It’s Time for a New Definition of Leadership

Ben Colas is a public school teacher who wants to help Cleveland parents get their kids ready for kindergarten. Jessica Leary-Allen is a mother and a non-profit consultant who thinks that women deserve to be supported in their efforts to balance family life and professional ambition. Lee Chilcote is a talented journalist and a work-at-home dad who recognized a need in northeast Ohio’s writing community. Ali Lukacsy is an artist and an architect who loves her neighborhood and sees creative opportunities everywhere she goes. I am a social worker turned freelance writer who loves talking about social good in northeast Ohio.

What do the five of us have in common?

We are all people who started with an idea that is now making a difference in our community. And we are all scheduled to speak at the Cleveland Leadership Center’s upcoming We are Cleveland: Leading for Change conference on September 1, 2016.

I’ll be honest, the first time someone invited me to attend a leadership conference earlier this year, I immediately thought to myself “Who me? I’m not really a leader.” But if I’ve learned one thing over the last year in working with some of Cleveland’s most inspiring people and organizations it is this:

True leadership has very little to do with your job title, your salary, or even the amount of time you’ve spent working in a particular field.  In fact, sometimes these things can actually get in the way of collaboration and risk-taking, which is where all the best innovation takes place.


Civic leadership is about showing up, stepping outside of your comfort zone and asking others to help when you see room for improvement at work, in our schools and our neighborhoods. Each of us has a unique talent or perspective that has the potential to make the world a better place – and when we nurture that part of ourselves, it inspires others to do the same. That is leadership.

leadership quote

One of my favorite things about the Cleveland Leadership Center is that so many people who participate in their programs and events walk away saying “It changed how I see myself.” Count me as one of them.  Leaders are all around us and the potential is inside each one of us, maybe we just need to learn how to recognize the characteristics of a leader more easily.

So, if you don’t immediately think of yourself as someone who belongs at a civic leadership conference, I challenge you to reconsider. Do you work with other people or supervise employees? Do you own a business? Do you wish you owned a business? Do you volunteer in the community? If you care about making Cleveland a better place to work and live, then there are sessions at this conference that will apply to you, and I hope to see you there!

Registration details for the We Are Cleveland: Leading for Change conference are available here, and scholarships are available to ensure that money doesn’t stop anyone from attending. 



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