Many leaders are passionate about a cause, an idea, or reaching certain goals and milestones. But what makes the truly great leaders stand out. Is it simply this passion? I have known many great leaders and many passionate people, but I want to highlight 3 very passionate, yet very different leaders that have had a big influence on my professional career. I have had the pleasure of working underneath and being mentored by these three and have learned different skills from each one. All three have unique and creative ways of blending their passion and their skill sets to achieve amazing things.
One of the first bosses that I had in several of my first jobs was a truly motivated man named Ron Wallisa. Ron was the head of Parks and Recreation in Monroe, CT, where I grew up, and I knew him for decades. Ron held this position for 32 years and left a tremendous legacy for future generations to enjoy. As a boss, he had not only passion for the parks and programs in his care, but a truly inspiring ability to transform lazy high school students into responsible adults handling one of the busiest operations in town. I worked for Ron for a long time and learned how to take responsibility for everything in my care and to take pride in all the little aspects of the job. His vision of what our parks complex could become has taken a long time, but through steady, regular effort, he has created one of the best parks in the region, if not the state.
My current boss, Kathy Copeland, is the definition of passionate. She is the founder of our organization, driven to action due to the overwhelming need within the industry and in our community. Seeing that there were athletes that were unable to enjoy the freedom of the ski slopes, and inspired by other DSUSA chapters, Kathy developed Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra to meet that need in our region. Over 10 years later, this little non-profit has grown to be a life-changing, thriving organization that teaches over 3000 lessons every year, with new programs being developed regularly. Her passion is inspiring. But what Kathy is truly good at, is gathering the skills and talents that she needs and inspiring others to take action as well. People are attracted to a worthy cause, but channeling their skills and talents to get the job done can be difficult. One person can’t do it all; you need a team to reach big, hairy and audacious goals. Kathy has taught me how to seek out needed skill sets and find the right person to get the job done.
But the passionate leader that inspired and taught me the most is my mom, Janice Martin. Janice worked for the Bridgeport Regional Business Council for many years until retiring recently. I have had the pleasure of working for and with her on a variety of projects and jobs, but also had the privilege to see her behind the scenes work as well. Like the leaders I mention above, Janice has the ability to inspire others and set and achieve big goals. But she also has the ability to connect with people, places, and things in an amazing way. Watching her develop curriculum for her leadership classes, network with a room of congressmen and women, or lead her staff through a project, showed me that making these connections is what business is all about. By connecting with individuals, she was sharing her passion, learning from their passions, and the end result was much more successful. This has influenced my career choices, my professional ability to make connections, and is why I know how to keep striving to be a better leader.
These three leaders all had different ways of sharing their passion. Each has inspired and influenced me over the years and shaped the type of businesswoman I am today. Their passion was the catalyst, but their true leadership came through in their other qualities. Being a passionate leader can be the starting point for becoming a great leader, but I continue to strive to be more like Ron, Kathy, and Janice. I am very fortunate to have been able to learn from such passionate leaders. I can only hope to do the same for others that I have the privilege to lead. Thank you for your passion and dedication!