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Cecilia Rowedder: When mothers are leaders

Tonya Muse
Tonya Muse has over 20 years of non-profit management experience and now works for the Washington Post's Universal News Desk and News Operations.

Cecilia Rowedder, mother of six, recently raised $95,000 for a fundraiser at St. Jude Catholic School in Rockville, Md. If you have any experience in fundraising -- especially in this difficult economic climate -- you'll recognize what a tremendous achievement this is.

I spoke with Cecilia recently and asked her, '"How did you do it?" Cecilia made it seem simple. She told me she turned to God in prayer first, put together a plan and enlisted a team of parents to help.

I'm not sure mothers always consider themselves leaders. They are often undervalued by their families, by their communities and even by themselves. They are just doing their job, raising kids and participating in school activities right?

But, Cecilia, to me, represents a leader in the true sense. She is a visionary, and she's passionate about her cause -- and she puts that passion to work. To realize her vision, she listened to the needs of her community and formulated a plan based on those needs. She put that plan into action by utilizing her team members according to their talents and keeping the team motivated. Those are all traits of a good leader.

Cecilia says she always had a passion working with children. She holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a M.Ed. in early childhood education. In 2002, Cecilia, along with five other ladies, started a local chapter of Challenge Club in Montgomery County. Its mission is to evangelize and transform young girls to "grow in virtue, friendship and their Catholic faith."

Drawing on the energies of her Challenge Club moms, she brought a Purefashion show to D.C. in 2005. Purefashion was started in Atlanta in reaction to young girls not being able to fit into small, skimpy or tight clothes found in most retail stores. In Cecilia's first year doing the fashion show she had 215 guests and 20 models. The next year she had 400 guests and 30 models. Her most recent show had over 800 guests and 60 models.

Now, Cecilia's on to her next venture, starting a leadership program at her children's school. She needs $50,000 to pay for it. After reading "The Leader in Me" by Stephen R. Covey, Cecilia had a vision for St. Jude School to be the first Catholic leadership school. "I am not focusing on what we cannot do but what we can do to launch this new program," she told me.

Cecilia said it hasn't always been easy raising six kids and trying to serve the community, but it is very important for her and her husband to lead by example and pass this gift of service to their children.

"When I am about to embark on anything, I pray and put that dream or idea in God's hands to discern if it comes from God and not from my own ego," she said. "I do a reality check; as a mom of six, is it possible and realistic? Will my family benefit? Then I reach out to others and tell them that we can make a difference and make an impact in our community. I get to know the people involved personally, listen to them, and get a sense of their fears and then I try to give them courage and confidence, pointing out their skills, talents and gifts in order to help them do the best job they can do."

She said, "I learned that success does not depend only on me, but that I have to trust in others, believe the best of others, not judge them about anything but truly believe that they are doing their best, no matter what that best turned out to be." Cecilia feels she has to believe in a dream or goal and know that people want to be a part of a positive dynamic.

Cecilia said she never considered herself a leader, especially being the youngest of 10 girls. But, now she does consider herself one or at least someone who can motivate others to do something much bigger than what one person can do alone.

"Moms shouldn't have the expectation of perfection or discount their abilities to give and serve. These two aspects can give us the 'who am I to try and lead' feeling because we are afraid to fail," she said. "If you try, you can never be considered a failure. In trying we often find our limitations and our deepest fears, and little by little we no longer see them, but we see the real people we serve and the difference our efforts are making to those most in need."

By Tonya Muse

 |  June 30, 2010; 7:00 AM ET |  Category:  Personal Leadership Journey Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Thank you for highlighting that women do not need to be a CEO or have a big title to be a leader. Cecilia is a great example.

Cecilia shows us that it is the everyday people working with others in their communities on issues that they are passionate about who are the real leaders.

Posted by: kathleenmb | July 8, 2010 11:09 AM


I really enjoyed your article great job and I look forward to reading more from you.

It made me realize that mothers are not just Leaders but CEO's too and we do not realize it.

Posted by: deenicegalloway | July 2, 2010 6:34 PM

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