Janet Walkow Christine Jacobs

When Did You Know?


I was having lunch with a colleague, communications expert and good friend of many years, Jill, sipping seltzer water and savoring my Mexican food when she popped the question, “When did you know that you were a leader?”

I sat silent, trying to go through my memory register to recall the moment I realized that I was a leader.

I’m rarely at a loss for words, but her question stumped me. So, I turned the question back on her. I was impressed when Jill recounted a story, when at age 5, she was playing with friends and wanted to do something different from what they had suggested. Her mother gave her the following advice: listen to them; then, convince them that what you want to do will be more fun. What a wise mom. Jill used this approach with her friends and it worked. It was at that moment she knew she was a leader.

My Story

While I can’t pinpoint a particular story, it occurred to me that I grew up in an environment where I always felt a good sense of self, confident in my abilities and clear in my personal goals. My father nurtured, supported and empowered me from an early age. My mother was a working mom and career woman, which wasn’t common among peer families in the 1960s. I secretly wished she didn’t work so she could come on school field trips. I didn’t realized at the time that she was setting such an important example.

According to my parents, I was always decisive, full of personality and a networking champion. Several of their friends went out of their way to spend time with me, even without my parents. According to Mom, they enjoyed my ability to interact with people of all ages and how I was self-directed and confident.

Home for a Leader

It didn’t occur to me as I was growing up, that my home environment instilled me with the personal values and expectations to be my own person and a leader. Today, I realize how fortunate I am to have been steeped in the lessons of self-leadership from an early age. I’ve honed my skills as a leader and enjoy connecting people and ideas.

When did you realize that you were a leader or wanted to be a leader? Share your stories. Inspire others. Inspire yourself.

Janet Walkow is the Executive Director and Chief Technology Officer of the Drug Dynamics Institute at The University of Texas and a co-founder of Leading Women. Read her full bio.

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