When Yolanda Cash Jackson was in a play in first grade, in addition to memorizing her own parts, she knew all the other children’s lines, too. Ms. Jackson’s mother says her daughter was bossy but some people say that’s a sign of being a born leader.
“You might be born as a leader but you need to develop leadership skills along the way,” Ms. Jackson points out. “The instincts to lead may be there but a smart person learns the most effective ways to lead.”
Ms. Jackson, an experienced Government Law attorney, has certainly developed her own leadership skills, making her a very influential person in state government funding and appropriations. This member of the Florida Bar concentrates her practice in the area of Governmental Relations, working at Becker & Poliakoff, a diverse commercial law firm with offices throughout Florida as well as Washington, DC, New York, New Jersey and Northern Virginia.
One of Ms. Jackson’s most successful methods of leading is to always let people know “what’s in it for them.”
“People need a carrot dangling at the end of the string, but it’s not necessarily a monetary reward,” says this graduate of Levin College of Law at the University of Florida. “Others will buy-in to your program, your idea, your plan if you have taken the time to let them know how it will benefit them.”
Ms. Jackson has been honored by numerous community and business organizations. She served as the keynote speaker at the University of Florida annual Association of Black alumni weekend. She received the Broward Black Elected Officials Community Service Award and the ICABA Recognition Honoree Award which recognized her as one of the 100 Most Accomplished Blacks in Law in South Florida.
She was honored by Florida Memorial University as “Community Leader of the Year,” twice named as one of the “Florida Legal Elite” featured in Florida Trend magazine, honored as “Distinguished African American Women with Vision, Dare and Care” by Les Bonnes Amies Club, and has been recognized as a “Woman to Watch” by the Sun Post magazine.
A Leader Dealing with Leaders
In her work with Florida elected officials and policymakers, Ms. Jackson has earned an excellent reputation for her commitment to civic, charitable and professional organizations.
But how does a strong leader effectively lead other leaders? Ms. Jackson shared some tips with Leading:
- Make sure your people skills are top-notch. Other leaders are drawn to charismatic people and are more likely to follow their recommendations.
- Always respect the other person’s position. In the case of elected and public leaders, they truly are giving of themselves to help others and I let them know I realize that.
- Leaders don’t like to be surprised. As an advocate, I tell both sides of an argument. Sure, I give “my side” more emphasis but I let the leader know the other point of view so he or she will be prepared for all reactions if they support my idea.
- When working with other leaders, it’s helpful to get to know their interests and likes and dislikes. Show an interest in getting to know them.
The power of true listening
Ms. Jackson admits listening is a skill she has had to develop.
“It’s not in my nature to be quiet but I have found that listening is when I learn how to lead,” she says. “People are revealing themselves when they talk and an effective leader needs the information that’s being shared.”
People interrupt each other way too often, Ms. Jackson points out, and that results in missing valuable insight. “To hear what the other person thinks and to learn what motivates them, you have to not stop them when they are sharing,” she recommends.
Not listening tends to foster a “dictator” style of leadership, which is one of the poorest ways of accomplishing goals, Ms. Jackson says.
“Rather than telling what you want to be done, listen to what other people want, this allows you to discover how you can get them passionate about your ideas,” she says.
Tips for aspiring leaders
Since Ms. Jackson describes her own style of leadership as empowering her team to become leaders themselves, she’s as ideal person to ask “How can an aspiring leader succeed?”
Make a commitment to your work. In this day of sound bites and quick Facebook communication, sometimes we forget to be in the work “for the long haul.” Commit to your work and follow-through.
Toot your own horn without being arrogant. Let your bosses know about successes you are having but convey that information in a “you would want to know” basis.
Use good judgment. Don’t let your desire to achieve overshadow a strong sense of right and wrong. Always make sure your eagerness comes with a good moral compass.
Show loyalty. Those who are leading you can sense if you are really on their team.
Go the extra mile. Work a weekend. Go to the activity your boss recommended. Show you have the commitment and passion to be a leader.