What Is a Leader?

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What is a leader? The answer is simple. Everyone is a leader. The real question becomes: how good of a leader are you?

I was selected for the Future Leaders of YMC in January. Being a boutique agency, we are fortunate to be nimble and provide opportunities for participants to create and execute their concepts in progressing the company forward. Each year, there is an application process which is reviewed and selected by a third party. The participants are given one year to identify a company-wide problem and to provide a solution in the form of a project. The project is implemented and the results are measured. Monthly meetings gauge the progress of the project and what challenges have arisen.

Entering the program, my goal was to grow my leadership skills in order to bring out the highest potential in others. I wanted to make a positive impact on the growth of our company. To be honest, I really wanted to learn how to get to the next level in my career. It wasn’t about a title or paycheck, but more so the feeling that I was moving forward in life.

You may notice a common theme. There are a lot of “me” or “I” statements in that last paragraph. We are now rounding out the third quarter and my biggest take away is that leadership isn’t about me.

Recently, I was in a planning session that generated a great deal of opportunities for discussion. The group was comprised of a board of directors, the CEO, and a mix of staff members. We were rolling along with discussions on how these proposed changes could impact their existing members and serving potential members. There were tons of pros, cons, potential obstacles and possible failures. Every discussion was focused on the member and the credit union. There were no discussions about the departments or how hard it was going to be for anyone. There weren’t any “I” statements and none were reflected in the thought process.

The discussion resulted in a solid game plan with a high likelihood of success due to balanced risk and a strategy to tackle the obstacles.

Post-meeting, I soaked in a little sunshine and had one of those little “aha” moments. The room had been filled with a mix of corporate levels. Not everyone had direct reports, authority, or title. It didn’t matter.

The key was not trying to be a good leader, and it wasn’t about learning the right skills. The key was forgetting ourselves and focusing on the mission and member. When you focus on the mission and the member, you are being a quality leader.

Earlier this year, I was honored to be part of a program that teaches learning about the outward mindset. The goal of an outward mindset is to shift your thinking outside of yourself. View each challenge from the other’s perspective and focus on how it relates to the mission.
The program involves exercises to examine how the full cycle of communication occurs and finding where you are contributing with an outward mindset. One of the best examples was two people sitting in a chair. When working together, if your chairs are back-to-back, you have the worst communication. If one person shifts directions, it improves. Only when you can both face the same direction, can you be effective.

Reading about a concept is one thing but understanding is it different. And this idea suddenly clicked. Making decisions based on the mission and removing yourself from the equation and goals you have is key. Identifying how you are contributing to conflict and stopping those negative behaviors is the only acceptable time to think about yourself.

You can’t make leadership happen by trying to be good at it. It’s about practice and letting it evolve naturally, instead of being forced. As Shawna Shapiro shared in a 2017 Ted Talk, “What you practice grows stronger”.

I am grateful for what I have learned so far and it’s time for more practice.

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Reh Harvey

Vice President of Digital Strategy

Reh Harvey, our Vice President of Digital Strategy, leads with diligence and fervor. Having previously been a member of Team YMC, he is excited to return to such an amazing culture and even more amazing people (his words)! Through his experience in the marketing world, he’s found the key to success is to stay on the cutting edge and to always keep evolving.
 
Although originally drawn to marketing for its lack of math, Reh now finds himself doing more math than he would’ve bargained for. But his self discipline and positive attitude make it easy for him to laugh and take it in stride. Hoping to one day visit Japan and enjoy some premium Sushi, Reh lives life by his creed: Be a good human. Do good work. And above all, just keep going.

Hailey Madej

Graphic Designer

As YMC’s in-house Graphic Designer, Hailey possesses an eye for detail and a drive to innovate. It’s no surprise though since being creative runs in the family! Inspired from an early age by her mom’s work as a Graphic Designer, Hailey is a seasoned expert whose talents bring vitality and accessibility to every project. As a UX/UI designer, she expertly blends the intuitive and the creative for all to enjoy.
 
In addition to the occasional freelance project, Hailey also lends her abilities to supporting art initiatives within her community, such as the Belleville Mural Project. Her favorite aspect of joining the YMC team is the friendly, uplifting culture and breadth of design tasks. When it comes to marketing, she believes in pushing boundaries and maybe breaking some rules to capture her audience’s attention. Her advice to those just starting out? “Always seek quality over quantity.”

Dexter Ochoa

Development Assistant

When it comes to blending logical thinking and creative problem solving, Dexter’s abilities are undeniable! Beginning his career as a Web Developer, he’s no stranger to the wide world of Marketing and Advertising. Calling Biñan City in the Philippines home, Dexter has a burning desire to visit the Alpine peaks and valleys of Switzerland. While that journey may be far off, he is still no stranger to international travel. While visiting Japan, he was able to enjoy his favorite delicacy: Sushi and Sashimi. He also learned unexpected facts about Japanese Yen, specifically that it has special markings for the blind to know its value!

Living life by his motto to “Do good even if the world is unfair,” Dexter would also advise his younger self, “It’s hard, but you’re doing good!” Whether he’s enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning or the occasional Pale Pilsen in the evening, Dexter is eager to work with the talented professionals of YMC, and we’re just as eager to add his talent to the team as well! His marketing words of wisdom? “Be creative, and just do what you want!”

Andrew Wyche

Copywriter

Hailing from the NC state capital (that’s Raleigh if you didn’t know), Andrew is YMC’s Copywriter extraordinaire. That’s why he knows that “The verb form of ‘reconnaissance’ is ‘reconnoiter.’ The former is, strictly speaking, a noun.” Seriously, he knows his words and he’ll use those words to get bold and weird (in a good way) with his copy. Fuelled by a love for pasta, shellfish, a good single malt, or a meal consisting of all three, Andrew navigates life with a motto engraved in his heart: “Choose kindness. Always.” It is this guiding principle that has led him to explore the realm of marketing, driven by a desire to connect with people in meaningful ways. As he continues to chase his dreams, one bucket list item stands out above the rest – a pilgrimage to Scotland. With his heart set on adventure and his pen poised for creativity, Andrew’s journey is far from over.

Alex VanHaasteren

Senior Web Developer

Alex is YMC’s Senior Web Developer and, as the title suggests, she is an absolute pro! While she initially started in graphic design – working long and hard to expertly bring concepts to life – she also felt drawn to technology and applying her natural ability to problem solve. Web Development proved the perfect blend of her creative passion and technical savvy.

When Alex is out with friends – including her YMC colleagues – she’s up for Greek cuisine or some good pulled pork BBQ washed down with Diet Coke. Or an Old Fashioned, if the occasion demands. Someday, she hopes to go to Africa on a safari. Hopefully she’ll see a giraffe in the wild, because – as she’s pointed out – its neck is too short to reach the ground!

When she isn’t jamming out to T-Swift, she’s happy to impart some marketing words of wisdom, “Aim to create something unforgettable.” For day-to-day inspiration, she would remind you of two fundamental truths: You decide your happiness, and Ice cream is its own food group—not just a dessert.

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