Featuring LMA Regional Leaders Kevin Iredell (above, left) and Laura Toledo (above, right)
The SmithBucklin Leadership Institute is a once-in-a-lifetime experience given to at least one LMA member every year. This year, two LMA members – Kevin Iredell, 2019 treasurer of the LMA Northeast Region, and Laura Toledo, 2019 board member of the LMA Midwest Region – attended the institute. We caught up with them to learn more about their journey during this course, and how they plan to “pay it forward” within LMA.
The SmithBucklin Institute is a yearlong commitment — seven in-person sessions in addition to assignments — meant to build leadership capacity and performance, which participants bring back to the organizations they serve.
Why did you apply for the SmithBucklin Leadership Institute?
Kevin Iredell: I’ve had several friends in LMA go through the SmithBucklin Leadership Institute’s program, and they all spoke of the meaningful content and valuable experience they gained by completing it. Between their encouragement and the support of my firm, I felt that it was a great opportunity to continue my journey of education and learning.
Laura Toledo: I had my eye on it for a while. I felt too young for it at first; and then I had my kids, and it seemed overwhelming. Finally, this year, I was ready. I wanted to attend because I’ve been in leadership roles in LMA for years, but I’m in a smaller marketing department and don’t have the typical managerial opportunities here. This felt like my big opportunity to gain some knowledge in that area.
What was the SmithBucklin Leadership Institute like?
KI: I laughed, I cried, I cheered. Seriously, though, it went beyond my expectations. I was impressed with the other associations’ participants and the comradery we built; the instructor, Henry Givray, and his wealth of experience and depth of knowledge on the subject; and the outside speakers that were brought in to highlight and underscore some of the learnings from the sessions. The curriculum was intense. Lots of reading and lots of homework — but so well vetted, thought-out and planned. It was amazing.
LT: It was intense … in a good way. Our class was full of brilliant folks: some with several masters’ degrees, one person owned two separate businesses, another was a doctor and ran a huge ICU department, and Kevin! I’ll admit that I was initially unsure of how I ended up in this class filled with highly educated and experienced people — it was intimidating. But, I quickly found that I was there for a reason. I could hold my own, and they sometimes even looked to me for certain things. I learned a ton from everyone in that room, even though they weren’t in the legal industry. We formed this bond with everyone and became vulnerable, in a way. It was powerful and humbling. It taught me a lot about myself, how I interact with others and how I can make a difference.
What did you learn about yourself going through the SmithBucklin Leadership Institute?
KI: My biggest takeaway was a reinforcement that leadership is a journey. There’s no magic course, no degree that can be bestowed on someone to make them a “leader.” It was very fulfilling to have some ideas and practices validated. It was also a great learning experience to see that some behaviors could be expanded on or used differently, depending on the desired outcome in everyday situations, from a leadership point of view.
LT: This might sound funny to those who know me well, but I was shocked at how high my “comfort with conflict” is. I’m a rebel, sure. I like making waves and speaking up and out about things, but I hadn’t thought of how that ties in with conflict! With that self-awareness, I’m now able to better regulate my emotions to curb those impulses and put them to better use. It’s strange how these lessons I learned throughout the course keep coming up in my life or at work, and how aware of it I am now.
I also have a bad case of imposter syndrome. As I alluded to in the question above, I feel like I belong here now. (I refuse to call myself a leader, but I feel at home among leaders.) I got more confidence in my ability to help others. I can’t tell you what a gift that is for me.
This event is one of the many benefits of being an LMA volunteer. How did this help shape your professional development, and are there ways you can “pay it forward” within the LMA community?
KI: Clearly the investment from LMA in my continued growth as a member builds a sense of greater responsibility to the organization and the community. I feel I have an obligation (in a good way) to continue to serve and encourage the participation of our members in all aspects and opportunities LMA provides. But, more than that, I feel a sense of optimism for the growth and continued success of the organization based on initiatives like this, as well as the highly involved membership we have and their expressions of interest in being part of programs like the SmithBucklin Leadership Institute.
LT: I’ll be the president-elect of the LMA Midwest Region next year, so I will definitely be putting these new-found skills to use. (And I’ll be doing this alongside the illustrious and incredible Megan McKeon, who also went through the SmithBucklin Leadership Institute!)
I also plan to tap some LMA folks I know who are amazing volunteers — this is your warning, friends. 😉 I want to encourage other people to get involved, help them succeed in their careers and provide a sounding board when they need it. LMA programming is great, but it’s the members and volunteers who helped me get here — they encouraged me. They told me to apply for volunteer positions and were there for me when I had questions. I want to be that “push” for others to help them realize their potential.
Kevin Iredell is the chief marketing officer at Lowenstein Sandler LLP and is a member of the 2020 Advocacy Advisory Committee. Laura Toledo is communications and marketing manager at Nilan Johnson Lewis and 2020 president-elect of the LMA Midwest Region.