Cyndi Carrasco found herself in a leadership role early in her career, as Executive Director for the Indiana State Ethics Commission.
“Law school thoroughly prepared me to do my job as an attorney, but upon entering the workforce, I very quickly realized that I needed additional coaching to help prepare me to be a leader. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to be in a leadership role very early on in my career. In this position, I found myself interacting with numerous state government officials on a variety of very important matters. It became evident to me that in order to be successful in that leadership role, I would not only need to be an effective attorney, but it was critical that I be an effective leader,” explained Carrasco. “I immediately began searching for a program that would help me develop my leadership skills, identify my leadership style and simply put, help me be the best leader I could be.”
Carrasco found the Indiana University Tobias Leadership Center’s Tobias Fellows program, which equips high-talent professionals from across the country with leadership competencies and skills through 10 sessions over a year-long period. The Fellows, who hail from a wide variety of industries, study the practice and theory of leadership through unique and experiential opportunities.
“The Tobias Fellows program gave me a deeper understanding of what I brought to the table as a leader,” said Carrasco. “I learned a lot about myself – not just who I am as a leader, but how I respond to leadership. I also learned about my leadership style. One of the lessons I still carry with me is that a successful leader recognizes that their leadership style needs to adjust to the needs of the group they are leading.”
Now as Deputy General Counsel for the Office of the Governor in Indiana, Carrasco says she thinks about a particularly poignant moment during her time as a Tobias Fellow nearly every day.
“In my current role, I routinely draw from an experience we had at Bradford Woods that paralleled the leadership challenges we face in the work place every day,” Carrasco said. “The whole group was blindfolded and placed in a single file line. We were told to place our hands on each other’s shoulders, and make our way along a descending path in the middle of the woods flanked by a steep drop simply by following the leader who, by the way, was also blindfolded. Of course, the lawyer in me immediately started thinking about the liability issues associated with the injuries we almost certainly were going to sustain when we tumbled down the path.”
“But much to my amazement, we made it to the bottom of the path in record time and no one got hurt! Candidly, I’m still pretty proud of that accomplishment. We were successful for many reasons, but primarily because we were able to recognize that different people along the line needed different types of information. For example, the person closest to the leader didn’t need as much reassurance as, perhaps, the last person in line because they were closest to the leader and had more information. That exercise really transformed the way that I think about leadership. I learned that in order to be a successful leader, I must understand who I am leading, identify their needs, and adjust my leadership style to meet those needs. It crystalized for me that great things that can be accomplished with the right leadership skills.”
Carrasco said she not only appreciated learning about leadership styles from experts in the field through a variety of lenses – whether that be through military, religious, sports, government, or business environments – but she also appreciated learning from her peers in the program.
“The class was made up of people with many varied backgrounds, and it was particularly instructive for me to hear from other leaders who work in different environments than myself about their challenges, leadership styles, and what characteristics they deemed to be important for a leader in their industry to possess. I was also inspired by my colleague’s leadership success stories.”
“The time you invest in this program is invaluable. Being part of the Tobias Fellows will help you be a better leader in your job, community, and/or family.”
“Leadership isn’t just about having a specific title. Being a leader and exercising leadership capacity can happen at any level within an organization and within any circumstance in life. I’ve also come to understand that part of leading is being a good follower, whenever the time is appropriate.”
“Understanding leadership and honing your leadership skills is a lifelong journey. The Tobias Center is a premiere institution to get that training and professional development to better prepare you on that journey.”
The Tobias Fellows Program is currently recruiting. For more information, head to the website here.