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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Building My Leadership Tribe in the American Express Leadership Academy

Prior to the ASU Lodestar Center’s American Express Leadership Academy, I was somewhat of an education junkie. With the ability to take classes online from some of the most prominent institutions in the world, I was enrolled in tons of classes and getting a lot of great education. But I greatly missed the human element and learned quickly that you can’t replace face-to-face interaction.

Learning from others is ingrained in our DNA and is nothing short of crucial. Research from Harvard Business Review shows that learning happens best when learners collaborate and help one another. And yet, according to an April 2019 HBR study titled, Educating the Next Generation of Leaders, “the most difficult skills to teach, measure, or even articulate are leading, communicating, relating, and energizing groups,” all of which require collaborative learning environments, individual coaching and personalized learning plans.

When I started the program with American Express Leadership Academy, I was not sure what to expect, but our first day single-handedly set the tone for the incredible 10 months ahead. We started by diving into our individual Emergenetics profiles with expert and incredible leadership coach Dr. Kevin Patterson. This tool allowed me to better identify my natural strengths while training me on how to build the most effective teams based on their individual strengths.

I realized that too often leaders are approaching employees with the stern “Why don’t you know how to do this?” versus focusing on what they do well and what intrinsically motivates them.  Emergenetics taught me how to strategically formulate teams where individuals are placed in roles that allow them to thrive.

During my initial, individual coaching session with Kevin, we went over my 360 evaluation, which was an opportunity for me to see how my colleagues and supervisor rated my skills in comparison to how I rated myself. It was thought-provoking and powerful to say the least. I left that meeting feeling more confident and with more of an understanding of how I am perceived as a leader. It provided me with a measurable tool to use in my development and as evidence of my individual impact on my organization. 

Later I met with each of the program’s renowned coaches. Brian Woods taught me how to identify my core values and incorporate them into my everyday life. Andrea Beaulieu taught me how to find the courage to ask the right questions while utilizing my authentic voice. Paula Shoup taught me how to focus on the big picture while trusting my instincts. Col. John Boggs taught me this incredible equation for decision-making that requires one to consider three possible alternatives, while examining the “musts, wants and risks” of each decision. Wally Graham (who read me like a book) asked me questions that made me reexamine my perceived life goals. 

As the classes progressed, I started to get more and more excited about the next class marked on my calendar. As a transplant from Connecticut, I knew very little about where a lot of the Valley’s nonprofits were located. One of the most beautiful aspects of the American Express Leadership Program is that each class physically takes place at different organizations from the nonprofit, public and private sectors. We were literally embedded within the community, and for the first time, I felt intrinsically connected to Arizona in a way I didn’t think was possible.

Most importantly, the Academy immersed me within a community of like-minded individuals. These are the people you look forward to seeing each and every class – people who support you, cheer for you and value you as a core part of their community.

  • We worked together on solving issues within our own organizations while brainstorming new and innovative solutions to greater nonprofit challenges. 
  • We enriched our knowledge of the Arizona nonprofit landscape by physically visiting various organizations and learning first-hand how they are impacting Arizona communities.  
  • We learned about critical issues nonprofits are facing (or need to face) while being exposed to a rich network of professionals to connect and learn from. 
  • We supported each other by attending various nonprofit events that our classmates were championing.  

Before I knew it, I had a new tribe of friends who happen to be community leaders invested in their professional growth with the end goal of improving their own communities. 

The American Express Leadership Academy at the ASU Lodestar Center was nothing short of an epic experience both professionally and personally. During the 10 months, and directly because of the skills I learned at the Academy and the people who encouraged me, I was promoted to Chief Operating Officer at my organization.

Most importantly, I found myself surrounded by individuals who continue to inspire me. I learned about what moves me as a person and how I can use my skills to impact the greater Arizona nonprofit sector. I am graduating the Academy as a stronger leader, community activist and proud alumna of the one and only epic Class 11!

Sadhna Bokhiria is the Chief Operating Officer of Kapoor Foundations and will graduate from the American Express Leadership Academy at the ASU Lodestar Center in May 2019 as part of Class 11.


ASU Lodestar Center Blog