Jan. 5, 2021

Leading with deep values and a service mindset with Rosie Allen-Herring | Changemaker

Leading with deep values and a service mindset with Rosie Allen-Herring | Changemaker

In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Rosie-Allen Herring, President and CEO of the United Way NCA and Board Chair of  the Greater Washington Board of Trade, talks about leading with purpose, leading the transformation of United Way NCA  and reflects on the future leadership of the Greater Washington DC / DMV region.

 

Some highlights:

  • Rosie Allen-Herring shares how her brothers and sisters inspire her to become a better leader
  • Rosie Allen-Herring's experience working at Fannie Mae and leaving for United Way NCA to serve an even greater purpose
  • The challenges Rosie Allen-Herring faced as the new CEO of United Way NCA
  • How "community commitment" transformed United Way NCA
  • How the COVID-19 pandemic and social justice issues impacted Rosie Allen-Herring's perspective and leadership 
  • Rosie Allen-Herring shares her purpose in the world and the legacy she hopes to leave behind
  • Rosie Allen-Herring’s application of the Stockdale Paradox by being a realist

 

Also mentioned in this episode:

Jim Dinegar, former president at Greater Washington Board of Trade 

Jack McDougle, current president at Greater Washington Board of Trade 

Kevin Smith, Chief Financial Officer at United Way NCA

 

Connect with Rosie-Allen Herring:

Rosie-Allen Herring on LinkedIn

United Way Official Website



Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:

MahanTavakoli.com

 

More information and resources available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website:

PartneringLeadership.com



Transcript

Mahan Tavakoli: Happy new year and welcome to the partnering leadership podcast. I'm really excited that you're joining me on this journey of learning and growth. As we have conversations with some magnificent leaders, learning from their experiences, as they have led their organizations for greater impact.

keep your feedback coming, mahan@mahantavakoli.com, or there's a microphone icon on the website, partneringleadership.com, where you can leave me a voice message. Because it's based on your feedback that we are adding even more monthly episodes, partnering leadership is going to have releases every Tuesday and every Thursday, Tuesday's continuing with conversations with magnificent change-makers in the greater Washington DC DMV region, learning from their life stories, learning from their examples so we can become better leaders and more impactful ourselves. 

And then on Thursdays, a combination of some of my own leadership, thoughts and interviews with global thought leaders on leadership. In many instances, authors whose insights can have a significant impact on our leadership journey. So look forward to two episodes every single week with brilliant insights coming your way.

I am thrilled this month to be starting out the conversations with one of the most magnificent leaders I've had the honor of knowing. And she is Rosie Allen Herring, who currently serves as President and Chief executive officer of the United Way of National Capitol area. Rosie has more than 25 years experience in corporate finance, strategic leadership, public, and private partnerships, corporate philanthropy, and community investment.

She has had leadership roles in numerous organizations, including serving as board chair of the greater Washington board of trade, she's on the board of MedStar health. She has been on the board of the DC Chamber of Commerce, Washington area Women's Foundation. You name it. She has been there because Rosie is committed to the community.

She holds a bachelor's degree from Howard university and also got a certificate from Harvard in their non-profit management program. I am really excited to share this because Rosie is truly an authentic leader. What do you see with Rosie is exactly what you get. Rosie is truly an authentic leader. Now, if you enjoy these conversations, please don't forget to subscribe or follow depending on your platform of choice, that will make sure that you will be first to be notified when we release new episodes.

And for those of you enjoying this podcast on Apple, please leave a rating and review that will make it easier for more people to find these conversations, be inspired by the leaders and have a greater impact. Now, here is my conversation with Rosie Allen Herring, 

Rosie Allen Herring. Welcome to the partnering leadership podcast.

Rosie Allen-Herring: Thank you so much Mahan. It's a pleasure to be with you. 

Mahan Tavakoli: It is such an honor, Rosie. I have told so many people that one of the most magnificent things about you is that you are a leader that I have seen in small groups. I've seen you in large groups. I've seen you lead small conversations and large conversations.

You are an authentic leader that has been really impactful. So I can't wait to find out more about your story. And get a chance to share your story with a much broader audience. 

Rosie Allen-Herring: I hope I can do you proud and hopefully make it meaningful for your listeners as well.

Mahan Tavakoli: Fantastic. Thank you Rosie. Now, Rosie, I know you were born and raised in Mississippi. The youngest of 10 children, and just wondering how that impacted the kind of person, and then eventually the kind of leader that you've become.

Rosie Allen-Herring: It's who I am. The Mississippi Delta is home. As the youngest of 10, I think if anything, it taught me at an early age, how to deal with differences. Having nine siblings in and my mother and father in a house that was, you know, 11 other people at different points of times, my older sister was in college when I was born.

But I think it's one of those things where I knew early on that people were different and that there was a way to still love because I didn't know anything differently. They were all here before I got in here. So seeing differences in people never bothered me. 

I think as with all people, you go through a period of thinking as the youngest was everybody the boss of me to coming out and having that independent streak of your own and what that can mean. But it also gave me a sense of belonging knowing that no matter what happened out in the world, I truly always had a home to go back to. I always had a backup crew. I always had coaching. I just always had that safe Haven of where I could go. 

It could always be one of my siblings for advice, and they were different safe spaces for me in different ways, because one sibling may be a safe space personally. Another one may be professional. Another one may be as a female leader or another one could be, you know, as a wife. And so, it's all of those things that I count as blessings in my life, quite honestly. And the ultimate thing about it is, although our father had passed away a while ago, our mother is still here and she is 98 years old.

And to me, she's the consummate model of dignity, class of tenacity and fortitude. And so for that, that's a model that I still long to just be half the woman that she is. 

Mahan Tavakoli: That is wonderful to hear because I know both your father, your mother, your older siblings have had a significant impact on you. One of the things that you're known for Rosie is also your energetic spirit.

I don't think I've ever seen you without a smile on your face. Is that something that was part of Rosie from the beginning or something that became part of you as a result of the family you grew up in?

Rosie Allen-Herring: I think it's something that just evolved. I think I probably went through the same kind of journey that most people do that typical middle school teenager.

Am I good enough? Questioning yourself. And as girls, can you be a leader? And someone telling you that they see something in you and giving you an opportunity and then you say, okay, well maybe I really can, to really have that confidence. And I will tell you that that is not a one-way journey. It is a cyclical journey because even as an adult, even having accomplished some things, you still question yourself in terms of whether or not you are doing as much as you can.

And I don't view it as a self-esteem issue. I view it as an accountability issue, because if you never ever question yourself, then how on earth could you ever be better? And so I try to live by that. So it's a joy that I seek to find. I don't have it every day. I'm very average and normal, and won't always get it right.

But it's the journey that you're on to find that joy. So everyday I try to be a little bit better than perhaps I was the day before. 

Mahan Tavakoli: And that's magnificent to hear. Now, I also know you are a woman of faith. You feel a calling to serve the community. How did that come about? 

Rosie Allen-Herring: I have to be honest with you, Mahan.

I don't know when that quote unquote “revelation” appeared. But I will tell you as I think back on my upbringing, being a person of faith, because my mother is a person of faith and she instilled that in each of us. And we all share it to some more of a degree than others, but I think it's a matter of growing up in a church.

Faith was integral in our family and was a part of our day-to-day lives and there were women. And some men in our church that saw something in me pretty early. And I don't know if it was just because she's that youngest Allen kid. And so all my life, that's all I've known. I can't remember not ever having been a part of a faith scene if you will.

And I believe that has played its part. There's a passage in the Bible that says “Train up a child in the way that you would have them go. And when they're old, they will not depart from it.” 

And so even though sometimes we may stray or we may decide that we don't want to be as active in our faith. If those seeds have been planted, then more than likely, it's a foundation that you can come back to, and I've seen it happen time and time again.

So I'd like to believe that it's, for me, it was just a foundation. Luckily for me, I didn't stray too far from it. And so I've never had to climb my way back. It was just a matter of deciding how active I wanted to be. 

Mahan Tavakoli: That's wonderful. And while that foundation was being laid, even though I know Mississippi changed, even from the time your sister was born to the time that you were born, there were a lot of issues in Mississippi with respect to race where people could have become resentful of the environment around them.

But you grew up to be an optimistic person looking to change the world around you. What caused that? 

Rosie Allen-Herring: I think Mississippi still has issues. Let's just be honest about that. I don't have any illusions around what my home state is. I question it, and I wish it could be better on so many fronts. But when you ask what did it for me in terms of thinking beyond what I saw and perhaps some of the experiences, I would say it started first with my parents.

And then I would say that probably the most integral person who demonstrated for me, what life could really be beyond was my oldest sister, number one. So if you have parents that let that education, can be the great equalizer. When you have, my mother was educated so we understood she was an educator and then ,of course, was the educator in our home as well.

And so there was something unique about us having had that head start, so to speak. But when number one, in a large family of 10 goes to college at 15,16. By the time you get to number 10, it really is what are you going to do with yourself? So I would say my oldest sister Geraldine, who went to college very early, my parents saw fit for her to have that experience.

She was not sacrificed to go to work, to help care for the rest of us. She was allowed to become who she is, and she is a model for me to this day. There's about a 20 years difference in our ages, but she went on to college, went on to law school, became a great civil rights lawyer and became a judge. And recently retired as the first African-American female Supreme Court Justice. And the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 323 years of continuous courts there. And she broke that barrier. So when I look at her and her being first, I really look at what my other siblings have been able to do. Many of them are Ivy league educated.

I call them Mensa geniuses, people who deeply care and do great work. It really is around. I had no excuse. And if my oldest sister who was number one, had no excuse and was allowed to thrive and I stand on her shoulders and that of my parents, I really don't have any other excuses. I have sisters who have paved the way, brothers who paid the way. 

There are two different ones, some paved, some paid it. And in every instance I just operate with gratitude around life lessons and what they've done to show me. So my job is to reach back and do that. While I don't have any younger brothers and sisters, I do have nieces and nephews that are sometimes like sisters and brothers to me.

So then they became my proven ground, so to speak. So that's where you see the generations have the opportunity to continue to grow. 

Mahan Tavakoli: And it sounds like you've had a lot of these Mensa geniuses. You are one of them, Rosie. 

Rosie Allen-Herring: You wait to, you meet some of my siblings. You will know. It's kind of like really, what were you going to do with yourself?

Mahan Tavakoli: It is with respect to both your smarts and your heart. You combine the two beautifully and that's where Howard university. Eventually through career, you Rose up in the ranks and you ended up at Fannie Mae leading up the community investment and engagement division. What brought you to Fannie Mae?

Rosie Allen-Herring: When I graduated from Howard, I went through a management program at what is now Bank of America. Banks merge all the time. And so that was really just a sort of, kind of first out of school, a really, truly professional job, if you will. Certainly at work since I was 16. But it gave me, I think, a great financial foundation that taught me that I had the ability, because Howard really had prepared me to think critically, to certainly have the financial and business acumen, but being an economics major for me, it was always not just whether or not you were good at finance or accounting, marketing management, but economics is always the application of it.

What do the numbers really mean to the average everyday consumer? How do you devise and get to the price of a gallon of gas? How do you get to the price of a gallon of milk? And what does it mean with the economy when there are deficits here and there, I'm just, what does it mean? What does gross domestic product mean?

And so when you look at all of the terminology, certainly you can do calculations all day. But knowing what it meant to the average everyday family? How was it affected? How they would live, that was fascinating to me. So I ended up after four years at bank of America getting the opportunity to come to Fannie Mae.

I didn't know a whole lot about the company at the time that I went, but I will tell you Mahan, it was a pivotal moment. And I remember a girlfriend of my mother, who said, “Why would Rosie leave a good job at the bank to go work for a candy company?” Because that's what Fannie Mae was to her at that time.

But Fannie Mae had, it's just something special about that company. It hires some of the smartest people you will ever meet in your life. And if you have, or had the opportunity like I did to get noticed. For someone to take you under their wing, for someone to see something in you, perhaps that you didn't see yourself and give you opportunities and maybe even challenge you. Those are opportunities, even when they didn't always feel good, but now I reflect on and know that I'm a better person because of it, but that company taught me so much about business, about just the way that the country worked. And then it instilled in me a little bit of igniting that passion around housing.

Because no matter what you thought about the market at the time, no matter what you thought about who should be a homeowner versus who shouldn't. There was a basic quality that every citizen, every person deserves a safe, affordable place to lay their head. Who's going to disagree with you there? We can have policy disagreements all day around what that looks like, but no one is going to disagree that everybody deserves a safe, affordable place to lay their head.

And so for me, I chose to hang on to that piece of the charter of the organization and of the company and how I could help advance that work. And so I was given those opportunities. I grew a lot along the way, learned a lot along the way, probably failed along the way as well. But I count that as probably one of the pivotal moments in my life.

Mahan Tavakoli: And you were very impactful there. And at the same time, United Way was facing a lot of issues, both in terms of the model of the organization, but also even specifically the national capital region was facing issues. When you accepted to take on that challenge, what guide into you to take that on Rosie?

Rosie Allen-Herring: I will tell you, there are some phenomenal Washington regional leaders who I deeply admire and respect, and my paths have the opportunity to cross with them. Primarily through the Greater Washington Board of Trade. I had the opportunity to be Fannie’s representative to the Board of Trade, and really got to understand a lot of the Washington leaders and got to know them.

And even though, as my job grew in Fannie, it was less Washington-based. It was really across the entire company. And part of my responsibility was all 50 States. I still never forgot that Fannie thought so highly of Washington because it was his headquarters hometown. So I had the opportunity to have a lot of latitude in the company around things that we would do in Washington.

And so in meeting many of the Board of Trade board members, and I have the opportunity to serve on the board under Jim Dinegar. And certainly now with Jack MacDougall, I got a chance to understand and learn from some great leaders. And one of the things that I thought was interesting was how they were able to balance their business needs.

Many of them were running major companies here in the area with a philanthropic lens as well. And so there were so many of them that were also on the board of United way, and many of them were individuals that I deeply respected. And so when the opportunity came along, I really didn't think about it because honestly, I'd been at Fannie Mae.

I had grown up there for 21 years. I really thought that I would retire there. And that's really all that I thought. But when the opportunity came, there were certain members of the Washington community that really encouraged me, to think about it and to give it some serious consideration. And I will tell you, my other confidant is my best friend, my sister, who said, you're not taking a vow of poverty, everybody who lives and has a decent salary and can take care of their families in the Washington area.

Don't work at Fannie Mae. So that may somebody, somewhere else is paying and you can, you can take the leap. And so between respecting so deeply, the members of the board who offered me this opportunity, hearing my sister in the back of my head, having a supportive husband who really and truly pushes me to soar in every way that he can. And finally, I would say having a conversation with the CEO of Fannie Mae, where he gave me his blessing to do it. And he said to me, on the way out the door, you're not a prodigal daughter. So if they don't treat you right, you can always come home. And that's when I felt like all the stars had aligned for me to take this opportunity.

And it was clearly meant to be because when I knew that I had not burned the bridge of leaving a company that I had grown to care deeply about, and I knew cared about me. And did I think still, even to this day, great work, I felt like that was the opportunity to, but maybe the stars aligning meant that I needed to do something differently.

And it gave me an opportunity to bring that to the United Way. And here I am. 

Mahan Tavakoli: That's the credit to the great work you had done Rosie and also the CEO for the kind of leader he had been. Now, you took this challenge, but you had to take the United Way through a transformation. And I am curious how you were able to do that. Both with respect to transforming the organization, and even to a certain extent the impact and the mission of the organization. 

Rosie Allen-Herring: Well, I will tell you I'm the type of leader that never takes credit for anything because you can't possibly have all the answers. The transformation for the United Way of the National Capitol area primarily came through the people that I had the pleasure of working with. 

Getting them, I felt my responsibility was to bring a vision. And that started with just understanding your organization. Sometimes you can't come in with a solution. You just have to seek to understand before being understood. And so I came along intentionally. I brought no one from Fannie Mae with me, not even my assistant.

I felt very vulnerable and naked. If you will, in terms of coming in, offering myself to a group of people, many who had been there for years when I came. And it was a matter of just trying to understand and hear from them. So it's the first year, the business acumen was there. I needed to understand operationally how sound were we as an organization?

Where were those blind spots that perhaps we don't know, you have to get that full blown audit, internal controls and finances, just to understand what's there. And it revealed where we had some opportunity. And it was a significant opportunity. And so for me, I always believe that you're only as good as the strongest people who work with you.

And so having a strong COO at the time, having a strong CFO that we were able to hire and Kevin Smith, who to this day grounds me and helps me be the best CEO that I can try to be. And so we went through that process of getting our back office and our house in order so that we could, with credibility, ask our donors to believe in us, trust us, and know that we were going to be good stewards.

And after that it became who we are. United Way as a story brand has been around for 130 years. Most people will say that they know the name, but they don't always know what we do. And for those who had been engaged, their thoughts or their branding for United Way was, Oh, aren't you all a hundred dollars per pay period, payroll deduction, people that sends the money to my kid's soccer team. 

And when I heard that more than once, as an addition to, well, there had been a scandal, I decided this is how we're going to break this myth. We cannot continue to hear this and not have an answer for it. And so it became, let's listen to the community.

What is the community saying that they need the United Way is built for the community. That is who we are. That is what we do. 347 community conversations later. From all parts of the community, all parts of this Washington region. We came up with what we called our community commitment, and that was, to me, the impetus of our transformation. The transformation on the back office people wouldn't see. They would just have to know that we were a well oiled machine that was working well and could be trusted. 

That came from GuideStar platinum status to know that we were financially solvent and that we were good and our financial workings. But it was the community commitment where we actually put a stake in the ground programmatically that said that your United Way cared about these particular issues, making some tough decisions that we couldn't be all things to all people and deciding to put accountability out there where, this is a five-year $12.3 million investment in these particular areas, hold us accountable, and we will report back to you every year. 

That to me was the transformation for the United Way because people then saw us differently. They actually saw us as more than the fundraising organization. We tried to get people to see us, not as a pass through, but an investment.

And then they started asking our advice because then they recognized we had a ton of experience and knowledge data-wise evidence-based approaches and then had the stories and the brand to prove it. So for us, It was about leveraging what was already there to take it to another level. 

Mahan Tavakoli: Yeah. And there was the heritage.

And as you said, I think you put it brilliantly in that everyone was familiar with what had heard of the United Way, but didn't necessarily know of the mission at that point. And if I was to recap some of your thoughts, you came in with a clear vision, you had a lot of listening with the community. You helped establish some internal systems and processes, get that down right. And then through that, came up with a community commitment and stake in the ground of this is what the United Way is going to be moving into the future. 

Rosie Allen-Herring: And that is what we've done. And that is the commitment that we still have to this day, that first five-year commitment wrapped up June 30th of 2020.

And July 1st of 2020, we started the next five years. So we will continue to hold ourselves accountable to this community. And for the donors who seek to trust us with their resources, it's no different than corporate America. I tell people all the time, the only difference between Fannie Mae and United Way is our IRS tax status.

You were looking for an ROI or a return on investment as a stockholder or a shareholder in Fannie Mae. It's the same thing it's called return on impact for a donor who chooses to share their disposable income with an organization trying to serve our community. No different. 

Mahan Tavakoli: So Rosie, I'm just curious about the crisis that we've been facing for the past nine plus months, how has that changed your perspective now that you're moving into, in essence, a new planning cycle.

For the commitment that you have to the community. How has that impacted your thinking with respect to where the United Way is headed? 

Rosie Allen-Herring: It has impacted it. Of course, we do have our five-year community commitment that is still very much at the forefront. And we will look to do that over the next five years with a stand for equity, which we had already decided was going to be our mantra about 18 months ago, long before COVID.

And we'd already done the work in that light. But I can’t negate the fact that COVID certainly no one saw it coming. You could not have had a crystal ball to reveal this. And even when we found ourselves in the moment, no one could have anticipated that it would have lasted as long as it has. And because there is no end quote unquote in sight that any of us can see that we can declare this over.

I think it's challenged us all to just become a little bit more innovative. But also empathetic in terms of how we look to do our work. I think that we have all recognized that there's no segment of society that has not been touched by the pandemic of COVID-19. But in addition to it, you do now have the pandemic of social justice issues that are there.

I think we're always there just like some of the issues. And the challenges that face our communities were always there, but have been exacerbated by the moment, the same thing with systemic social justice issues. So for us, it's caused us to say, we already knew we were helping those who needed us the most, but now with a spotlight shown on that, tells us that we have to be even more committed. If anything, it's deepened that commitment. 

It scares me at times to think about how big the issue and the challenges are, but we have to meet the moment. And we need our donors to help us meet the moment we need our partners to help us meet the moment, but I will not shirk away from what we know we must do.

So it's as simple as we will meet them. 

Mahan Tavakoli: And it is a moment that needs leaders like you to meet this moment. So as we reflect on it, if we're looking back at this five years from now, and you have been as impactful, both with the United Way and CR and in this region, What will Rosie have led this region to? 

Rosie Allen-Herring: Oh, wow. So you're talking about legacy, Mahan. 

Mahan Tavakoli: You're too young Rosie for legacy, but just five years, I'm hoping you will be around for way longer than that. 

Rosie Allen-Herring: Well, I hope to as well, but I think it's hard to ask a person to develop their own legacy. I think that that's what the world defines for them. I think if anything, what I work on is less my legacy, more my purpose.

And so my purpose, I believe I was placed on this earth to serve others. I didn't know it certainly as a young person growing up, what that meant. Even knowing that I didn't mind helping people, having an affinity for elderly people. Now I understand because I had old parents. I have grown as a person who has reached this age to be grateful and understand what it means to not have everything handed to you and perhaps have endured some tough times.

And so I'm grateful that I have at least a little bit of compassion that keeps me grounded and keeps me grateful, though that, I know that I'm hopefully doing something that can make someone's life a little bit better. So I don't know what my legacy will be, but I hope it will be one that people could say who truly truly know me, and even those that maybe cursorily know me from afar to say that once she was authentic, I believed her when she said she cared. And I believe that she did the best she could. 

And quite honestly, Mahan when someone can say those things about you, really, nothing more can be asked. And out of the entire world, and I've been very fortunate to get lots of accolades. The people that I would care the most, to be able to say those things would be my 98 year old mother, my husband and my two daughters. 

If they can say those things about me, knowing me as intimately as anyone could, that I'm not a person differently at home than I am outside. If they can, in the authenticity of the moment, believe that I truly try to be my best. Then I will believe that that's the only legacy that I can actually hope for.

Mahan Tavakoli: That is beautifully put Rosie. As you recall, at the beginning of the conversation. I said, one of the things I admire about you is the authenticity you have, whether in small group conversations, one-on-one large group conversations, you are the same person, you are an authentic leader.

So you want to get a sense of that from the people that mean the most to you. And that is absolutely beautiful. Now you have been tremendously impactful at United Way. You have been tremendously impactful in this region. You all have broken through barriers, including being the first African-American woman to Chair the Board of Trade, 110 plus years in the organization. So you have had by many measures, a lot of success. 

So if you were to give advice to the younger Rosie, graduating from Howard or a younger professional that wants to aspire to be as impactful as a leader as you have been. What would you tell them? 

Rosie Allen-Herring: I think I'd tell a younger Rosie to be confident in the decisions that she has to make. Perhaps in those late twenties, early thirties, I would tell her to probably be a little bit more bold and don't play it safe too much because life always still works out.

I would probably have told her, and it's probably too late now because I still practice this kind of mantra, to not be a pessimistic optimist. Cause that's who I am. And when I say that I'm a pessimistic optimist, meaning that I understand how bad it could be. And I go there in depth to help me understand and be grateful when I'm not there.

But if I can go to the depths and understand how bad it could be and figure out a solution to that, I feel it can't get anything but better. So that's where the optimism comes in and takes over and inspires me to continue to do the work. Pessimism doesn't stay long. It's just the driver for me to find that solution quicker, sooner, faster.

And it keeps me in a place that doesn't let me believe that things are not as they appear. Because I think sometimes in a world of total optimism, we miss things and we are totally devastated when we find out that things aren't quite what they seem. So I try to be a realist in that mindset, but not let it define me in terms of who I am, but the execute a part of me is going to always find a way to meet that moment and then it becomes less, now going on a journey that can't get anything but better. 

So the younger part of me probably should have figured that out sooner, quicker, faster. The younger part of me probably should not have second guessed herself as much. And who knows, maybe even the younger part of me would have left Fannie Mae sooner than I did.

Mahan Tavakoli: Those are great insights for younger leaders and Rosie, to your point, I actually did a podcast episode on the Stockdale Paradox, which is based on Admiral Stockdale. And the fact that people that survived the prison camp, weren't the pessimists, but weren't the optimists either because the optimist thought, any day now they were going to get out and be released.

So the way you framed it is exactly the way the most effective leaders look at it. Where they have hope, they are realistic, and they work to make it through including now through challenging times. So I love the way you defined it as really important right now, because I find a lot of leaders are trying to portray a certain level of optimism.

That pretty soon things will return to a certain level of normal seek. Some call it the new normal, some call it the next normal. But the way you are putting it is exactly the right way for leaders to think about it. 

Rosie Allen-Herring: I don't know when we will be out of this, so I don't want to give false hope, but we will never return to the normal that we knew pre COVID.

Those days are long gone because families and this economy and this country will be dealing with the residual effects of this for years to come. So while I don't believe that we need to wait years before we can feel optimistic about the way forward. It's not about getting to a new normal. I always say we're getting to a better normal.

And to me, that surpasses perhaps what we thought was pre COVID normal. It's a pass as what we think is going to be a new normal for us getting to a better normal says it simply has to be better than it ever was before. And that's what's before us. 

Mahan Tavakoli: It is. That’s magnificent to hear from you. I would love to know also if there are any leadership resources that you find yourself recommending to others, as they're looking at developing their leadership skills, so they become a little bit more capable like Rosie.

Rosie Allen-Herring: Well, hopefully they'll just be capable of the best that they can be and who they are. At being a person of faith. I have to go back to that as a person of faith. I do rely on that and that's my 4:00 AM wake up call to spend a little time in quiet meditation, to contemplate. What's not only on my plate, but how I deal with it and what comes my way.

That keeps me in a pattern of gratitude, if you will. So that's one way. So I'm a person of faith so I do look at the Bible. I do like inspirational reading that sorta kind of just gives you a different way of looking at things and also gives you a way of being able to share that spirit with others.

It's always easier to find someone else who can say the word that perhaps you were feeling and can send it in a card to someone. But also, I think you have to also study and understand what's happening, and read. So I read a lot. I love podcasts, so I listen to them as best I can. I don't get the time to do as much.

And I will tell you when I was commuting in more so than I do now, I had more time for that. So I do love to listen. I am a news junkie. But I'm not a political junkie, but I am a news junkie. And every once in a while, an inspirational book comes my way. And so just in the last week or so I got a book in the mail from someone as a gift called The future is faster than you think. 

And talk about the way forward and what it looks like and how much time we think we have for those who think that we're going to be in COVID for a little while longer. We may think we have time to dial it back a little bit. I think. What that said to me, just the title alone, the future is faster than you think it says.

I don't have a lot of time. I still have to go and do what I think needs to be done because that better normal has to get here sooner, quicker and faster.

Mahan Tavakoli: That's so well said Rosie, and one final thought, or before I wrap up in that, in addition to all of your brilliant leadership, you're one of the people that always leaves everyone you have a conversation with a little bit better off with a smile on their face. And for me about a half an inch taller after every conversation with you. 

And that is one of those magnificent skills that a leader as successful as you have been, as impactful as you have been, you have the ability to turn the focus back on others and help elevate them, which is part of the reason why you have been so successful, whether in your involvement with organizations like the Greater Washington Board of Trade or leading the United Way National Capital Region.

Rosie Allen-Herring: Wow. You have been very gracious and Mahan. I just appreciate the ability to do what I do every day. I certainly don't know where the future will be, but I hope that it will always entail me having the opportunity to share a little bit of who this little young earliest from Mississippi Delta, to bring what I can to any situation that I'm in. 

And so I hope that I can continue to learn from leaders, such as yourself. I hope that I always have the opportunity to be able to learn from, from others who deeply care, who can teach me a thing or two. Cause I think you are always in the process of growth and I just hope that we continue to thrive as a region and where we can be a best in class model of excellence for others who may be looking to us, not just in a political realm for leadership and the ability to be able to model those behaviors, but for who we are as a region who truly, I believe is a philanthropic. We are just phenomenal and what we have to offer the rest of the world. So that modeling that example, I'm proud to be a part of it.

Hope I can continue to contribute to it and hope we will leave it for the next generation of leaders even better than we found it. 

Mahan Tavakoli: Absolutely Rosie. Thank you very much for sharing a bit of yourself and your background with the partnering leadership community. Thank you very much. Rosie Allen Herring.

Rosie Allen-Herring: Thank you so much. I do appreciate it. Mohan, thank you for this opportunity and to all of your listeners. I look forward to hearing from them as well in terms of what we could or should be doing. So thank you for your leadership and constantly offering the best of who you are to this region as well.

Mahan Tavakoli: Thank you, Rosie. 



Rosie Allen-Herring

President and CEO of United Way

Rosie Allen-Herring is experienced Corporate Executive with a demonstrated history of working in the corporate & non-profit industry. Experienced board leader and member. Skilled in Corporate Finance, Business Development, Governance, Nonprofit Organizations, Fundraising, Management, and Strategic Planning. Strong business development professional with significant education and leadership experience. Graduate of Howard University. Graduate of Harvard Business School and Duke University Leadership Programs.