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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Debbie Powers has been a volunteer with Junior Achievement for 20 years.
IN The Lead/ Debbie A. Powers

Knowledge aids leader

Continuing to give back to community, mentoring also important

Debbie A. Powers, 55, is a staffing supervisor at Kelly Services, a staffing agency.

Community and leadership involvement: Junior Achievement volunteer, teaching middle and high school students. Former board member, adviser and group facilitator for Erin's House for Grieving Children, and currently a member of the organization’s annual fundraiser committee for its Common Bond Breakfast. Helps with Caring About People Inc., a social service agency that provides classes on topics such as parenting and behavior. Member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Alumnae Chapter. Active with Women in NAACP and It’s Well With My Soul, a program affiliate of the African/African American Historical Society. Beginning a three-year term on the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir board of directors.

Most recent accomplishment: Selected as one of the 101 Connectors, a project spearheaded in 2011 by Leadership Fort Wayne to better understand northeast Indiana individuals who can influence change. Recipient in 2011 of the JA Golden Achievement Award for Excellence in Economic Education. Completed second four-year term this summer as president of the local Delta Sigma Theta chapter.

What makes a leader: Knowledge, truthfulness, honesty, enthusiasm and the ability to work with others. Powers said a leader also is able to recognize leadership traits in others and when serving as a group facilitator can delegate work and stick with initiatives until they are accomplished. “It shows you don’t give up,” she said.

Leadership traits you most value: Being an advocate to help encourage others, convincing them to “excel beyond the point where they’re already at.” Also the ability to work with groups that are struggling and keeping people on track, particularly when you have to engage various personalities.

Best leadership book you’ve read: “Living with purpose” by Dorothy Height, a civil rights activist who was a member of Delta Sigma Theta. The book is a guide to listening, learning and leading.

Best ways to overcome self doubt: Meditating and sometimes prayer. Powers said she also takes time to reflect on previous personal accomplishments and yet recognize that sometimes mistakes will be made.

Time management tips: Staying organized and planning; avoiding procrastination and paying attention to deadlines. “There’s all types of tools out there to help you do that,” Powers said.

Role model(s) and why: Powers names several, including her mother, Elizabeth Essex, and an aunt, Mattie Shade, both of whom live in Fort Wayne. Others include Audrey Sharpe, a retired East Allen County Schools principal who now lives in Ellenwood, Ga.; the late Rev. James W. Bledsoe, who pastored Saint John Missionary Baptist Church; and Ian Rolland, the retired CEO of Lincoln Financial Corp. The common thread with all these role models was support and encouragement. “They pretty much said whatever I wanted to do to be successful I could do that,” Power said. They also noticed she has an ability to motivate others.

Describe one leadership challenge and how you resolved it: “In JA, the challenge with teenagers is you need to get them to listen. You want to get them to participate, so you have to find a way to meet them at their level,” Powers said. “I found in JA if I present myself as having been in her situation before, I allow them to get to know me … If you share with them about you and open up to them, you will gain respect.” Powers, according to JA, has been volunteering in classrooms for more than 20 years.

What are your goals: Powers said her goal involves continuing to help others identify and reach their goals. She also wants to help serve the “poor and disenfranchised” while continuing to be a role model for youth. Powers said she is balancing her community service and mentoring with caring for her parents, including dad Ernest Essex Sr., as they continue to age.

Hobbies: Event planning, including parties and weddings, cooking and baking – particularly new recipes. Also enjoys mentoring and helping others with weight loss.

Family: Married to Samuel S. Powers; together they have six children and six grandchildren.

Compiled by Lisa Green, The Journal Gazette, In the Lead is a monthly profile of Fort Wayne area residents in various leadership roles.