Marlena E. Palmer
Coordinator at CWLI; freelancer; writer; artist
Flagler College, St. Augustine, FL
What is your favorite aspect of being a leader?
Building people up to become leaders themselves. Helping people recognize and embrace their unique talents gives me energy all day long. I love seeing people reach their goals and make their visions a reality.
What advice do you have for women aspiring to be leaders in their field?
Get out there and be fearless! Mindset is everything. Learn from everyone: what to do, what not to do. Be a student. Be open to experiences. Learn to speak up. Establish relationships and be intentional in your work. Be humble. Be generous with your time and your efforts. Be the positive force in the office. Surround yourself with people who build you up. Invest in yourself and invest in others. And finally, don’t give up. Change doesn’t happen overnight; be patient and keep the course. Your efforts will not be wasted.
What does leadership mean to you?
I think about this a lot. What is a leader? For me a leader is someone who builds you up, invests in you, and wants to see you thrive. They are selfless, even when they don’t want to be. They are not afraid of hard work or sacrifice. They take ownership even when it’s not theirs to take. They are humble, yet confident; gentle, yet steadfast. There is so much to this and I feel like I’m still (and probably will forever be) evolving what leadership means to me — it will continue to change as I grow.
Approximately how many years have you been involved with CWLI?
I have been working with CWLI for over a year now. Prior to that I was a “member” for about 6 months, but honestly wasn’t super involved. I attended maybe two networking events and a leadership luncheon.
On which committees have you participated?
All of them. Just kidding, but seriously. I’m active in most of them in some way. I really like all of our committees and I’m glad I don’t have to choose just one.
What is your most memorable/outstanding experience with CWLI?
Seeing the hard work and efforts of myself, Mical, and the committees come to life at our events. Stepping back and watching the energy and connections being made in the room is exhilarating. I always feel like I’m getting to welcome someone into my home when members and non members come to our events and programs. It brings me joy and all the hard work is worth it every time.
With what other community organizations/activities are you involved?
Core Group Leader with The House Campus Ministries; Court Advocate for CASA of Hamilton County
Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe some one who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
There are many that have encouraged me and pursued me in spite of myself. From coaches, to teachers, to bosses. But one person in particular who has always been my cheerleader, even when I didn’t deserve one, has been my mother. She never told me there wasn’t something that I couldn’t do. She’s always encouraged me to be whatever I wanted to be, both of my parents did well in that, but I was always harder on my mother than my father. But despite the push back that I would always give her, she never gave up on me. She’s stronger than I’ve ever given her credit for.
What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?
I don’t know that there is one such example, but I will say that when I am considering what we (CWLI) are doing, when we are discussing new ideas and programs, or I’m simply doing my day to day work, I’m always considering our mission and what choice is going to be the best for our membership.
What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
Humility. I think arrogance can cripple you as a leader. There is and always will be something to learn — regardless of age, expertise, color, sex, whatever. Being humble and knowing that you always have the opportunity to grow inspires, empowers, and nurtures the spirit within yourself and others.
What is the biggest challenge facing female leaders today?
Being our own worst enemies and our insecurities hindering one another. We teach people how to treat us; we set the example. So when we (as women) don’t treat each other well, why would a man? I think this is getting better and being in CWLI, I see so many women supporting each other. It’s incredible, but we need to keep fueling the fire. Build ourselves up, build each other up, and then set that example for the world. Keep pushing through the walls — climb them, go around them, go under them — whatever it takes, just keep pushing.
Click here to read our fill-length interview with Marlena.