Archive for the ‘Leadership Academy’ Category

What is Leadership and Why it’s Important.

Monday, May 6th, 2019

With leadership, you can’t just depend on others for your success. If you want to become a successful person, in my opinion, you have to become a leader. The leader’s command inspire through hard work, discipline, creativity and innovative ideas ready to implement. We all have leadership skills within. Many of us learn to become leaders and others are born with it.

A leader is someone that has good listening skills, understands their peers and leads. Leadership is not lead by influence; it involves influencing others through leadership. On the other hand, you can have a leader and a follower. The influence is mutual and together they influence the environment around them. The Author John Maxwell from The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership says: “Leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less.”

The importance of good leadership is effectiveness. When there is effective leadership, it brings together diverse people and it helps them find a common purpose to work together to achieve common goals. Effective leadership is critical to set direction and implement strategies to drive the business or organization forward. Imagine if leaders didn’t exist. The first thing that comes to my mind is anarchy.

In my own personal experience, within the last three and a half years in my work organization, I have met an individual that has exceptional leadership skills, is highly motivated, positive, authentic, and energetic, who has influenced me to become a leader.

I am very excited about having this opportunity to attend Leadership Academy with the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce. With this great experience, I can apply what I have learned at work, home and in my community service work.

Blanca Saavedra works for NorthStar Credit Union as a Financial Service Representative in Aurora. She has been in banking for 14 years.

Women in Leadership Roles

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

Women as leaders – something I’ve spent time thinking about recently, and as one of the latest participants of the Leadership Academy, something that remains on my mind.
I was pleased to see that this year’s Leadership Academy has a larger number of women participating than men, although it shouldn’t be surprising – there are more women in the workforce than ever before. Unfortunately, more women in the workforce doesn’t actually translate to more women in leadership roles. Even in my predominately-female populated profession, men still proportionately hold more leadership positions.

What is holding women back from reaching leadership positions? Beyond sex discrimination, there are women still working in hostile work environments, facing negative stereotypes about women as leaders, as well as facing whatever implicit biases about women that exist.

How many of us have heard: “Don’t take it personally,” or “Why are you getting emotional about this” or some more subtle version of these statements? How many times have you worried, even in the tiniest way, that you are coming across as too aggressive, too “angry”; that if you had been born male, no one would have said those things to you and you would not have thought that of yourself? I’m fortunate that in my career, I’ve worked for and with women who have been supportive of me and my professional growth. But, I have it easier; I’m a white woman; women of color are far less fortunate than I am.

I don’t know the answer to how we combat what centuries of history has built, but maybe a good starting point would be to be more mindful. Be mindful of the choices we make when choosing someone for a leadership role; be mindful about what we say and how we say it; be mindful about to whom you provide professional support; be mindful when recruiting in your places of employment.
Just, be more mindful.

Dana Russell is the Senior Manager of Children’s Services at the Aurora Public Library and earned her Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from University of Illinois-Champaign Urbana. She has worked in public libraries for over 20 years.

Our Challenge Today

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

I am very excited and honored to a participant in this year’s Aurora Chamber Leadership Academy. I have learned so much already and met many unique and inspiring individuals, I can’t wait to see what else is to come.

During our recent class on Diversity with Dr. Adrienne Coleman from IMSA, we did several exercises that challenged our own conscious and unconscious biases. I was appalled to realize that as much personal work and growth I had experienced over the years, that I still had unconscious biases to overcome that were buried in my psyche.

What has always been important to me, even as a child, was to defend the underdog. I felt everyone should have a fair shot and be treated equally. As a child I didn’t truly understand what that meant in the outside world. I grew up being privileged as a white, catholic, middle class, only-child in a rural area where everyone looked the same. I didn’t really know what diversity was until I went to college. I went to a large University to expand my horizons, meet new and different people, and have new experiences.

My career goals led me to be in positions within Human Resources that fit my need to defend the underdog and equality in the workplace, so I specialized in Employee Relations. I was the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer for one of my prior employers. In addition, I became a trainer for managers and employees on subjects such as Sexual Harassment, Hiring and Terminations, and the ADA.

However, working with Dr. Coleman reminded me that we all use stereotypes to figure out the world, it is how we organize our thoughts from childhood on. Red means stop or something is wrong, green means go or everything is okay, etc. This also applies to how we judge people. Whether it’s someone with green eyes and red hair has to be Irish, or that person has an accent so they must speak Spanish.

Unfortunately, we apply these stereotypes or biases unconsciously so that it affects our way of treating people. This is very important to be aware of when you are making hiring decisions in your business or making connections and building relationships. This particular class with Dr. Coleman made me realize that beating your own biases is not a to-do item to check off your list, we have to constantly be aware of the warning signs of bias as we encounter more challenging situations and meet new people. Even how we do business is constantly changing; if we don’t change too, we will become obsolete. Diversity is no longer a fight for equality, it is how business is done. It must be mindful and thoughtful. As a result, your business and flow of creative ideas will naturally increase. Capitalize on the special talents given to each of your employees because of who they are and what they bring to the job to the highest extent possible. This is our challenge today.

Kerry Rieder-McLaughlin works as a Human Resources Consultant, along with her husband Kenneth S. McLaughlin, Jr., attorney-at-law, at the Law Offices of McLaughlin & Associates, P.C. in Aurora. She earned a BS at University of Wisconsin-Madison in Public Relations and an MSIR from Loyola University-Chicago. She has over 15 years of experience in Human Resources within a variety of industries.

#AuroraChamber News for April 15, 2019

Monday, April 15th, 2019

Historical Society Fundraiser Invite

Aurora Chamber

  In This Issue  

Public Policy Updates »
Premier Investors »
Elite Members »
Calendar of Events »
Businesses Help Combat Opioid Crisis »
Member News »
Welcome New Members »
Spotlight On Membership »
About The Aurora Chamber »

Public Policy Updates

Business Registration: The City of Aurora is developing a proposed business registration program for City Council consideration. The proposal was recently shared with the Special Ordinance Committee of the City Council. If you have thoughts or comments to share, please contact the Aurora Chamber at

Data Center Bill Passes First Hurdle »
Ill. Chamber Backs Transportation Modernization Plan »
City of Aurora Launches Engagement Website »
House GOP Lawmakers Urge: ‘Stop Ignoring Tax Realities’ »
COGFA Issues Report on State Employee Group Insurance »
Major Sports Wagering Proposals Introduced »
Tobacco 21 to Governor »
Consumer Liquor Home Delivery Passes Committee »
Gov. Pritzker Unveils Graduated Tax Proposal »
Illinois GA Bills to Watch »
COGFA Reports on Impact of Local Government Pensions »
Fitch Ratings, Standard & Poor’s Respond Negatively to Pritzker Budget Proposal »
House Republicans File Resolution Opposing Gov. Pritzker’s Unfair Tax »
$15 Minimum Wage Passes Senate »

Premier Investors

Premier Investors

Elite Members

 95.9 The River      Above Board Indoor Environmental      Alarm Detection Systems, Inc.      AMITA Health Mercy Medical Center      Artesan Lofts      Aurora Bank & Trust      Aurora Collective      Aurora University      Barbara Geiger – Keller Williams Experience      Best Rates Heating and Cooling      Caterpillar, Inc.      City Segment      ComEd    Dolan & Murphy      Endiro Coffee      Energy Bot      ERC Delivery      First Secure Community Bank      Fox Valley Mall      Freedom Development Group, LLC      Healthcare Solutions Team – Deepti Srivastava      Henkels & McCoy, Inc.      Jiffy Lube Multi-Care      Kluber Architects + Engineers       Konen Insurance Agency, Inc.      Luke Singh – Country Financial      Midwest Coach Limousine, Inc.      Mitutoyo America Corporation      Mooney & Thomas P.C.       New York Life Insurance Company and Nylife Securities, LLC- Duckie Huynh      Obregon Medical Clinic      Ochoa & Associates LTD.      Old Second National Bank      OnLight Aurora      Orchard Wine & Liquor      Painters District Council 30      Paramount Arts Centre      Pilmer Real Estate      Plum Landing Retirement Community      Prairie Technology Solutions Group, LLC      Quality Logo Products      R.C. Wegman Construction Company      Rasmussen College      Rich Harvest Farms      Rush Copley Medical Center      S&S Metal Recyclers II      Scientel Solutions     Sign*A*Rama      SmithAmundsen, LLC      Staffing Network, LLC & QPA        Stonebridge Country Club      T-Mobile     Tempur-Pedic Stores      Two Brothers Roundhouse      Valley Fastener Group, LLC      The Voice      Waubonsee Community College      Weldstar Company      WSPY     World Finance Corporation 

Calendar of Events

Coffee & Connections
Tuesday, April 16, 8:30-10 a.m.
Chamber offices, 43 W. Galena Blvd., Aurora

Coffee with Congress: Rep. Lauren Underwood
Friday, April 19, at 8:30 a.m.
Chamber offices, 43 W. Galena Blvd., Aurora


The Aurora Regional Chamber is partnering with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation on the launch of the new Sharing Solutions resource hub designed to empower businesses to help combat the opioid crisis. We hope that you will take the time to explore the site and benefit from the information provided.

Sharing Solutions highlights employer and employee resources and showcases innovative solutions to address the opioid crisis. Resources include – education and prevention techniques, how to create a drug free workplace, how to work with benefit providers and more. This site also offers the ability to suggest a resource or story you have found helpful.

Join businesses across our community and country in combating the crisis and saving lives.

Member News

Historical Society Fundraiser Invite »
Leadership Flexibility »
My Happy Place »
The Ever Changing “Leader” »
Historical Society Displays Crosses »
Join JA at the Middle School Career Fair »
Rich Harvest Farms to Host 2019 Western Junior »
Learn the Signs of Teen Dating Violence »
Leadership Is Service »
Aurora Farmers Market Announces New Season, New Location »
US DOL Opens Applications for HIRE Vets Medallion »

Welcome New Members

DR Horton
750 E. Bunker Hill Court
Vernon Hills 60061
(847) 863-4211


The #AuroraChamber has a number of videos online to assist you in using your member profile to your advantage. Current videos include:

How to Pay Invoices Online
How to Post a Hot Deal
How to Add a Job Posting
How to Update Your Personal Profile
How to Update Your Company Profile
How to Manage and Post Events

About The Aurora Chamber

The Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce is a private, not-for-profit, membership-driven organization comprised of more than 700 members representing nearly 40,000 employees. Our mission is be the catalyst for business success by providing leadership that facilitates the creation of a prosperous regional economy and effective advocacy for our members.

Not a Chamber member? Learn more about the benefits of membership.
Already a Chamber member? Make the most of your membership today.

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Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce
43 W. Galena Blvd.
Aurora, IL 60506
Phone: (630) 256-3180
Fax: (630) 256-3189

Leadership Flexibility

Saturday, April 13th, 2019

The word leadership is something that has developed more meaning and depth for me within the last weeks in the academy. A reoccurring theme that keeps appearing throughout the various sessions with different leaders is the notion of perspective and understanding. Something I never thought to be correlated with leadership, but now has shifted. The understanding of different leadership styles, being able to understand people’s perspective in order to have effective leadership.

We’ve covered through different theories of leadership styles and characteristics but the ability to be understanding of the person’s perspective in order to be an effective leader has been very salient in presentation. From understanding that a company is not meeting targets and seeking innovative ways to transform this culture to being able to understand staff impact and perspective by this shift. The understanding of leadership theory (theory y, soft x, and hard x) and knowing when to use them depending on the the circumstance.

It’s been quite eye opening in being in tune with my own leadership style and when to adjust the “getting a task done” with building a level of understanding in order to complete the initiative to the fullest potential. It’s been especially interesting to learn the different forms of effective leadership from all hierarchal  standpoints and with different levels of authority. I love being able to challenge myself to think about these presentations and become a change agent.

Miriam Meza is the communications manager at the Aurora Public Library. Miriam earned her masters in higher education from Northern Illinois University. She currently lives in Aurora with fiancé and beagle.

My Happy Place

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

Have you ever heard the phrase “Be a leader not a follower?” Well to me, that was a scary phrase growing up. It caused me to have so many questions that I ended up with anxiety over it. I thought to myself “How do I become a leader? What does it mean to be a leader? Am I a leader or a follower?”

As I grew older the phrase rang louder in my head. It was a bit more difficult to answer my own questions due to the fact that I was suffering from social anxiety. My place in life and at work had made me become a bit of an introvert, because of that I loved staying behind scenes. And since I worked as a teller at a bank and I could have stayed a teller forever! But I soon realized that my happy place couldn’t last forever if I wanted to be successful. I wanted more out of my career at the bank and I started thinking about becoming a banker.

My anxiety took hold of me and I started to question myself. “How can I as an introvert start a conversation without being awkward to potential clients?” If I couldn’t do that than I wasn’t going to succeed. This is where I knew I needed to be a leader in my own life and stop being scared! I’m sure it is easier to those that are naturally born leaders but for me it was a scary thought and I had to be taught. So those unanswered questions I had as a child came rushing back.

I have learned so much in the last three years due to the fact that I found a mentor at work who instilled in me a confidence I didn’t know I had. She was a blessing in disguise. She saw something special in me, so she listened to my doubts and answered my questions. She not only helped me in my professional life but also my personal one.

As I started to grow as a leader I realized being a leader is not an exact science but rather leading someone to believe in themselves, to be a coach on the sidelines, or be their fan in the stands. My mentor had seen my growth, she told me I was ready to become a fearless leader. I laughed nervously as I had yet to see myself as that leader she saw.

Without even realizing it I had emerged as a leader within my peers, leading by example. So when she told me that she was leaving my branch I immediately knew she had been preparing me for something big. I was scared, I wanted to go back to my happy place as a teller. To go back to being behind the scenes, but no I refused to let fear of the unknown set in and I decided it was my time to step up.

Taking these classes through the Aurora Chamber Leadership Academy has shown me who are the leaders in my life. That I too am a leader. Visiting different businesses and getting to speak with different people I’ve realized that you don’t have to be in management to be a leader. I can happily say that in my own way I’ve become a leader both at work and within my own life. I look forward to continuous growth and learning development. I want to be that coach on the sidelines for somebody else.

Claudia Tornero is an Aurora, IL resident. She has 14 years of banking experience and currently works at First Midwest Bank in downtown Aurora.

The Ever Changing “Leader”

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

As I sit contemplating what being an effective leader means to me, I can’t help but to think of all the people who fill this role in our lives. Starting from the day we were born, we have been led by parents, family, teachers, Churches, coaches, bosses, etc.… each one of those people play a crucial part in molding what “leader” means to all of us.

I have had the pleasure of working with nurturing mentors and/or leaders who have a true team approach. They set an exceptional example on how a team mentality works. They found their team members strengths and help build upon those. Kept an open-door policy and making it easy to share ideas leading to growth. It was important that everyone was heard, valued, and encouraged. By doing so it cultivated a positive work environment with a sense of purpose. This energy then transmitted to our client and business interactions. They achieved a happy, productive workplace environment and made their business a true success.

On the extreme opposite, I have experienced working with an unmotivated, micro-manager. The office morale was dark and stressed. There was no room for opposition or new ideas. There were no “good jobs” or “thank you’ s” only “we aren’t doing enough”. One by one, talented, creative, and capable individuals moved on. Our clients felt the negativity resulting in loss of good business. All of this because of one bad leader.

These last few weeks I have had the opportunity to visit with some local business leaders in Aurora. They have shared what their organization’s look for and need in a leader. And taught key points on how they work to meet that need. A common factor I have noted is that a successful organization needs a team. It’s imperative to have a visionary to think big and next level. To have an organizer to help structure those visions and keep things running smoothly. A motivated individual, a doer, to go out and share the vision of the business. It is necessary to build a team that compliments each other’s strengths and weaknesses. One person can’t do it all.

Secondly, there are no two people exactly alike. In the business climate of 2019, you need to be inclusive and open to diversity. We have to look beyond our bias and see the unlimited potential out in the world. As leaders, we may have to push ourselves out of our comfort zone to explore all opportunities. To bring new vision and flavor to thrive in today’s ever-changing business world. Immerse yourself in getting to know who makes up your community. Get out, connect, and ask what their needs are.

I will move forward in my role with a clearer vision as to what type of leader I want to be. My vision is to be positive, motivated, inclusive, goal oriented, intuitive, and warm. I am leading dynamic individuals with different views, qualities, and attributes. It is important that I recognize their strengths and build on them. I am thankful for all the examples, good or bad, from those who have shaped my definition of what being a leader is. It is important to realize the individual impact we have on people. We are either directly or indirectly shaping someone else’s “leader” definition too.

Blanca Townsend is a personal lines account rep with Konen Insurance and a 2019 participant in the Aurora Leadership Academy.

The Intentionality of Creating a Safe Space

Friday, March 29th, 2019

As I think about building organizations and developing leadership potential, I wonder about how we make our organizations and businesses attractive to all people. My belief and value systems include the intentionality of creating safe space for all people to feel welcome. When I go to new places and meet new people in their places of employment, I intentionally look at the art work on the walls. I look at the faces of the people in that work space. Do all the people look the same or is there a rich tapestry of diverse faces? I listen to what people say about their businesses, their customers or clients and the colleagues and I imagine myself becoming engaged with that organization or business.

It is amazing to me what I learn in a relatively short period of time. Along the way, I have learned that perception often becomes reality and that folks rarely get second chances in this space. I have, at times, participated in meetings where there is no complexity of complexions or variance in ages, just a very visible homogeneity. And, in these meetings, I have observed decisions being made and plans being created for groups of people who are not represented. And I marvel at the arrogance of these practices.

I weigh intention versus impact. At times, there is no evil or bad intention behind these situations but the impact is that groups of folks are being left out and excluded. And then I wonder, is the leaving out by design? And if my perception is that folks are not welcome, I will intentionally walk away from that business, organization and opportunity and the impact will be that business has lost a customer, participant or supporter.

We (This is a “global” we) have a very rich history of institutionally and systemically excluding access to opportunities in education, employment, housing and public accommodations to certain groups of people. I believe it is up to current leaders to right these wrongs boldly and without question. Leadership in this space involves having courageous conversations that are uncomfortable with one’s colleagues, business partners, senior management teams and frankly appraising where the organization is along the lines of truly welcoming diversity (in all of its forms) and demonstrating that there is value in being welcoming to all people.

Danise Haburn is the director of resource and development department with Open Door Health Center of Illinois with offices in Aurora and Elgin. Danise has served on the Elgin Human Relations Commission for 12 years and is active participant in creating courageous conversations on the inequities within our communities.

It Starts with a Signature

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

A common theme that has emerged over the last several weeks has been the one of being genuine: sincere or authentic. Leaders of any organization come in contact with many people in their daily course of work. Something I find myself thinking about is whether I am being genuine.

I once attended a workshop on fundraising where the presenter described how every time her husband received a letter in the mail with a signature, no matter the reason of the letter, he would run it under water to see if it was a genuine signature. If it was not, he would usually throw it out without even reading it.

As the leader of a nonprofit, I am constantly sending out letters to people I do and do not know seeking their support, inviting them to events, and thanking them for their help. While it is often times just one or two letters, there could be as many as 100 needing my signature at any time. When faced with this task, there are many options for signing my signature. I could simply print my signature on the letter when I print it or buy a stamp of my signature. However, in every instance, I choose to personally sign each letter that comes across my desk.

While that may sound like a lot of work at times, it is worth it. Including an authentic personal touch provides an opportunity to show your colleagues, supporters, and donors how much you truly appreciate them. It also gives you a moment to add an individualized note to them or provide some personalization to the letter.

Being genuine can mean many things, but next time you send a letter, think twice before you decide how you will sign it.

Brian Failing has been the executive director for the Aurora Regional Fire Museum for three years. Brian earned his Master of Arts in Historical Administration from Eastern Illinois University and his Bachelors of Arts in History and Urban & Suburban Studies from North Central College. He currently lives with his wife, Jackie, in Plainfield.

Asking “Why”

Monday, March 18th, 2019

We all experience failure, especially when doing something new for the first time. All too often, when we fail, those in positions of leadership are quick to ask questions like, “Why did you do that?” or “Why did this happen?”. Questions like these imply an intent to fail and place blame on individuals. No one intends on failing at something, so there is nothing to gain from asking questions like this.

A common leadership style today is one of selfishness and that uses fear as motivation. These are the leaders and managers that ask “why” and look for individuals to blame, without taking any responsibility of their own. They are usually setting out with the goal to solely benefit themselves, rather than for the sake of their team. As a result these teams will continue to fail and fall apart.

Servant leadership is a style that opposes the “why” questions. It is a style that does not look to place blame on individuals, but rather focuses on learning from failure. These leaders know that their role is to guide members of their team to success by being a resource and advocate for them. Servant leadership builds trust within their team, and inspires them to succeed. They don’t ask “why did you do that”, they ask “how can I help you”.

I am fortunate to be part of the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce Leadership Academy, where I am surrounded by great leaders, and servant leadership is cultivated.

Michael Tucker has been the Environmental Compliance Technician for Fox Metro Water Reclamation District for three years. Mike earned his Bachelors of Science in Health Science from Aurora University in 2014. He currently lives in Montgomery with his wife, Cate, and two-year-old daughter, Aubrey.