Tag Archives: Jackson Leadership Fellows

Leadership Lessons from a Community Innovator

Shot with DxO ONEThe Jackson Leadership Fellows 2016 Class was fortunate to have an informal discussion with long-time Seattle community leader, Martha Choe, last week.  Martha has held a remarkable and diverse list of jobs– from serving on the Seattle City Council, where she chaired the Transportation Committee and the Finance Committee – to her role as Chief Administrative Officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Her career also encompassed the private banking sector and a position as Director of the Washington State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development  in Governor Gary Locke’s cabinet.  Our Fellows were eager to hear her thoughts about her approach to leadership and what she’s learned from her many challenges along the road of her career.

Martha made a few key points to the Fellows:  first, she said “It’s not about you.”  She explained:  “You need to create the ownership of ideas among your team members, and know how and when to get in front of an idea, and when to let others shine.”   Second, she stressed the importance of candor and vulnerability, noting that it was okay to admit “I don’t know” and indicate that you will start asking the right questions to find out the answers.  Listen to your audience, she counseled, and face up to your weaknesses.  “Vulnerability can convey empowerment.”  She also spoke about the need and often “the courage to make unpopular decisions.”  This is part of a good leader’s responsibility, she reminded the Fellows.

Shot with DxO ONE

Over the course of her career in different sectors of our community, Martha said she came to realize that “leadership involves people, not just org charts and boxes.”  Gaining an understanding of the needs of the people around you – and whom you are managing– will make you a better leader.

She also emphasized one of the key Jackson leadership attributes – the importance of doing your homework.  “Learn, listen and understand different perspectives.”  She predicted:  “You will need vision and reality for the hard and lonely work of leadership.”

In response to a question about the different leadership challenges facing the public and private sector, Martha underlined the integral role of consensus building in achieving results.  She concluded with a powerful message to these young leaders in the making  – “if you take risks, you will sometimes fail.”

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Inspiring Young Leaders

Many of you have heard by now of the Foundation’s exciting new initiative – a young leadership program called the Henry M. Jackson Leadership Fellows.  We’ve just launched the inaugural class of this 9-month program, which will include leadership training, mentoring, networking, and substantive work on individual projects.

As we showcased in an earlier message, the class is outstanding.  The word “inspiring” may sometimes be overused – but in this case I can honestly say that interviewing the 35 fellowship candidates filled me with hope for a time when our civic life will again ring with bipartisan discourse and engaged, active citizens.  As one of the Foundation’s Vice Presidents, Craig Gannett, put it in welcoming remarks to the Fellows, “listening to all of you gives me optimism for the future.”

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2016 Fellows with Anna Marie Laurence, Secretary of the Board, and John Hempelmann, President, in front of the Jackson bust in Everett, Washington outside the Jackson home.

While we eventually chose only eight fellows, a few bright spots came through during the interview process.  First, the candidates showed a tremendous interest in leadership – in all its facets – and a strong desire to learn the skills and attributes of great leaders.  Second, they hunger to engage outside of work spheres and to connect more deeply with new colleagues and novel ideas.  Third, these young professionals want to involve diverse aspects of our community into their work – both professionally and in their volunteer pursuits.  Finally – and perhaps most heartening – they believe that Senator Jackson’s life and achievements can speak to this next generation.  While many of the candidates did not previously know of Senator Jackson, they came to the interviews inspired by what they had read about him, especially in The Nature of Leadership book that we make available on our website.

The Foundation embarked on its new Fellowship program in part to reach out to the next generation and inculcate them with the Jackson values.  The year has just begun – and yet it is already clear that those values – and the man behind them – remain relevant today.

We hope you will join us at some of the many events this year in which the Fellows will be involved.

Lara Iglitzin

Executive Director