I Am A Leader: Monica Maldonado Williams Thoughts on Leadership

Welcome to the I Am A Leader blog series, featuring leaders who make a difference. Today’s guest blogger is Monica Maldonado Williams. Monica is the founder of GivingCity Austin, a nonprofit magazine covering the philanthropy scene. Monica is a 20-year communications professional who uses her skills and talent to drive more people to give back and get involved. She graduated from Southwestern University and more recently Leadership Austin’s Essential class.

Ugh, am I a leader? Isn’t that something others bestow on me rather than something I call myself?
Let me tell you something: I try. Not to be a leader, per se, but rather to act out some of the characteristics of leaders. I learned pretty early on that leadership is always a work in progress.
In high school I was captain of the volleyball team, a position I took very (overly) seriously. The team was a bunch of sorry sacks who weren’t talented, skilled or motivated (sorry, guys). It was frustrating. I tried “motivating” them with pep talks and cheers. I tried “leading by example” by arriving early to practice, working the hardest and staying late. They ignored me. Finally after yet another loss, I grabbed one of my teammates by the shoulders and shook her as hard as I could yelling, “Why are you so happy?! We just lost again!”
Innate leadership qualities? I think not.
In college I did something daring and leadership-y: I wrote an article for the student paper about the school’s decision to suspend athletic scholarships. It was daring because a.) unlike the rest of the student body, I thought there was some merit to the idea and b.) I’d never written an article for the school paper before.
My idea was to research and report on both sides of the story to present the information in a fair and balanced article. I was playing journalism because I had no training, but I did a pretty good job. The article ran on the front page.
I felt like a leader, like I had done something no one else wanted to, all to elevate the discourse on this important campus topic. Faculty and staff I didn’t even know stopped me on campus to thank me for pursuing the truth. But the baseball team threw bottles at me and the volleyball team pinned me against a wall and yelled in my face.
On the day of the decision, I hid in my dorm room.  Pretty daring move, right?
There are, sadly, many more examples of my early attempts at leadership. Learning experiences all.
Today I try to lead a bunch of ridiculously talented, committed and passionate people who generously lend themselves to me in pursuit of a common goal: To create and sustain a local magazine that inspires people to get involved in our community.
Here’s how I do that:
1. I let them do their thing. I’m lucky to work with them! Seriously, they’re the best in the business. I’m not about to second-guess their contributions. I told them the goals, they go out and achieve them. I just have to get out of their way.
2. I work harder than they do and get paid last.We’re a nonprofit start up. My contribution is valuable — in fact it’s indispensible. They won’t get paid unless I do my part. I take that commitment to them very seriously.
3. I find out and consider what they want out of it. If they don’t get the reward they’re seeking (and it’s not really money, so it’s important to really understand it), then they’re not going to do their best. Their goals are our goals.
I promise I won’t shake them by the shoulders, they promise not to throw bottles at me. And when things get rough, I promise not to hide in my room. So far, so good!

A special thank you to Monica Maldonado Williams for sharing her insights about leadership with us today! Stay tuned every Friday as the I Am A Leader blog series continues. Please share this blog post via Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Let’s continue the conversation on Twitter using the #iamaLEADER hash tag! You can connect with SOS Leadership on Twitter here and GivingCity here.

Check out all of the I Am A Leader blogs here!

2 thoughts on “I Am A Leader: Monica Maldonado Williams Thoughts on Leadership

  1. Great thoughts…I was reminded of the time I wrote an editorial for my college newspaper that was against the tide…another leadership moment. Thanks for your inspiration and continued leadership in the city

  2. Great post, Monica! Thanks for sharing. I can certainly relate to your Volleyball story. My competitiveness is one of my strengths, but at times it is one of my weaknesses.

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