Leadership Tips from LEAD San Diego’s EMBARK Program


EMBARK Stories

“Leadership happens one conversation at a time. You are responsible for the quality of that conversation.” – Amy K Hutchens

I recently had the pleasure of attending five full days of leadership conversations as part of LEAD San Diego’s EMBARK program. It was an experience fulfilling in so many ways: relationships, leadership tactics, community involvement inspiration, professional development and personal realization. A combination of speakers and team building experiences, I had the opportunity to reflect on who I am personally, how I perform professionally and to put time toward thinking about what will make me the best person I can be. No blog post will do justice to the program; I highly recommend setting aside the five days to participate. In the meantime, I hope these few leadership tips and takeaways will give you a flavor for what LEAD offers and inspire you to be a better leader.


Perceptions are the way we see ourselves. They determine our thoughts and actions now and in the future. Without the basic foundation of healthy perceptions, the development of healthy life-long social and emotional skills is minimal.  The following perceptions are essential for the development of self-reliance and responsibility. For yourself, and when managing others, aim to achieve these perceptions:

I am capable: Saying “yes” or “I’ll do my best” shows capability. Often when feeling resistance from employees it is because they simply do not feel capable. You have the power to help others feel capable.
I am significant: This is the next level. Saying things like “How can I help?” and “I’ll take care of this” show that one feels significant. People need this and it can be felt in many ways, including money and/or relationships. You have the power to help others feel significant.

I have influence: This is the ultimate level to achieve.  It shows that you have control over your life. Those who have achieved influence say things like “Let me show you.” People who often pass blame, often don’t feel influence. You guessed it, you have the power to help others feel influence.

So give yourself and others the opportunity to strengthen these perceptions. When working with others, always ask yourself, is what I’m doing building or destroying these three perceptions?

Leadership tips and takeaways generated from a presentation by George Reed from University of San Diego

More on Perceptions and Your Interpretations

Situation: You’re walking down the hall and you say ‘hi’ to your boss Bob and Bob doesn’t respond. Suddenly you’re overcome with concern. Have you disappointed him? Are you no longer on his good side? Is he a jerk? Meanwhile, Bob was distracted; he just learned that he has to fire someone. Next time you see him, you don’t say ‘hi.’ Bob thinks, “what a bitch.” This is a simple example of a perception and its interpretation, then internalized to an outcome that was not meant to be. Be aware of how you’re interpreting perceptions and question your results. Be sure that what you are interpreting is fact and not assumption. You’ll find that this provides exceptional clarity in your life.

These leadership tips and takeaways come from Jeff Balesh of Jeff Balesh Consulting who said so poignantly, “If we always think as we always think, we’ll always do as we always do and we’ll always get what we always get.”


Leadership happens one conversation at a time. You are responsible for the quality of that conversation. For better conversations, raise the level of critical thinking involved.  You can start with your questions. We did an exercise in which we were asked to answer, “How do you judge great leadership?” We then had to list 12 questions we would ask, that would help us answer that question. Try it. It’s hard! The first few come quickly because those are recall questions. Filling the list of 12 takes critical thinking. Engaging those in our conversations into this kind of deep thinking will result in better understanding of problems and better generation of solutions.  Just because you’re sure, doesn’t mean you’re right. Ask yourself, what am I missing?

Leadership tips and takeaways from my favorite speaker of the program, Amy K Hutchens, CEO, Speaker, Trainer, Business Strategist

Dealing with Conflict

So much of dealing with conflict resolution is a lack of simple communication. We did an exercise where, paired up, we were given roles to play in a fictional scenario in which both of us wanted the entire share of the same crop. We had to come to a conclusion as to who would get it without splitting the crop down the middle. Analyzing the results showed that nearly everyone jumped to a selfish mentality. We thought only about what we wanted and how we would convince the other person of it. But if two people are doing that exact thing, then how will anyone ever win?

It is so simple, yet such a huge issue in the world we live in. This mentality is at the root of so many workplace conversations, personal conversations, even the way our legal system works. The answer? Ask what the other person needs. By taking this common (and complicated) everyday situation and breaking it into a simple role play game, we realized that when we stepped back to ask the other person what they needed, we could find a solution. In the case of this exercise, one person needed the fruit of the crop while the other needed the seeds. There was no issue at all, even though it took us 15 minutes of debating before figuring that out. Next time you find yourself frustrated, ask, “what is it that you need?” And if that conversation is uncomfortable, remember this fine quote that I couldn’t help but pass along:

“While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a business, a career, a marriage or a life, any conversation can.” – Susan Scott

Leadership tips and takeaways from a presentation by Keren Stashower, MA, BCC, Principal Consultant

Create an Advisory Board

When considering what you want for yourself and how you’ll get there, one must not overlook those that will help you – your personal advisory board. Determine what you want to do next and share it with your board to help keep you accountable and inspired.

Leadership tips and takeaway from a presentation by Rebecca Smith, VP San Diego Workforce Partnership

Do with Purpose

Simple as that. In your job and in your life, you have limited time. It only makes sense that what you do should be done purposefully. LEAD’s mission is to create outstanding leaders who will be inspired to do outstanding things for their community. So, much of the program was focused on educating us to understand some of the city’s challenges, non-profit needs and surrounding us with people who can help us exercise our desires to help with the skills we have.

Leadership tips and takeaway from a presentation by Rebecca Smith, VP San Diego Workforce Partnership

I encourage you to take time to give these suggestions thought and to seek out opportunities to continue this type of thinking. It is so easy to get caught up in our day-to-day and never give our attention to what could be, what should be, and what needs be. One must carve out time for this kind of thinking and furthermore, time to act on it.

Lizzie Younkin, Reputation Supervisor for i.d.e.a., is a big fan of the media relations biz. She likes the chase for the story and loves the catch. When she’s not working the media or buried in a good read, you’ll find her somewhere outside – running, hiking or just hanging out with her pup.