Work Your Dreams Using the Top Five Leadership Competencies with Secretary of State Linda McCulloch
Linda McCulloch, Secretary of State of Montana, has never felt like a woman in a man’s world. In fact, being a woman in politics has worked to her advantage, making her a successful leader and providing the opportunity to eventually become the first woman Secretary of State of Montana. In this recent edWeb.net webinar, sponsored by Girls Thinking Global, Secretary McCulloch shared her top leadership competencies, and how past experiences, good judgement, and working well with others can lead to success.
As the first on her father’s side to finish high school, and after ten years becoming the first on her mother’s side to graduate college, a sense of initiative served as the foundation to Secretary McCulloch’s career. After graduating, she began teaching and at the same time became involved in campaign work. “Have you ever wanted something but thought if you said it out loud it would sound foolish?” said Secretary McCulloch, describing her initial thoughts about becoming an elected official. She now admits she was embarrassed to ever have thought that. “As women, we constantly underestimate our abilities. We are our own worst critic when we should be our number one cheerleader,” she said.
Integrity and honesty are qualities Secretary McCulloch prides herself on. “Being a woman in politics is a strength, not a weakness,” she said. She explained that the majority of the people who answered the doors during her campaign were women, and many of them admitted they were surprised to see another woman running for office. After talking openly to these women about her campaign, they showed their support by displaying Secretary McCulloch’s yard sign on their front lawns across from where their husbands were displaying the opponent’s yard sign.
Secretary McCulloch has always believed she could make a difference in the world, and inspiration and motivation ignited her passion for politics. She specifically noted her experience as a young girl, creating yard signs for a man running for county commissioner, and interviewing him on issues that were important to her before officially agreeing to the job. After that experience, she ran for student council several times throughout school. When she was in high school, 18-year-olds gained the right to vote. She recounted her first time in the voting booth as a life-changing experience, realizing that her vote could have the ability to change the world.
Collaboration and teamwork helped Secretary McCulloch and her staff accomplish many goals throughout her time in office. “I have always listened to my staff and taken their advice…it has always served me well,” she said. She also noted several important collaboration tools, including establishing group goals, establishing group norms, building trust, delegating roles, promoting problem solving, and building a diverse group. “How do you overcome issues that develop politically among staff members?” one webinar attendee asked. She responded, “Taking a diverse group and melding them into one cohesive staff…you have to very gently guide it in that direction.”
Secretary McCulloch concluded the webinar with a few final recommendations. “I would encourage you not to be afraid to promote yourself,” she said. Although she acknowledged that self-promotion is not easy to do at first, it is important for success in any sort of leadership role. Last, for those who want to become civically engaged, Secretary McCulloch recommends reading and educating yourself, attending meetings, volunteering, visiting places of interest to you, advocating for an issue, writing, and voting.
About the Presenter
Secretary McCulloch was elected Montana’s first woman Secretary of State in November 2008. She believes civic engagement fuels a functioning democracy, and is committed to increasing public participation in all levels of government. Her professional career consists entirely of public service, having previously served as a teacher, school librarian, legislator, and statewide elected Superintendent of Public Instruction. During her two terms as State Superintendent, Secretary McCulloch helped boost funding for Montana schools, implement Indian Education for All, start Full-Time Kindergarten across the state, award honorary high school diplomas for war-veterans, launch the READ Montana! program, and help advance rural education advocacy regarding the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Secretary McCulloch served three terms in the Montana House of Representatives, from 1995 to 2001. As an active civic leader, she has been a faculty affiliate and served on numerous boards including the Board of Public Education, Board of Regents, Montana Library Commission, and the Advisory Council to the Montana Meth Project. Secretary McCulloch holds M.A. and B.A. degrees in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Supervision of Library Media Programs from the University of Montana. She started her educational career in 1978 as a paraprofessional in Eastern Montana before teaching in schools in Western Montana.
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Girls Thinking Global (GTG) is a global community of organizations serving girls and young women by leveraging technology to create a collaborative space that connects best practices, knowledge, and expertise.