“I Am a Leader” | Life Lessons from KWSM’s Leadership Program

Nov 2020

Over the last three months, I was fortunate enough to take part in KWSM’s Leadership Program — a 12-week program led by KWSM CEO and President Katie Wagner, and designed to examine what constitutes great leadership, analyze members’ natural leadership styles, and take actionable steps towards improving our leadership skills.


This program drastically changed my perspective about what leadership means and looks like, but more importantly, it changed my perspective about myself.


Since we are storytellers at KWSM, it only seems fitting to share my personal story here.


A little bit about me… 

Growing up, I was shy. Painfully, painfully shy. I remember when my family would go out to eat, I would dread the moment where I had to order my own food… Even talking to the waiter was terrifying to me. My parents, of course, noticed my behaviors and would kindly point out “you’re so timid… you’re so nervous.” 


When I played sports, no matter what level of talent I possessed, my fear of messing up or looking foolish or bringing down the team would actually keep me from playing my best. I can’t tell you how many coaches would pull me off the court and tell me “you’re just not aggressive enough.”


While there’s nothing wrong with being a little shy and no shame in not being an allstar athlete, I knew that this ran deeper. And even as a kid I knew there was far more to me — a stronger, braver me– that wasn’t showing up.


Why was this?


What you speak about yourself matters. 

During the first week of the program, Katie asked each of us to reflect on our current leadership skills, and then write a Vision Statement that reflected the leaders we would like to be at the end of the 12 weeks. 


Per her instructions, rather than writing down our visions with “I will” language, we wrote from the perspective of our future selves, using “I am” language. For example, instead of writing “I will be confident” the phrase would be “I AM confident.” 


Once our statements were complete, Katie instructed us to read it aloud to ourselves at least once every day. Science shows that this practice of verbally declaring a future where you have met your goals actually leads us to believe in ourselves and our abilities, and our behavior changes to reflect those new beliefs.


And then it hit me…


I can’t imagine how many times I perpetuated and affirmed my fear and timidity growing up by saying things like “I’m just shy” or “I’m not aggressive enough.” How many years did I spend verbally agreeing with this behavior? How much sooner would I have found my braver self if I had just said, “You know what? I AM brave.”


How does this impact leadership?

As I grew up and met more people and had more life experiences, a lot of this shyness wore off, or at least I was much better at pushing through it.


When I started working at KWSM, I confess that while I was thrilled to be writing and creating content, the idea of interacting with clients was still pretty scary to me. That little girl at the dinner table wondered what would happen if I didn’t have the perfect answer to their questions, or what I would do if they didn’t like me… 


If I had agreed with this fear by saying things like “I’m just not good at interacting with clients” or “I’m just too shy to lead meetings well,” I can tell you right now that I’d be in a very different position than where I am now. I would have missed opportunities to make fantastic relationships with people from all different industries and backgrounds, I would have shied away from sharing creative ideas that ended up leading to successful campaigns, and honestly, I probably would have lost some of my clients’ trust in my ability to lead their accounts.


“I Am a Leader”

One of the most impactful lessons I learned during this program was that I actually have the power to “speak myself” into being confident, brave, self-assured, creative, you name it. 



To make sure I kept up with Katie’s instructions to read my vision statement aloud at least once a day, I printed it off and kept it right next to my computer. Every time I had fleeting moments of doubt or nervousness, I would look over and say:


“I am confident in my ability to lead other members of the KWSM team and my clients towards success. I am able to clearly communicate my thoughts without overthinking or doubting myself. I am not nervous during client calls because I trust my ability to guide them in the right direction. I demonstrate attributes of a strong leader in the way I speak, make decisions, present ideas, and implement my strategies to bring results. My clients trust me to steer the ship of their marketing efforts, and they are impressed by and appreciative of my work.” 


12 weeks later, I can speak all of those things and believe them with absolute confidence. (I can also order my own food and dominate the court without batting an eye.) 


I am forever grateful for KWSM’s Leadership Program – it taught me how to believe in myself and how to push through any fear that once felt insurmountable. 



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