Leaving the World Better Than You Found it with Leadership Discovery Speaker, Sherrie Snipes-Williams

Written by Jennifer DiCenzo, Account Executive with A&I Fire & Water Restoration and Leadership Discovery 2021 Participant

Who would of thought that having a passion for math and statistics could be the equation for creating and providing an advocacy program for the Lowcountry. Sherrie Snipes-Williams did. Born in Ridgeville, South Carolina, Sherrie was one of three siblings and she saw first hand that there were assistance needs for both children and adults to help them succeed in life. Being a family that led a life of faith, helping others was engrained in her from a young age.

Leave the world a better place than how you found it. I think that most of us want to be better and do better, but just don’t know how. Sherrie provided us with her insight, or a tool box of how to go about doing this as well as what to do when faced with obstacles.

In today’s society it is a blessing and a curse that there are numerous ways that we can give back. We can look around and see all of these ways where by donating our time we can make someone else’s life better, but you need to know your limits. Sherrie’s phrase that stuck with me is “I’m not your girl”. Your hours of your life and your bank account can quickly dwindle while trying to help others. Just like any job, parameters need to be set. It’s like the famous Kenny Rogers song, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em…..Know when to fold ’em….Know when to walk away….And know when to run.” If the situation doesn’t work for you then you need to feel confident to be able to walk away.

Many of us who see ourselves as leaders and life changers rise each day wanting to make a difference, but some of us don’t know or are unsure how to take that first step. Sherrie explains it like this; gather the tools you need to be successful – those tools are often found in your own strengths. Don’t try and tackle things that are out of your comfort zone as those types of encounters can lead to failure. Generally most philanthropic people are passionate about what they do and it comes across in their efforts. As we learned the paths that Sherrie took in her life, there were areas that surrounded her thoughts, her beliefs and her capacity.

As Sherrie’s path started it lead to adjoining paths to include City Year Domestic Peace Corps to then spin off to work with several organizations. Sherrie used her passion to serve in various ways, using principals that she learned through teaching to guide and construct a path for positive change. She looked to role models such as her family and colleagues she met along the way who indirectly and directly molded her into the person she is today. The accolades and impressions Sherrie has made in her career goes on for pages. It leaves you in awe of all that she has done and accomplished from her number of organizations she has belonged to, the Boards she is a member of, and the time she gives to her own community. How can one person do so much?

But we ask ourselves, how to do I do that, and where do I start? You start with you. Sherrie states you must do the work. Give yourself the professional development you need to achieve your goals. You must train to make yourself a better person. These are both continuous jobs. You are not meant to be the leader in each role you take, you must first be the student to gain the groundwork needed. Once you obtain those skill sets Sherrie identifies that there are 7 essential leadership behaviors to follow: Integrity, Truthfulness, Consistency, Transparency, Humility, Compassion, and Excellence. Each of these essential skills builds upon the other.

Integrity, give credit where credit is due. Not everyone knows everything, and we all know that. Truthfulness, tell the whole truth. Don’t dance around those difficult topics. Masking the truth only leads to later disasters. Consistency, behave the same way every time. If you are all over the place, one would tend to question if you are genuine. Transparency, when you are consistent, it is easier to be transparent. Consider all of the facts you are given and provide reasoning for what your decisions are. Humility, take the time to celebrate others, it’s not always about you. At the same time, take responsibility for the errors you make. It’s never fun to fall on your sword, but a moment of pain can make a huge difference in the long run. Compassion, know who needs what. Some people need more than others and by knowing those boundaries you are better at achieving your own goals but also the goals of the group. Excellence, in order to cross the goal line your need to be able to talk the talk and not just walk the walk. If errors occur along your path to your final goal, you must correct them to complete your goals. By avoiding them you lose the faith in your team.

Once Sherrie provided that groundwork, then the question at hand is “How do I serve”. Sherrie refers to her earlier conversation about listening to your heart and being honest with yourself. Do what you feel passionate about, make sure you have the time to commit, and above all don’t over commit yourself. Once you find your niche it will be easy to get others involved, you become the cheerleader of whatever that path may be and encourage others who have similar interests.

As Sherrie closed our conversation, she told us that there are several ways to lead change and they all start with yourself. Ask questions about things you feel passionate about and don’t dismiss the answers you receive. Be intentional in everything that you do and be authentic in the path that you choose. Be responsive in what you decide to do, you have to show up and you have to do the work. Figure out what is most important to you and create a plan or road map to achieve that goal, but always be prepared for feedback and setbacks. We don’t have all the answers, we are all a work in progress. Take the time to learn from each other. When you come from a place of caring and authenticity, you will not only grow as an individual but the ripple effect of what you do will create an effect on others.

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