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home : commentary : leadervoice May 26, 2016

Always on the front line
LeaderVoice: Compassion motivates her leadership style
"The quality of compassion was my motivator to find my voice 
and to speak with 
confidence." -Elizabeth Kautz

by Elizabeth Kautz

I spent two years diving deep within myself, to be grounded in who I am as a human being and to confirm the path of my leadership journey, before I entered the political arena. Each month for those two years I traveled from Minnesota to the Catskill Mountains of New York to a retreat camp to learn more about myself as a leader and as a politician.

As a woman in political leadership I am grounded first and foremost in my spirituality, values and principles. For me one of the important components of preparing to lead is the commitment to personal soul searching, diving deep into the psyche and facing all that makes one human. The process gives insight into one's emotional intelligence and abilities, and continues the process of personal self-improvement. It is also the commitment to daily examine one's conscience and to strive to always do better.

Growing up in a patriarchal society, it was necessary to develop the self-confidence and courage to speak my voice. The quality of compassion was my motivator to find my voice and to speak with confidence. The quality of collaborative leadership is a dimension that embraces different voices and perspectives, listening to diverse points of view and partnering to find solutions to issues.

Leading in the political arena is different from leading in the private sector, church or nonprofit (I have worked in all of these arenas). As a public official I am always on the front line and engaged with my citizens, who are the constituents (or customers) I serve. Private sector leaders are insulated from their constituents or stakeholders. I meet my constituents everywhere I go in the community, whether that is the dry cleaners, grocery store, coffee shop or church.

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I am happy to talk with my constituents and to hear what they are saying. At times we agree to disagree on issues. Mostly, my work is to help solve problems by working with community members and our staff and members of the city council to find the solutions that makes the best sense.

I strive to be respectful with my words and to not take anything personally (this is hard, but if one has emotional intelligence, one will be served well). I work at not assuming anything and examining my conscience daily, and with the grace of God's help I will always strive to do my best.
Elizabeth Kautz is mayor of the city of Burnsville, Minn., president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and co-chair, MSP Regional Council of Mayors.

LeaderVoice: Tell us about a principle or practice of your leadership experience that might strike a chord with other women. 
Email your 450 personal essay to editor@womenspress.com.

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