Bachelor’s Degree as a Defining Moment

by  Katie Stroud  |  Leadership Development

Tell us about your defining moment or moments as a leader.  That was the question asked at a panel breakfast sponsored by Lead Change Tulsa last week.  So we asked the question on LinkedIn and got this response from Contributing Member Katie Stroud.

“A” defining moment for me was the day my mom met up with me at the University to see me graduate. I was all dressed up in my cap and gown and she saw me from the end of the hall when she arrived. From that distance I could see the tears of happiness start to roll.

I’m the first person in the family (that I know of) who has successfully earned a 4-yr degree for generations back as far as anyone knows. And family reaches far. I have upwards of 40-50 cousins, most of who are in their 20’s or 30’s. Of my 12 aunts and uncles, only the two youngest graduated from high school.

I had setbacks that kept me away from college at first, but when I finally snapped out of my intellectual slumber, going to school was second nature and just something that had to be done. It feels good to put that accomplishment on my resume, but for me, graduating was like crossing something off my list. I didn’t even try that hard because, compared to life trials in past years, it was easy.

Not to my mom. To her, it was a dream–the impossible made real. It was like being granted a wish to stop world hunger. All her struggles to make ends meet for my 3 siblings and me over the years melted away in that moment. All those hardship’s she fought for her kid’s sake were made worth it. She didn’t attend the classes, do the homework or work to pass tests. But my success was an accomplishment for her.

What that moment defined for me was that with leadership comes responsibility. Leaders, at any level, hold a piece of other peoples’ hopes and dreams. That responsibility should not be taken lightly.

As far as I know, I’m still the only one in my extended family over generations to have earned a Bachelor’s agree. I don’t take that lightly.

Tell us about your defining moment or moments.  What made those moments special and what did you learn as a leader?


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Deborah Costello  |  31 Aug 2011  |  Reply


I love this line from your piece: “Leaders, at any level, hold a piece of other peoples’ hopes and dreams. That responsibility should not be taken lightly.” It is an important reminder that leaders are not just responsible for goals being accomplished, but also responsible to the people on their team. It is not a one way street, but a super highway of shared responsibilities, dreams, and accomplishments. Clearly you are a well seasoned traveler here.

Thank you for sharing your story.


Katie Stroud  |  31 Aug 2011  |  Reply

Thanks for the kind words, Deb. It’s true that the responsibility of the leader is not just to the goals being accomplished, but to the people on their team. But beyond the team and a specific leadership role, our everyday accomplishments contribute to something bigger. Getting out of bed this morning is part of making something happen for someone in the world–it’s part of making an impact. How we live today matters–not just to ourselves, but to people in our lives and to random people we may never meet. That impact we make could be a defining moment in someone else’s life. And that should not be taken lightly.

I like how you define leadership as a shared super highway of responsibilities, dreams and accomplishments. It is a highway I travel everyday…but there’s a long road ahead and a lot of traffic to be mindful of.

Thanks for your comment, Deb.


Mike Henry  |  31 Aug 2011  |  Reply

Katie, thanks again for the great story. I also appreciate the comments, both yours and Deb’s. We are responsible for more than we think. I appreciate your sharing and being a part of Lead Change.


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