I Am A Leader: Kate Stoker’s Thoughts about Leadership

Welcome to the I Am A Leader blog series, featuring leaders who make a difference. Today’s guest blogger is Kate Stoker. Kate Stoker is the Immediate Past President and VP of Programs & Events of the Young Women’s Alliance, a professional organization that supports young women leaders through personal and professional development. 
Kate was a graduate of the 2009 Leadership Austin Emerge Class and currently serves at the Emerge Program Co-Chair. She also recently joined the board of The Creative Fund, a support organization for new artists in Austin. She is a mentor for Explore Austin, which works to increase confidence and teamwork skills for junior high girls through outdoor activities and is a member of the Association for Women in Communications. This year she was invited to serve on the Advisory Council of the Texas Conference for Women and was recognized as a Giving City New Philanthropist for 2012.
Professionally, Kate has worked both in sales and marketing at Dell since joining the organization in 2004. She develops creative strategy and campaigns for the Global Small & Medium Business segment, specifically acquisition and reactivation customer engagement programs.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics from the University of Texas at Austin. Outside of her professional and community activities, she enjoys yoga, live music, hiking, anything outdoors, and traveling around the world.

We are human; thus, we are going to do our best to make positive changes in the lives and community around us, but we are also of course going to make mistakes. I’m not perfect; no one is. It took me years to recognize that, as a leader, I could still be vulnerable and accept support. My key to being able to do this is the incredible people in my life because they are the ones that make it worthwhile. I’m leading them; it’s not about an issue, a project, or an organization. Rather it’s about the people that issue impacts, the people the project includes, or the members or supporters or the organization you’re a part of. 

I am by nature a doer, and I like being in the trenches. Delegation is something I only did when I had to and that was more about self-preservation than developing those around me. My leadership journey started with an organization called the Young Women’s Alliance. I joined in 2008 and hit the ground running because that’s what I do. I jumped into fundraising events for the organization, managing and planning one almost entirely on my own. I didn’t need a committee; I could do it all by myself. As a result, my perfectionist tendencies overshadowed the relationships and opportunities I had available to grow closer to others. My leadership success was based in results: funds raised, event success, checking off all my to do items first. Years later, my focus has shifted to the people part of leadership. 

Most of my leadership training, if you can call “on the job, real-time, think on your feet learning opportunities” training, has started with YWA. It was the gateway to my community involvement with other Central Texas organizations. It has also provided me with a network of amazing people that serve as cheerleaders, coaches, and friends. These relationships are my safety net, and I’m able to freely be brave and move out of my comfort zone knowing they’ve seen me make mistakes and celebrate successes and supported me the same either way. 

You probably didn’t force people to follow you; they chose to follow you. With that comes responsibility to those individuals as well as the causes and values you represent. Human nature is to want to contribute, to be valued, to matter. What others gave to me I have learned to pass on: the opportunity to be part of something bigger than they are alone. After all, without them what would all this be for?

A special thank you to Kate Stoker 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 Kate Stoker here.

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