Bring Your Leadership to Life!

Today is the sixth day of the new blog series entitled Bring Your Leadership to Life! Join us throughout the month of March and beyond as we feature guest bloggers who share their perspective on how they bring their leadership to life! This blog series highlights the theme of the 2nd Annual Evening for Austin Leading Ladies, an event that SOS Leadership is honored to be hosting in partnership with The Concordia MBA on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at Concordia University Texas. Learn more about this powerful event and register at www.austinleadingladies.com.

Yasmin Diallo Turk is a doctoral student of environmental geography at Texas State University studying the climate change adaptation strategies of rural women in Senegal.  She holds a Master’s degree in global policy from the University of Texas, and a B.A. in Sociology from Huston-Tillotson University.  Ms. Turk is in her 13th year providing direct service to survivors of domestic and sexual violence at SafePlace and has served on the boards of Central Texas Muslimaat and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Additionally, she serves as the project director for HOPE for Senegal, which supports education and sustainability in Senegal. 

Most importantly, she is mama to 3 children ages 11, 6, and 3 months.

I am grateful I was raised in a big family that did not believe in spending money on luxuries, in a community that was filled with immigrants and during a time that allowed me to take risks that would make most parents today (including me!) cringe.  Though at the time these things may have brought hardship that sometimes seemed to outweigh the benefits, I believe these factors greatly contributed to the confidence and adaptability that define my leadership.  Making-do, making-it-work and finding a solution are skills I learned at a young age, because I knew a hero was not coming to the rescue with all the solutions. I learned at a young age that I am the hero that I am looking for. Those early experiences led me to directly address problems. Knowing that positive change doesn’t just happen, I have learned that I need to deliberately be part of the solution.

An example close to my heart has been my role as project director for HOPE for Senegal.  As a graduate student, I traveled to Senegal with my children (then ages 3 and 9) for a summer internship, and while I was there, I was confronted at every turn with the overwhelming symptoms of poverty.  There were children with no shoes begging on the street, people of all ages with disabilities sitting on the roadside, and women working in unsafe conditions just to earn enough money to barely make ends meet. Senegal is a country with a 29% literacy rate for girls and, though it is one of the most stable democracies in sub-Saharan Africa, the educational infrastructure is not able to support the demand of the predominantly young population.  Even though I recognize the scale of the problems, I found one small place where I could make a consistent contribution to the solution. – I was able to bring together those who want to support hard-working students who have more talent than opportunity with projects that enhance education and sustainability. More girls are supported in going to school, technology is breaking down socio-economic and geographic barriers, and students are designing projects that allow them to identify solutions to improve their community.  Our projects are simple, but they directly impact many lives today by building on strengths.

As the mother of three, I recognize that leadership is not a 9 to 5 job.  I am acutely aware that my children are always watching and learning from me — good or bad.  I don’t lead my professional life in addition to raising my kids, I do it because of them. When I think about bringing leadership to life, I am reminded of Mahatma Gandhi’s quote about happiness: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.”

For me, leadership fits that same definition. It is not confined to times of convenience, it is a way of life and constancy of purpose that means walking a path that is not always smooth but necessary to progress.

Stay tuned in the days to come as the Bring Your Leadership to Life Series continues….

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