6 Ways to Become a Leader
Photo courtesy of American NationalAmerican National leaders Lelia Starr and Samantha Coble, and Foundation for Springfield Public Schools director of development Tina Pham-Morgan.

Everyone can be a leader, no matter where they sit. American National leaders Lelia Starr and Samantha Coble, along with Foundation for Springfield Public Schools director of development Tina Pham-Morgan, share their advice for how to develop yourself into a leadership role.


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Demonstrate integrity, showcase productivity.

If anyone can be a leader, then everyone can develop leadership skills, says Lelia Starr, director of enterprise threat and vulnerability management at American National. “I was in the military, and in that environment, everyone can be a leader in any situation,” she says. “Leadership begins with trust, integrity and you have to be reliable. Building your reputation and developing trust within an organization naturally develops you into a leader. Demonstrate your personal integrity and showcase your work ethic, you’ll find yourself in a people leader role.”

Develop and deploy empathy in every situation

The most critical characteristic for good leadership in 2023: empathy, says Samantha Coble, director of marketing for American National. “Whether it’s dealing with change within an organization, helping to support others through change or having tough conversations in conflict, empathy is essential,” she says. “The more you display empathy, the more you’ll develop that trust, which better equips you to lead others. Listening to learn the why behind a conflict, not to respond, is so important and a such a struggle, even for seasoned leaders.”

Become a thought leader on your team

Become the expert in your field and industry. Listen to podcasts, read books, keep up with trends and industry news – then, build influence and have patience, says Coble. “Become the expert in whatever you want to grow your career in. Network in that field, read books in that field. Titles are secondary, but expertise goes and grows with you.”

Build relationships and learn the entire organization

It’s so tempting to only become a subject matter expert. But by learning the entirety of an organization, its functions and its goals, team members and mid-managers then can find additional value to provide – and oftentimes, opportunities to advance, says Tina Pham-Morgan, director of development for Foundation for Springfield Public Schools. “You have to build relationships with everyone around you. Take the time to get to know them, personally, and learn what they do for the organization to see how all the moving pieces work together. The more you learn, the more value you provide, the more you grow and ultimately, advance.”

Gain leadership skills outside of the office.

Springfield and 417-land are full of nonprofits, supporting a variety of worthy causes. Find one that matches a personal passion and start volunteering. Then, start leading, says Starr. “I came to this role in IT with no formal IT background, but I’ve got a lot of varied, often unpaid leadership experiences in my background because I intentionally sought them out. I think that’s something women especially need to be intentional about. We often don’t pursue opportunities unless we are super qualified for them. But when you combine volunteer experience and networking within the community, you’re adding to your toolkit in the future.”

Become connected to other leaders.

LinkedIn is not enough to develop a professional network – intentional, inner personal relationships are key to finding the next best thing for a career. At American National, the Women’s Leadership Forum supports aspiring and current leaders to grow by providing a space to learn, share and connect. “I’ve been at American National for 23 years, but I’ve learned so much about our company and its culture with the American National Women’s Forum,” says Coble. “Making connections with other women leaders and also making them visible to the company is so important, but it also showcases what’s possible for aspiring leaders. You have to see it to be it sometimes, and when we showcase the struggles and success of our leaders, we build a community where aspiring leaders can begin their next chapter.”

About American National


American National is an insurance company that offers a range of policies covering everything from home and auto to life, health and property with corporate locations in Galveston and League City, Texas, Albany, New York and Springfield, Missouri and agents throughout the United States. The company values financial strength, integrity, respect, service and teamwork; and believes taking care of business starts with taking care of its employees.