Tag Archives: Leading from Within

Women In Leadership: A Discussion Hosted By Leading From Within And Touchstone Central Coast

In honor of Women’s History Month, local nonprofit, Leading From Within, joined with Touchstone Central Coast to host a virtual presentation and panel discussion recently called Women in Leadership: A Discussion for Everyone.

“The pandemic of 2020, unfortunately, has created a loss of nearly 3 million women in the workforce,” explained Touchstone Central Coast co-creator Emily Smith. 

“This past year threatens to wipe out all the progress made over the last several decades to close the gender gaps and if not addressed will exacerbate existing inequalities,” she urged.  Smith facilitated the discussion along with co-creator and business partner Diane Adam, a Leading From Within Katherine Harvey Fellows alumna.

The presentation and panel provided an outline for “Servant Leadership,” a model that empowers the team over the individual and examined how to support and create more positive environments for women in the workforce. 

Panelists included Connie Alexander, founder/co-executive director of Gateway Educational Services; Nancy Gastelum, associate professional clinical counselor and nonprofit executive; Petra Gomez, Ed.D candidate at USC and program manager, the Santa Barbara Foundation; Sarah Kirwan, CEO/founder of Eye Level Communications; Pamela Macal, CEO McDonald’s Central Coast; Simonne Mitchelson, South Coast estate manager for Jackson Family Wines; and Sevelyn VanRonk, Ph.D candidate at Claremont Graduate University and senior manager of People Strategy of BlueShield, CA.

“Covid-19 has disrupted the workplace in ways we’ve never seen before,” said Smith. “The boundaries between work and home have blurred, workplace structures have shifted, employees lost jobs experiencing financial distress, and burnout has become rampant.” 

Smith says it’s been particularly challenging for women who were more likely to be laid-off or furloughed, and who often struggle more intensely with the balance of childcare and work.

“We expect women to work like they don’t have children and raise children as if they don’t work,” was a quote attributed to Amy Westervelt and used in the presentation to demonstrate some of the challenges that women face.

These challenges can present an opportunity to reevaluate and restore critical leadership qualities. Smith queried the 90 zoom participants who shared qualities that they believe define a strong leader, and discussed timeless leadership attributes and the benefits of a service leader mindset.  

First coined by AT&T executive Robert K. Greenleaf, servant leadership turns the idea of traditional workplace leadership on its head, focusing on empowering and uplifting others rather than commanding from a position of power or authority.

“Servant leaders prioritize other people’s well-being and growth, share power, and enable their team to grow, develop and perform to the best of their ability,” said Smith. This approach aims to increase retention rates, provide greater collaboration, create a more positive work environment, support a culture of belonging and foster leadership everywhere. 

The presentation focused on increasing and honoring women in the workplace; Smith noted that companies that don’t encourage women to join them are missing out on talents and abilities of over half the population. 

“Multiplicity of perspectives can spark creativity and innovation and inclusivity boosts morale and opportunity,” she said. She quoted a study by management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company that found the most gender-diverse companies are 21 percent more likely to experience above average profitability.

A panel of female leaders candidly shared thoughts and experiences after the 40-minute presentation, reflecting upon their own successes, challenges and sources of inspiration. 

VanRonk revealed a core message learned from her mentor: that when we say yes to things that are draining us, we have less time for things that could benefit us. “No is a complete sentence.”

“The best leadership gift we have is our time,” said Macal.  “How you choose to spend time with your people and how you choose to make time for your family are integral,” she said, noting that showing up, being supportive and making time for Sunday family dinners is essential.

Alexander, who is participating in the Courage to Lead program at Leading From Within, shared wisdom that she refers to as “holy boldness.”  “In navigating situations, you have to be able to acknowledge and name things that you perceive as wrong because if you don’t then you end up pushing back, and so the lesson I learned is to walk right into those tough conversations and show up with some holy boldness,” she explained. 

Kirwan shared a story about the mentor at her first job out of college and how her female boss instructed her solely on what to wear (stockings, suit and heels). It’s a lesson that’s informed her own mentorship style, which Kirwan says concentrates on empowerment, building confidence, having empathy and teaching young woman to own their value — with or without the heels.

The panel also shared impressions of what Leading with Love means to them. “Being honest, having integrity, and giving back to the community by providing resources and support to others,” said Gomez.

“Self-care is critical,” said Mitchelson, who candidly shared that she always felt “other” coming from an immigrant family raised in a majority white Michigan town. This feeling followed her to the Central Coast where she said it’s difficult to find people who look like her in management, or even in the wine tasting rooms. “It’s important to know and love yourself and to bring that love into your leadership.”

Gastelum stressed the importance of mental health, crediting her own meditation practice with granting her the space to focus and reflect. She also encouraged the value of hope as being a catalyst for vision and fortitude. 

“For me, it’s that loving moment when you can put the oxygen back in the room after watching it go out,” said Alexander. “It’s giving breathe and making space to ensure the little brown girls that I serve get the equity they deserve.” 

Leading From Within was honored to partner with Touchstone Central Coast to offer this forum. The nonprofit has remained active throughout the pandemic by collaborating with other organizations to continue offering learning opportunities for their extensive network of local leaders.  For more information, visit http://leading-from-within.org.

Touchstone Central Coast provides support and training to individuals and organizations desiring to learn, grow, and lead with a servant’s heart. For more information on upcoming workshops, visit https://www.touchstonecc.com.

Four Local Leaders Join Leading From Within Board

Four new members – Katya Armistead, Ashley Costa, Alma Hernández, and Kiah Jordan – have joined the Board of Directors of Leading From Within, marking an important transition as the 12-year-old nonprofit expands its board by one member and embarks on a strategic plan in 2021.

Leading From Within’s volunteer Board of Directors works closely with the organization’s Executive Director and president to oversee and support the nonprofit’s commitment to its mission to invest in people who drive and create change in Santa Barbara County.

“We are no longer a start-up organization,” said Edward France, Executive Director of Leading From Within. “It’s a testament to Leading From Within that trustees with great depth of experience would say yes to joining our Board. Each new member contributes to civic leadership for our community in their own way, and they are complementing the whole of our board of directors in coming together to support leadership programs that improve our communities.”

Katya Armistead

Katya Armistead, Assistant Vice Chancellor and Dean of Student Life at UC Santa Barbara

As the Assistant Vice Chancellor and Dean of Student Life at UC Santa Barbara, Katya Armistead serves as the control point for ten Student Affairs departments and works on special projects often related to campus climate and diversity. Armistead also teaches a leadership course at the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education and is a certified trainer for The Leadership Challenge® Workshop, a research-based curriculum that she co-facilitates at Leading From Within. Armistead’s involvement with Leading From Within dates back to her participation in the Katherine Harveys Fellows program more than a decade ago. She also serves on Leading From Within’s alumni committee and participates in one of the organization’s peer learning circles.

“I have so enjoyed my work with Leading From Within and have personally received so much value through my involvement with the organization,” said Armistead. “It’s an honor to be part of the Board.” 

Katya brings more than 30 years’ experience in education to her Board position, as well as her perspective as a woman of color who is passionate about and experienced in supporting issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion.

“I think it’s important to have thoughtful yet challenging conversations that we may have avoided,” she said. “It’s critical to engage in civic dialogue and provide spaces to amplify voices that are not often heard. Leading From Within recognizes the value of this work.”

Armistead is also a member of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs’ executive committee and a member of the Chancellor’s Senior Officers’ group. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Sociology in 1988 and her doctorate degree in Educational Leadership in 2012, both from UC Santa Barbara. She served for a decade on the Board (including as co-chair) for the nonprofit Family Service Agency. Katya has been a mentor for CADA’s Fighting Back Mentor Program, and helped create and is a mentor for The Fund for Santa Barbara’s Youth Making Change program. When she isn’t working or volunteering, Katya enjoys early-morning walks, reading, and dining out.

Ashley Costa

Ashley Costa, Executive Director of the Lompoc Valley Community Healthcare Organization

Ashley Costa is the Executive Director of the Lompoc Valley Community Healthcare Organization which facilitates the Healthy Lompoc Coalition, a partnership of local leaders and volunteers working together to improve the health of Lompoc Valley residents. Some of the nonprofit’s greatest accomplishments include collaborating on a volunteer committee and partnering to raise $1.6 million toward the capital overhaul of a community track and field in Lompoc. Costa’s organization has also served as advisor and participant to the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan and for the past six years has worked in partnership with the Santa Barbara Foundation to better assist seniors and caregivers in the Lompoc Valley.

Costa participated in the Emerging Leaders Program at a pivotal time in her young career and she credits the Leading From Within program with giving her the confidence and courage to step into a larger role and accept her first-ever Executive Director position.

“I was just 28 years old and considering the transition to Executive Director,” explained Costa. “The Emerging Leaders program was so impactful in not only providing skills and leadership development but also in building my confidence and network, which ultimately gave me the encouragement that I needed to accept that promotion.”

Having now spent six years in her Executive Director role, Costa said she’s delighted to have the opportunity to give back to Leading From Within. 

“It’s refreshing that Leading From Within genuinely wants to learn from my experiences and I know I’m not just checking a box and filling a Board seat but will be respected and engaged for my ideas and opinions,” said Costa.  

In addition to sharing her ideas, Costa hopes to bring the North- and Mid-County perspectives to the board room and to cultivate leadership in the Lompoc Valley.

“There’s a silver lining to the unprecedented times that we find ourselves in, driving us to be more innovative and flexible, and more accepting of change,” said Costa. “It’s an exciting time to be joining a board that is leaning into this unchartered space.”

A native of Lompoc, Ashley graduated from UCLA in 2009 with a B.S. in Political Science. She was elected to the Lompoc City Council in 2010 and served until 2014. Ashley began working with the Healthy Lompoc Coalition as a volunteer in 2010 and as Director of Community Health in 2013. Two years later she accepted the role of Executive Director. Costa practices what she preaches as a fitness enthusiast. She loves working out in her home gym and hiking with her husband and dalmatian.

Alma Hernández 

Alma Hernández, District Representative for County Supervisor Joan Hartmann

Alma Hernández has over 20 years’ experience working in rural, largely immigrant, communities developing leadership through cooperative efforts and by placing community members at the forefront of decision-making processes. She currently serves as a District Representative for County Supervisor Joan Hartmann, where she has worked for the past three years building leadership opportunities for underserved populations. 

“Local government doesn’t necessarily reflect our population, especially in the North County,” explained Hernández. “We need to create pathways that enable our Latinx community to make connections, access resources, and gain confidence in their skills.” Hernández is dedicated to increasing diversity in leadership and ensuring that all voices are respected and heard. She will bring this expertise and passion to Leading From Within.

“I am excited to join the Board of Leading From Within, where I hope to expand the network of North County and Latinx leadership,” said Hernández.

As a graduate of Leading From Within’s Leading for Community Impact program, Hernández knows firsthand the transformational power of the nonprofit’s programs. She participated in the cohort while working as director of Guadalupe’s Little House by the Park, where her focus included the promotion of open, communal, multicultural, and artistic spaces. She credits her Leading for Community Impact “passion project” with giving her the confidence and providing guidance to help her work in collaboration with others to successfully establish Santa Maria’s first Cultural and Creative Arts Center. Hernández said she worked closely with community partners to create an open and safe space for teens to connect and express themselves through art.

Hernández has also served as chair of the Dune’s Center Internal Affairs Committee and Board, Vice President on the CAUSE Board of Directors and as a Board Member for The Fund for Santa Barbara. She was born in Arizona to a first-generation immigrant family from Mexico and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Cal Poly and a Master’s in Public Administration from Cal State Northridge. In her spare time Hernández loves the outdoors, hiking, biking, and running.

Kiah Jordan

Kiah Jordan, founder of Impact Family Office

Kiah Jordan is the founder of Impact Family Office, a family office dedicated to aligning clients’ financial resources with their values to generate the greatest impact. Jordan works with clients, supporting their objectives while implementing long-term perspectives on the impact of, not only his clients’ balance sheets, but also their succession plans, wealth transfer plans, and philanthropic engagement.

Prior to starting Impact Family Office, Jordan worked for Santa Barbara Capital, a real estate investment firm, and it was during this time that he completed his Certified Financial Planner™ designation and found a passion for applying a holistic planning perspective to personal finances and business operations. 

An advocate for socially conscious ventures and entrepreneurship, Jordan dedicates much of his time to start-ups and organizations that benefit the Central Coast, including Leading From Within. He graduated from the Katherine Harvey Fellows program at Leading From Within and remains involved with the organization through peer learning circles and alumni networks.

“Leading From Within was extremely beneficial in helping me think through my contributions in the community,” commented Jordan, who credits the nonprofit with helping leaders apply their passions and talents to improve the communities they serve.

Jordan brings a keen and creative financial lens to his work at Leading From Within. His educational background transcends the nonprofit and for-profit realms while his work bridges fiduciary and philanthropic worlds. He says this cross-sectional experience will benefit Leading From Within which similarly straddles and serves diverse sectors.

“Leading From Within promotes leadership growth in the for-profit, nonprofit and social sectors, and I hope that my experience thinking strategically across these industries will help the organization blend these distinct worlds in effective and innovative ways.”

Jordan is a founding board member of the Sustainable Change Alliance and serves on the Executive Committee for the Santa Barbara County Food Action Network, and on the board of the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. Additionally, he is a National Certified Guardian by the Center for Guardianship Certification and a licensed Professional Fiduciary by the California Professional Fiduciaries Bureau. Kiah graduated from Westmont College, where he now serves as an adjunct professor. He completed his master’s degree in Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. 

Outside of the office, Kiah enjoys outdoor adventures with his wife and three children and plays soccer in a local recreation league. He and his wife recently recertified as a resource family for children in the Santa Barbara foster care system.

Founded in 2008, Leading From Within invests in people who drive and create change in Santa Barbara County. Its leadership programs, alumni education, and impact networks cultivate leaders who are renewed, prepared, connected and collaborating for the greater good. For more information, visit http://leading-from-within.org.

Empowered Leaders

Nonprofit leaders make it their personal mission to serve others, and in doing so, too often lose sight of themselves. Burnout or worse, anemic leadership, results in ineffective nonprofits that don’t do what they were built to do: uplift the community.

Five years into his tenure as the first staff and executive director of the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, Ed France was drained. “I was out of energy,” he says. “I was just done.”

But there was an intervention: Leading From Within – a nonprofit itself – bent on fostering “a dynamic network of public-minded leaders who know each other, trust each other, and are better able to work together to improve our communities.”

Founded in 2008, Leading From Within has delivered four intensive programs aimed at building up executives, mid-level staff, nonprofit volunteers, and those interested in community impact to more than 500 social sector leaders.

France took part in the group’s 18-month Courage to Lead program, where expert facilitators led him and other nonprofit executives through group sessions, poetry readings, and journaling all aimed at reinvigoration.

“The program reconnected me with why I was doing the work,” France says. “It rekindled my passion.”

The results were undeniable. In short order, the bike coalition raised enough money to buy a building, set up centers at Santa Barbara City College and in Santa Maria all while launching programs in local elementary schools.

The experience was so vital to France’s professional growth that he decided to join Leading From Within as its executive director in 2020.

Beyond his own personal growth, France points to the unparalleled nonprofit network that Leading From Within has developed in its 12 years, and that network’s capacity to respond to any crisis that affects the community.

“Empowered leaders who build relationships of trust can collaborate for much more meaningful change,” France says.

As France sees it, investing in local leaders ensures that Santa Barbara County’s rising stars stay bright, and their nonprofits work together to make the community stronger.