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Meredith Holt, Published March 20 2013

‘Leading Ladies’ share advice, insight

FARGO – More than 100 businesswomen from a variety of fields gathered Wednesday at the Holiday Inn here over the noon hour for lunch and inspiration.

The Leading Ladies Luncheon featured a panel of five community leaders talking about what helped them succeed, what drives them in their careers, and how others can follow in their footsteps.

Service drives panelist Sister Thomas Welder, University of Mary president emerita.

“It’s not service for service’s sake; it’s service for relationship,” she said.

Attendees and panelists alike were asked to fill out stickers with the woman who most inspires them, and moderator Andrea Larson of Valley News Live asked each panelist to share who they listed and why.

For various reasons, at least a couple chose their mothers.

Former North Dakota first lady Mikey Hoeven, who talked about the important role of faith in her life, said of her mother, “She didn’t have to talk about her faith, she lived it.”

Among Larson’s questions for the group was what makes a woman a great leader.

Tara Holt, founder of the Center for Technology & Business, said a true leader isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in.

“Be a woman of conviction. If you have an opinion, share it,” she said.

Nor is a true leader afraid to raise her hand and take the blame when it’s due.

“I think every leader needs to say, ‘The buck stops here,’ ” she said.

Welder, Hoeven and Lt. Col. Teresa Luthi McDonough discussed what can hold women back from assuming leadership roles.

Welder said stereotypes, fears and worries can be obstacles.

“You don’t have to have a title, status or position to be a leader,” she said, adding that she wants women to start down the path toward leadership by first recognizing it in each other.

McDonough, chief of staff for the North Dakota Air National Guard, said insecurities have the ability to hold women back.

“We are our own worst enemy,” she said.

Hoeven said part of the process is acknowledging that leaders aren’t made overnight – they grow into their roles.

McDonough and Hotel Donaldson owner Karen Stoker talked about what gives them perspective in both their professional and personal lives.

Stoker said considering herself as “practicing” this or that helps keep her grounded.

“The word ‘practice’ is such a forgiving word,” she said.

McDonough, of the 119th Wing, said her 2006 tour of duty in Iraq gave her hers.

“You come back and you realize, ‘Boy, everything else is pretty easy,” she said.

The Leading Ladies Luncheon was sponsored by the North Dakota Department of Commerce and hosted by the Center for Technology & Business in honor of Women’s History Month.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590.