Being a leader requires a unique combination of self-awareness, intellect, skills, experience, vision and commitment. The most effective leaders are willing to open themselves to constant learning and to look deep within for the source of their success. Dorrier Underwood's "Empowering Leadership” podcast provides insights, real-life stories, and interviews with leaders to support your leadership as well as those above, below, and beside you. Subscribe now and get a regular dose of leadership exploration with Doug McVadon, President Dorrier Underwood.
Elizabeth Chew - Former Senior Director of Museum Programs and Chief Curator for Montpelier
Within the last few generations, American historians have peeled back the layers on the traditional teachings of the founding of the US to more prominently include the role of slavery, particularly by the founding fathers. A focus on telling the “whole truth” seeks not to dismiss the accomplishments of founders like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, but instead paint a more complete picture. That includes the role of indentured servitude that allowed these leaders the ability to devote their lives towards studying great thinkers and writing the documents that would become the founding of America.
Elizabeth Chew has held leadership and curatorial positions at two of the most famous landmarks of this era, Monticello and Montpelier. Elizabeth joins the Empowering Leadership podcast and host Doug McVadon for a discussion on reframing how we view the founding fathers to include the factors that made their important contributions to the founding of the US possible. Elizabeth, who curated the exhibition “The Mere Distinction of Color,” talks about the contributions of the “invisible founders” who facilitated tobacco production and the home lifestyle work that has historically gone uncredited.
Connect with Elizabeth on LinkedIn. Visit James Madison’s Montpelier online at montpelier.org.
James Perkins - Mayor of Selma, Alabama
Few places in the United States embody the push for civil rights equity in both the past and present like Selma, Alabama. The site of one of the final battles of the Civil War, the Montgomery Marches and the infamous Bloody Sunday, this small town of just 20,000 people (80% of whom are African American) has been a symbol of race relations for many generations.
Only few people know this city’s soul and history as well as three-time Mayor James Perkins. Born and raised in Selma, Mayor Perkins was one of the first African American students to integrate his high school in 1971. He later went on to earn degrees from Alabama A&M and Auburn University, before founding his own IT company. During a road trip in Dallas, Texas, Perkins found his calling by chance, and decided to run for Mayor of his hometown. Serving two terms from 2000-’08, Perkins was the first African American Mayor of Selma, and was re-elected to the same post in 2020, a position he holds today.
Mayor James Perkins joins host Doug McVadon for a conversation about the history of Selma, what life was like for James growing up in the Jim Crow era, the challenges he faced integrating Selma High School, and his journey to becoming Mayor. James talks about how integration affected his decision to attend an HBCU, his professional development as a business owner, his path to leadership in public office, and the moment he knew that the world’s perspective of Selma was bigger than he could ever imagine.
Kristi Nelson, Author of "Wake Up Grateful: The Transformative Practice of Taking Nothing for Granted"
A simple yet profound change can make a massive difference in our lives. For Kristi Nelson, it was the decision to wake up everyday with a sense of gratefulness, and appreciating the things she had instead of wanting for things she didn’t have, or longing for a life she didn’t lead.
Almost thirty years ago, Kristi was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, after a year of dealing with fever, pain, and a loss of motor function. During this time, Kristi sported an appreciation for the unknown, because she didn’t know how much time she had left.
Since her experience with cancer and subsequent remission, Kristi has become an author and mentor to those wanting to instill a sense of gratefulness in their own lives. Her book, “Wake Up Grateful: The Transformative Practice of Taking Nothing for Granted” has helped people practice gratefulness through her five guiding principles, and the practice of “Stop, Look, Go.”
Kristi Nelson joins host Doug McVadon on this episode of Empowering Leadership to talk about a different kind of leadership, the leadership of one’s own life. Kristi talks about the power of reframing tasks from “I have to,” to “I get to.” Kristy discusses the difference between gratefulness and gratitude, as well as leaving a legacy to be proud of.
Connect with Kristi Nelson online at grateful.org. You can find a copy of her book, "Wake Up Grateful: The Transformative Practice of Taking Nothing for Granted," here.
Heather Fortner, CEO and Chair of the Board of Signature FD
Heather Fortner is the CEO and Chair of the Board of Signature FD, a private wealth management and consulting firm located in Atlanta, GA. Naturally as someone in her role, Heather is called upon each and every day to embody the skills, wisdom and guidance required of a leader.
Heather Fortner joins host Doug McVadon on today’s episode of Empowering Leadership to discuss this podcast’s namesake: the ability to empower through leadership. Heather talks about working her way up from customer service representative to CEO, and how a teaching moment with her father let her know that she would be able to make it. Heather discusses how each of her team members is empowered to learn new skills and personal investments, thereby bringing those investments to the business table. She also talks about defining success not by the clothes or the cars, but by how she empowers others.
Connect with Heather Fortner on LinkedIn here. Connect with Signature FD online at signaturefd.com.
Jaylen Smith, Mayor of Earle, Arkansas
One of the most common mistakes in leadership is the idea that it takes decades of experience to become a leader, but as 18 year-old Jaylen Smith reminds us, leadership knows no age limit. Last fall, Smith was elected Mayor of Earle, Arkansas, a town of less than two thousand people about thirty minutes west of Memphis.
Mayor Jaylen Smith joins host Doug McVadon for a discussion about what inspired Jaylen to rise to the occasion and take a leadership role when those twice his age either couldn’t or wouldn’t. Jaylen discusses how losing a cousin to gun violence made his pledge towards funding a 24-hour police department a top priority for his tenure. Mayor Smith also talks about his vision for the next forty years of his city, as well as his own goals for political office.
Kathy Minardi, Executive Director of Whole School Leadership
Perhaps no other professional ecosystem lends to the principles and values of leadership more than education. Inherently, the teachers, academics and professionals need to demonstrate leadership qualities to be able to lead the thinkers and doers of the next generation.
Today’s guest on the Empowering Leadership podcast has spent her whole career learning, practicing and teaching educational leadership practices. Kathy Minardi is the founder and executive director of the Whole School Leadership Institute, an educational leadership and training organization.
Kathy Minardi joins host Doug McVadon for a discussion about developing her leadership philosophy through a career in hands-on education. Kathy discusses some of the philosophies that guide her practice, and how they address some of the challenges of the modern day education institution.