What made you decide to apply for The Allstate Foundation Nonprofit Leadership Program?
One of my employees approached me asking if I knew anyone who would be good for the program as she had a friend who had participated in it during the first cohort and spoke highly of the experience. I asked to review the materials and upon review, I informed her that I had someone I would recommend for the program—me! The program sounded like an amazing opportunity to learn from professors from one of the country’s most prestigious business schools, one of the nation’s largest and most respected companies, and all of it would take place in my favorite, and arguably the greatest city in the U.S., Chicago. I had long desired to take my executive leadership skills to the next level and I was especially interested in receiving one-on-one executive coaching for the first time in my career. There simply wasn’t anything like this program that I had been able to find at that point, so I eagerly applied to participate in the program. That decision to apply was one of the best moves I’ve made in my career thus far.
What are takeaways from your involvement in The Allstate Foundation program that have helped you develop your leadership skills?
Outside of my undergraduate and law degrees, I’d assert that my program participation has been the single most valuable development opportunity I’ve received. The professional development opportunities, educational experience, including my certification in Nonprofit Executive Leadership as a part of my Individual Development Opportunity plan, networking with peers in the second cohort and alumni group, access to the Northwestern Alumni network gained through my certification, and the superb coaching I received from my executive coach, Kellogg professor Dr. Nicholas Pearce, have forever influenced the trajectory of my career and caused me to develop my leadership skills in ways I never would have been exposed to without involvement in the program.
Specific to the sessions of the program, I am much more committed to making time for mindfulness and development of my leadership style and the direction of my career. In leaving my job to travel to Chicago for sessions throughout my participation in the program, I really learned the importance of taking breaks from the daily grind to develop myself, learn new things and reflect on myself, my leadership and my career. I also now value the concept of vocational courage much more, having been exposed to it for the first time during one of Dr. Pearce’s lectures. Incorporating his concept is what led me to make the career change toward human resources, talent development and employment law and subsequently, my elevation to an executive level position as a Leader within a new organization. Finally, the concepts of Authenticity and Emotional Intelligence taught during lectures by Dr. Brooke Vuckovic have really stuck with me and caused me to continually evaluate the way I operate as a leader, striving to bring my most authentic and emotionally intelligent self to the workplace.
What changes have you made professionally because of participating in The Allstate Foundation Nonprofit Leadership program?
I’ve enhanced and improved my leadership style in so many ways. I feel I’m a more inclusive, mindful and collaborative leader. I’ve always tried to lead with humility, empathy, vision, and organization, but exposure to executive coaching has also allowed me to develop my leadership style to incorporate more coaching and modeling. Simply put, I try to lead the way I prefer to be led. I do this by cultivating a prepared and positive culture within my organization, using my position to develop our employees’ talents, and recruiting and retaining capable leaders.
I also personally invest my own money to travel to Chicago to actively participate in peer-led program alumni development events. I believe that if The Allstate Foundation thought enough of my potential as a leader to invest their funds in me, the least I can do is commit to developing myself and contributing to activities to help develop my cohort and future cohorts.
How have you continued your development of leadership skills since completing The Allstate Foundation program?
I continue to travel to Chicago to participate in peer-led professional development sessions at least twice a year with fellow alum, even facilitating sessions for these meetings. Additionally, I have joined several human resources groups nationally and locally, even becoming a founding member of the first human resources networking group for African American HR professionals in the State of Nebraska. I continue to utilize my access to the Northwestern/ Kellogg alumni network by reading articles online, and I fully intend to continue to take advantage of upcoming Kellogg nonprofit executive leadership courses offered to alum of the program. My ultimate development goal is yet to be realized—I would love to eventually move to Chicago to study and earn an Executive MBA from Northwestern/ Kellogg and contribute at a Chicago area nonprofit organization. My experience was just that phenomenal!
What advice for other emerging nonprofit leaders?
Invest your time and treasure in developing your own talent. Be authentic in your leadership. Have the vocational courage and boldness to stretch yourself beyond your immediate professional situation and toward your truest passion and purpose. Take advantage of every professional development opportunity that could be beneficial to your career. Definitely apply to participate in the Allstate Foundation Nonprofit Leadership Center.