Leadership: It's All About the People

Maybe it's the altitude or watching the sun set over the clouds as I fly over the North Pole on my way back to Beijing, but I'm feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude for so many things. I just spent the past couple of days at ASCD's Empower conference in Chicago. And while the conference is always one I look forward to all year, I can't help but want to shift my attention away from the conference itself to the people that I encountered while I was there. This is not a new feeling for me after a conference. I often quickly forget about the contents of the sessions while I revel in the connections and friendships I made along the way.

Being an introvert, I spend most of my time on my own, churning thoughts in my mind, working solo, second guessing myself. These conferences force me to challenge myself and what I find comfortable. So I presented a session, I started conversations, I set up meetings, but I also learned to stop and listen to what I needed while I was there. And as I reflect on the past three days, the gratitude is overwhelming, and I thought the best way to share that would be to name names and spread the love.

Here's what defined my time at #Empower19:

Tara's ability to function on very little sleep and her positive attitude and motivation throughout the weekend

Shana's critical feedback, support, and continued mentorship

Krista's thoughtful questions

Meghan's time and resources

David & Susan’s commitment to their district

Guy's presence

Kyle's positive attitude

Basil's kindness

Byron's thoughtfulness

Jill's interest

Claudia's enthusiasm

Jessica's listening ear

Connie's friendship

Tui's story and connection

Ilana's connection and immediate friendship (I'm pretty sure we knew each other in a past life)

My Belouga family for being flexible and knowing that by supporting me to grow they grow as well.


This is what it’s all about. When you open yourself up to connecting with people, you not only support others, but you feed yourself. There are so many instances where we tell ourselves that we don't have the time or the money, or we aren't good enough; we wish we could do more, be better. We beat ourselves down; we say "someday." Why not now? Why not apply to speak at a conference (believe me, we need more authentic voices and experiences in these places!)? Why not smile at a stranger?


This conference was all about leadership, and the more I learn about leadership, real leadership, the more I learn that it is about every moment, every relationship, every interaction and how we can be our best selves each and every day for each and every person we encounter. The only way we can be our best selves is to take care of our minds and bodies. Take a bubble bath, drink some champagne, do something nice for yourself. Breathe; then breathe again. Take a moment to be in the moment. These words are my reminder too because we all need it. Sometimes we just need an invitation to be precisely who we are meant to be.

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By Erin Dowd

Erin is the curator of the JRNEY blog.

A Story Worth Sharing

I was elbow deep in mango when the phone rang. While I knew that my to-do list was piling up and I didn’t really have time for one of our “dig into life” conversations, something told me that I needed to answer the phone. That phone conversation with a close friend was exactly what I didn’t realize I needed at that moment, and it prompted me to think about some things in a new way.


I began by lamenting about all the work I had to do and how I still needed to prepare for a conference I was going to that weekend. But instead of focusing on my work like I knew I needed to, I was making mango salsa. I didn’t want the fruit to spoil while I was gone, so logically I prioritized salsa-making.


This has been the case for me all month especially when it comes to working on this blog. JRNEY is incredibly important to me, so I couldn’t figure out why I was avoiding it until I said it out loud. At the end of May, I wrote a post about a recent experience I had speaking to some young women in Nigeria. It was personal, and it was authentically me on the page. And I haven’t posted anything since.


I’ve drafted a couple posts, but nothing felt right or worth reading. And most importantly, how could I write about something like the power of yes when all I wanted to do was say no and curl up in my bed for a week? That’s when I realized I wasn’t listening to myself. I wasn’t being authentic, and I certainly wasn’t practicing what I expected my contributors to share. While, yes, this is an education blog, it is also a people blog. Since this blog began a few months ago, so many educators have trusted me with their stories. They have put themselves out there and shared some very personal stuff. And here I was working on a post about the importance of networking. All I could think of was, so what?!!


I decided not to post anything, and I decided to take a break. I’m really glad I did though because it helped me get back to why I believe stories are so important and why I started this blog in the first place. The connection and shared humanity that stories provide are what JRNEY is all about. Just like this website and blog are a work in progress, so am I. So I've decided not to beat myself up anymore about sticking to a schedule; I’ll just do the best I can and focus on staying true to myself and the stories worth sharing.


A big, heartfelt thank you to Shannon Gerrity for listening and being my compass when there are days when I can’t find my map.

Author of Your Own Story

Author of Your Own Story

This week I had the pleasure of being invited to speak to two groups of young women from Kenade and Fausac Secondary Schools in Lagos, Nigeria through an event called Inspire a Child. It allowed me to confront and honor some important life choices and continue to see the power of women choosing their own path and working together.