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Jan 17 /

One Detroiter’s Leadership Journey


Last week was my 5-month anniversary in the director role of the Detroit Revitalization Fellows (DRF), a program that matches talented mid-career professionals with civic, community and economic development organizations working at the forefront of Detroit’s revitalization efforts.  This is the most senior-level position in my career thus far and I am often asked about my transition to the role.  My typical response is, “I am growing more comfortable in the position every day,” which is true.  Like many emerging leaders, my leadership journey has not progressed as I imagined it would when I was a journalism student at Wayne State University.  Life happened, my career interests evolved, I returned to school for my master’s degree, took risks, failed and pivoted.

As the newness of 2017 begins to dissipate, now is a good time to pause, reflect and look forward to the limitless possibilities that await us both personally and professionally.  I choose to believe there are numerous opportunities to learn and grow all around us if we are simply open to it.  What I know is that we witness leadership everyday whether we acknowledge it or not. For those of us who are parents, our children’s teachers role model leadership. We see it at our favorite coffee shop, at home with our spouse or partner and when our neighbor distributes flyers for the block club meeting.  These are all acts of leadership.

At the Detroit Revitalization Fellows, we value all types of leadership experiences.  As an interdisciplinary and inclusive leadership/talent intervention, we are focused on developing a network of urban leaders who will drive positive, systemic impacts while personally and professionally nurturing inclusivity and equity.  DRF adds to our Fellows’ leadership toolbox by equipping them with thoughtful experiences that increase their leadership capacity, regardless of their role in an organization.  Leaders are learners.

I strive to learn something new every day and have attended numerous workshops and trainings to expand my skill set. My desire for continuous improvement coupled with a thirst for knowledge helped guide me to where I am today.  While I do not have a traditional civic, economic or community development background, I have been open to learning about this landscape locally, regionally and nationally.  Like the Fellows in our program, I apply an interdisciplinary approach to my work.

Some leadership lessons are learned in a classroom, others are gleaned on the job and then there are those that come with wisdom.  I offer these to other emerging leaders:  take risks; embrace challenges; be as authentic and fearless as you can; never be afraid or too arrogant to apologize; protect and advocate for your team; ALWAYS say thank you, share credit and externally take the blame; listen (for real!); practice balance (your colleagues and family will thank you for it); and laugh every day.  The phrase “work hard, stay humble” are on my office wall and this philosophy serves me well as I navigate my new role.

No matter where you are on your leadership journey, I invite you to be open to opportunities like the Detroit Revitalization Fellows.  Next week, DRF will launch the Fellow application for our fourth cohort.  The application opens January 23 and will close February 10, click here to learn more and attend an upcoming information session.

All the best.

Asandi Conner is the Director of The Detroit Revitalization Fellows (DRF). DRF is a leadership and talent intervention for mid-career professionals seeking to engage in meaningful full-time work and leadership development over the course of two years. On January 23 the fellowship program will launch the application for our next cohort. To learn more and apply visit  


One Comment

  1. Yolanda brown / Jan 30 2017

    While I can understand obstacles that can interfere with long term goals, I applauded you for your continued journey and the accomplishments you have made. I take your words knowing that I, myself should and will take those steps to complete my Masters degree. I wish you all the best in your career!

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