going to law school, and who was so proud of me at my law school graduation.

This February, I also think about leading with heart, and how I have excelled as a leader when I have focused on doing so. I don’t proclaim to be a perfect leader, and believe me, serving as President of a 3,000-member organization is teaching me things I never knew about being a leader. But after serving in other roles and in preparing to serve this year, I made a list of tips that I believe have and will continue to help me lead with heart:

Understand Your Mission

Until you know your mission and vision as a leader and as a group, it is almost impossible to lead. Refining your mission and setting goals for your organization that are in line with that mission will help ensure that you stay on track and focus on the things that are truly going to make a difference for your group. #daylgoodbetterbest

Find a Mentor

Seek out other effective leaders and learn as much from them as you can. The DAYL has such a long history of great leadership, and in my time thinking and preparing for this year, I have had the pleasure of talking and sharing ideas with a great number of our past presidents. Special thanks to Paul Simon, Stephanie Gause, Jonathan Childers, Mey Ly, Sarah Rogers, Dena Stroh, Laura Geisler, Chad Ruback, Michael Hurst, and Tom Craddock for sharing their experiences while serving as president of this organization and for listening as I shared some of my ideas for this year.

Really Listen

As my husband would probably tell you, I struggle with this one. As a working mom, I am constantly multitasking and thinking about all that needs to get done at work and at home. I often have to stop and remind myself how important it is to listen and be engaged in a conversation. It is important to hear from the other leaders of your organization and to listen to concerns raised by those leaders or by the organization’s membership at-large. You simply cannot lead effectively if you do not listen effectively.

Create a Safe Environment

It is also important for you to manage your response and the responses of others when new ideas or differing opinions are shared. Meetings should be a safe space in which those in attendance feel comfortable sharing their thoughts. This is not to say that everyone is going to agree, but the goal should be to ensure that any discourse is respectful and professional.

Expose Your Own Weaknesses

No one is perfect. There, I said it. We all have skills that we do not perform well or personality traits of which we are not especially proud. The weaknesses I am working hardest on this year are communication and delegation. I tend to want to get things done quickly at the risk of not keeping everyone in the loop and not allowing young leaders to shine by taking on part of the responsibility. When you’re facing a weakness, try to let your team know you’re working on it and to invite them to bring to your attention when are not doing your best at addressing it.

Admit Your Mistakes

When you’re a leader, whether it be on a small or large scale, mistakes are going to happen. When you make a mistake, own it. It is not always easy to fess up to a mistake, but when I think about the leaders I admire, I can identify a time when each of them has admitted to making a mistake and my respect grew for them as a result.

Connect with Your Team on a Personal Level

If you’re going to ask your team members to devote a part of their lives to an organization, you should take an interest in them and know something about their lives outside of the organization. What does their husband do? Do they have kids? Are they going on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation this year? Do they have a big case going to trial? Being connected beyond the surface will bond you with your teammates in a way that will make your work with the organization even more special.

Celebrate Your Team Members’ Successes

As you get to know your team members personally and professionally, make a point to celebrate the victories and milestones in their lives. Send them a card for their birthday, buy them a small gift when they get married or welcome a child, or give them a shout-out at a meeting when they achieve professional success. It is fun to celebrate others and it makes your team members feel good; a win-win.

Inject Fun into What You Do

It is not always fun to lead an organization. There are times when you have to prepare a budget or moderate a difficult debate. But, where appropriate and when possible, try to sprinkle in some fun. As an example, the DAYL always hosts a Board Retreat at the outset of the year. We have a long agenda for the day, with a review of our policies and procedures, a discussion about how to be the best board member, and much more. To break-up the business of the Board Retreat this year, we started the day by doing an escape room and ended the day with dinner and drinks. We still had a productive day, but we were able to start and end with some fun to help break the business up a bit.

Express Gratitude

Don’t take all of the credit for the success of your organization. Say thank you in person when you attend an event and see the committee members working hard, send thank you notes to board members who are knocking it out of the park, recognize those who have gone above and beyond at your organization’s meetings. It would be impossible to do all that DAYL does without an army of leaders and volunteers. I appreciate all of you and hope I do a good job this year of expressing my gratitude to you as we continue to have a Good, Better, Best 2018!

Good, Better, Best,
Jennifer Ryback
DAYL President