The most inspiring and effective leaders don’t lead strictly from a place of positional authority. They primarily lead others with their professional and personal example. Tisha Gierhart, a Spring 2010 Emergence graduate and recently named Shafer Leadership Academy Program Director, took this principle literally.
If you had to summarize your personal and professional achievement through being an active leader in the community, how would you do so?
I think the common thread I’ve strived for in both my personal and professional life is to inspire individuals to serve others and help them realize they can truly make a difference in the work they do. This is the same idea I’ve approached my own work with and it totally changes your perspective in the midst of the daily grind and its challenges. Work doesn’t necessarily get “easier” but it certainly becomes more meaningful and fulfilling. I want others to experience the same paradigm shift I did!
How have you aligned your passions and talents with the available opportunities to volunteer or lead others in your community?
I’ve always had a desire to volunteer but sometimes it can be hard not knowing where to get plugged in and what opportunities are out there to serve your community. An example that comes to mind was that recently I was asked to attend a Cancer Walk committee meeting and then volunteered to Co-Chair of the Cancer Walk. After being exposed to the amazing work the Cancer Society does, that then lead to become a Cancer Society Board member. You never know where opportunities will lead!
If someone wants to lead others and embrace new opportunities but lacks the confidence or skills and to do so, what advice do you give them?
I believe we are all leaders as people watch us everyday do some kind of action and pay attention to the words we speak. Leadership can be as simple as a gesture that makes a difference in someone’s life. So I guess my advice would be that people, more than anything else, respond to your example and approach. And I would also remind them that they already have some great personal strengths and point out examples where I have already seen them lead others.
How did your experience in Emergence help you prepare you for your role as SLA Program Director?
Emergence assisted me in determining what kind of leader I am and what kind of leader do I want to be. The program opened my eyes to the fact that everyone has a role in a team and provided me with perspective to understand it is OK to have a different learning style and to be open to stretch yourself. One of the most important concepts that still sticks with me is today is being able to answer the questions “who is my community and how can I make a difference in my community?”.
Given that you work and live in different counties, has this definition of community been a bit harder for you to define?
Emergence helped me realize who my community is and who I wanted to be in my community. A community is not just your neighbors where you live. A community is a group of people you want to work and be involved with. This helped me because I struggled due to that I worked in a completely different county then I lived and did not see I could make a difference in my community where I resided. Knowing my community can be in two different counties made a real difference for me.
Now that you are directly involved with Shafer Leadership Academy, what’s your message to others about the benefits of its programming?
SLA inspires and provides tools for individuals to understand their unique gifts and talents. You will gain knowledge about individual learning styles that will enable you to better understand the people you work, volunteer and live with – which ultimately helps you become a more impactful leader! I know it’s a tall claim, but I’ve lived it! Having this personal experience with SLA just fuels my passion even more for this new opportunity I’ve been given.