For the Sake of Others: Maureen Noe’s Process for Leadership

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Maureen Noe is naturally a strong, results-driven, task-oriented woman. The president of Heart of West Michigan United Way said, “I get a lot of energy from my work.” Maureen is capable of a high degree of efficiency as she moves United Way toward its mission, yet she knows that excellent leadership is about balancing her results orientation with a process approach to leadership. She intentionally restrains her own desires to move quickly and precisely in meeting the needs of her team members, leveraging their strengths so the team can accomplish greater goals than she could on her own. 

Maureen is a "process leader"—someone who creates the conditions that allow others to succeed. While participating in a leadership program, Maureen considered historical leaders and began to focus on how those individuals led, analyzing their style and the process of their leadership. “From that I point,” she said,  “I began thinking about my own leadership style and how I wanted to lead.” Maureen continued to analyze how her core values of embracing individuality, working for the common good, and valuing people fit with her leadership style. She adopted the practices of a process leader, one who guides, supports, nurtures, and facilitates others in order to achieve the mission of the organization. 

As a process leader, Maureen continues to develop her facilitation and communication skills. While working with her teams, she clarifies a strategy’s purpose and procedures, discusses joint responsibility for maintaining the process, and provides opportunities for her team members to commit. It takes a modification in her instinctive action-oriented approach to focus on the needs of others, leveraging their strengths to get a task done. She intentionally does it because she values balancing her leadership between people and task. While she always has the end result in mind, she has trained her mind to consider how she can best understand people and the process of motivating them, and allow “folks to have their own self-discovery.”  

“I look at really good leaders as Olympians,” she said. They didn’t wake up being the excellent athletes; they trained. To develop her leadership skills, Maureen participated in many leadership programs and has worked with an executive coach. Always scanning the horizon for learning opportunities, Maureen challenges herself and often places herself in challenging learning situations, such as becoming a green belt and then a black belt in the Six Sigma quality improvement model. She thought, “What am I doing here?” when she first experienced the in-depth training, but later applied the disciplined thinking while analyzing United Way processes. Currently, she is exploring the focused and practical uses of human-centered design to solve societal issues. 

Receiving honest feedback is important to Maureen. She develops a “trust team,” a team of individuals who she knows will be entirely honest in their responses to her questions. “Sometimes, I just say to them, ‘What do I need to hear?’’’ Maureen smiles, knowing that this kind of accountability allows her to keep developing her ideas as well as her leadership skills. 

Maureen is what many call a natural leader: direct, resolute, and mission-minded. She learned to balance her focus on results with focus on others, because she wants to use her leadership for the good of communities. Her advice to other leaders represents her leadership approach—“be bold and be humble.” Go into your world boldly, and understand you have a great deal to learn.

Written by: Tamara Rosier, Ph.D. Tamara has been a college administrator, a professor, a leadership consultant, a high school teacher, and a public speaker. Tamara coaches adults and adolescents with ADHD, helps intelligent people refine their social intelligence, and facilitates leaders as they develop their skills. She received her Ph.D. in Teaching, Learning and Leadership from Western Michigan. She can be reached at [email protected]. Read another West Michigan Woman article by Tamara here

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