While building communities and support systems, sometimes you have to take risks. That was the underlying theme U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn recently shared with women leaders in the credit union industry in Oklahoma.
Only the third woman elected to Congress from Oklahoma, the 5th district congresswoman showed a priceless photo on her cell phone that serves as a constant reminder of the need to take risks. It is her screensaver, and it is a photo of Horn as a little girl, wearing a lifejacket and swimsuit, jumping off a cliff.
Horn challenged the audience of nearly 100 female leaders that if they care about something, they need to speak up for it and be willing to take some risks.
“I realized I had to take my own advice,” Horn said. “It may not be popular or easy, but when you are sitting at the table, you as women leaders have a different perspective. It’s important to understand what it is to be a voice in the room. That’s why representation matters.”
That’s why Horn decided to run for office.
When she started campaigning, she was often questioned about her decision. It would have been easy to fall into the belief that she couldn’t win. But it would have been more heartbreaking for Horn, if she stopped before she even started running.
Horn reminded leaders that we need help from friends and family, stating that life is all about us coming together. And that service is so important, whether through church or a service group, through family, or places where we work such as credit unions.
She added, “We don’t get anywhere on our own. No matter how independent we are or how much tenacity we have. We need to adopt the model of we can be stronger together, whether that is building communities or support systems.”
Horn spoke about the heroes in her life, particularly her mom and grandma who exhibited different forms of strength. Her grandmother always opened up her home to others, saying there was always room at the house.
Horn’s mom was a physical therapist and in helping a gentleman with his rehab, the patient recalled the last name, asking if she was related to the Horns with the neighborhood grocery store. She was, and the man shared, “If it weren’t for your family, we would have starved during the depression.”
The point of Horn’s hero stories is we don’t get anywhere on our own. Her mom and grandma helped others, and the servant heart continues on in Horn.
Horn’s advice to women leaders in the credit union industry are:
- Own your strengths and don’t be ashamed of those strengths;
- Know value of your voice, know your strengths, and just show up;
- Challenge policies and ideas;
- Don’t be afraid to network;
- Give yourself a chance to rest;
- Be honest with struggles you are facing;
- Always try to do a little bit better; and
- Give yourself permission to fall and refuel.
Horn shared one of her favorite quotes from Cheryl Strayed, author of New York Times bestselling memoir Wild, “We don’t reach the mountaintop from the mountaintop. We start at the bottom and climb up. Blood is involved.”
And when we reach the mountaintop, Horn reminded women leaders from around Oklahoma, keep helping people and take smart risks, referring to the life jacket in her cherished photo.
“Change the dialogue and treat people better,” Horn said. “With your head, heart, and hands, you can make something happen.”