In November, our Women in Leadership course had the privilege of meeting Dr. Yemi Akande-Bartsch, the President and CEO of FOCUS St. Louis, a premier leadership organization that prepares diverse leaders to work cooperatively in the St. Louis region. Dr. Akande-Bartsch spoke candidly about her background and what she has learned about leadership, starting her presentation with the adage: “The journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.”
Her point being: Regardless of where you start, leadership is taking note of what’s happening in the world and showing up. Committing to at least one goal—to learn as much as you can—can change your perspective, and ultimately, your career path.
These beliefs are both a reflection of her upbringing and her passion for trying new things. Dr. Akande-Bartsch had an international education, attending school in Ghana and then completing her undergraduate, master’s, and doctorate in the United States. She then encouraged other undergraduate students to see the world for themselves by recruiting them to study abroad.
Not only did Dr. Akande-Bartsch share her love for travel with these students, she also shared in the adventure of learning. By being open to new possibilities and assuming positive intention, one can really develop their leadership skills through self-reflection and self-confidence.
I noticed this in Dr. Akande-Bartsch’s mastery of the art of storytelling. As she walked us through her various titles and job responsibilities, it was clear that she had a deep understanding of herself and her core values. She recognized she was a driver and an agent of change, which ultimately led her to assume her current leadership position at FOCUS St. Louis.
Problem-solving is a key component of being a leader, both in our workplaces and greater communities. It was refreshing that Dr. Akande-Bartsch pointed out the importance of recognizing your own limitations. Being willing to delegate and coach others is pivotal when aligning personal and organizational values.
Dr. Akande-Bartsch’s spirit, positivity, and commitment to being a life-long learner are all qualities I’d like to emulate. How exactly does she do it? Well, her rituals include listening to NPR, taking phone calls during her morning commute, and hiking. She described her life as not in balance, but in a constant state of movement. I believe that Dr. Akande-Bartsch is the epitome of what it means to commit to an impact-driven career.
For those of you unfamiliar with the work of FOCUS St. Louis, I highly encourage you to follow the great initiatives the organization is undertaking—with Dr. Akande-Bartsch at the helm.
Dr. Akande-Bartsch, thank you again for attending the Women and Leadership class.
Guest Blogger: Olivia Williams, MBA ’18