Leading in Different Ways | Emerging Leaders: Session 4

Emerging Leaders SeriesLeading in Different Ways | Emerging Leaders: Session 4 2021 is underway! This group of leaders is primed for connection, learning and impact. We are excited to add our ELS Blog Series, where each session will be captured by one of the cohort members. Learn more about the fourth session with Hunter Scott of Dewpoint.


Close your eyes and picture someone who you view as a leader… What does that person look like? What is their background? Social demographic? What makes them so special to you?

This session’s message was short, but important to realize; not every leader is the same.

With a topic of leading in different ways, this session was filled with the voices of local area leaders and how their backgrounds paved the way for them, but not in the most expected or most likely way.

Kicking off our session we heard from none other than the Grand Rapids Chamber’s very own VP of Business and Talent Development, Dante Villarreal. Dante shared with us his unique background and how he uses that experience teach others the importance of a good leader. Dante spoke of his time growing up and how he, his family, and many other families traveled the US in search of jobs when he was younger. This experience gave him the opportunity to become a leader himself and he spoke about how powerful and important this position was to him. The message he left us with was short and sweet. He told us that in his experience, both past and present, a true leader is the first person to follow. The first person to say yes to a certain plan or critical moment. The first person to stand by you whenever proposing a new direction for the company. That is the sign of a good leader.

Following Dante came Meg Derrer, Founder and President of Greater Good Partners.  Meg brought with her a wonderful exercise to enable our entire cohort to find what our true core values are.  She helped us identify when we are the happiest and most proud and how the correlates with what we are doing to make this happen.  This entire exercise was put on to determine our community impact statement.  Her discussion was all about identifying our passions and skills and how we can use these to better the community around us. She then took this conversation and spoke about how being a board member can help you achieve the goal of bettering the community. Being a member of several boards now, Meg used her experience to provide insight as to what we should expect if we were to pursue this board member journey.

To cap off the session, we heard from two amazing women who found their paths to leadership, but in different ways… (Hey! That is just like the title of Session Four! I wonder if they did this on purpose.) Anyhow, these two women were Megan Steenwyk, Business Services Manager for the Grand Rapids Chamber and Tia Ezell, Community Engagement Coordinator for Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. To start, Megan was asked to speak about finding your path and reflecting on how we did this. She invited us to take a moment to not only reflect within ourselves, but to also express this to other members of the cohort. This reflection allowed us all to realize that finding your own path can look completely different from someone else’s. We all come from different backgrounds and cultures, which plays a big role in this process.

After Megan came Tia. Hearing Tia’s background and how she labeled herself as the rebel child was very relatable. She started off by asking us what the typical leader looks like. The response from the cohort was unanimous; Older white males who are wealthy and well educated. It is this mold that Tia herself, as well as many others in the community, are shattering every day. Tia’s message behind her story was to never look at someone and think that they could never lead because a leader can come in all shapes and sizes. Aside from using herself as an example, she mentioned several others that led her at various stages in life. She left us with a power concept in that she challenged us all to stretch our minds in search of the “unconditional leader” as she put it.

Overall, Session Four was inspiring. Hearing the diverse stories of all who came to speak to us was incredibly eye-opening and enlightening. Hearing these diverse leaders speak makes me believe that the world is filled with leaders who are ready and willing to lend a hand whenever someone is in need. It is people like this that make the everyday seem a little less challenging!


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