Yolanda Dixon Leads Through Collaboration in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
After Yolanda Dixon became chair of a local nonprofit agency, she discovered a budget deficit so large it would have forced the agency to shut its doors if not repaired as soon as possible. Alongside another Junior League-trained member of the board, Dixon used the skills she developed in the Junior League of Baton Rouge to turn the agency around. They set a budget that was monitored weekly, established controls and policies for expenditures, managed the staff day-to-day, and hired a new executive director. The agency still exists today and has even expanded its reach in the Baton Rouge community.
“The skills I learned in the Junior League, such as agenda planning, use of timed agendas, how to read and understand a nonprofit budget, strategic planning, and crisis planning have been used in every facet of my life,” says Dixon.
Over the years, Dixon has held a variety of roles in her League, including President, Community Vice President, Policy Governance Chair, Research & Development Chair, Community Project Chair, and Sustaining Advisor to several boards and executive management committees. She describes her natural leadership style as “goal-oriented” and “straight-line-drive”—a style that doesn’t always work for all team members. Dixon remembers a moment of growth in her civic leadership journey when she adjusted her leadership style to better meet the needs of her team.
Instead of just giving directions and distributing tasks, she sat down with team members on a regular basis to provide guidance for how to achieve the goals they set. She learned to recognize and nourish the different roles and perspectives inherent in a team made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds. As a result of this experience, she believes she is a better leader and more sensitive to the needs of others.
Whether taking the helm in her job as the first woman and first African-American Secretary of the Louisiana Senate or in her volunteer work, Dixon credits The Junior League with helping her become a more collaborative leader. “Whether it is leading through adverse times or just leading diverse personalities toward a common goal, Junior League training laid the foundation for me to be flexible, open-minded, and adaptive toward an end-goal,” she says.