A Healthy Leader is a Strong Leader! Checking in with Erika Ladouceur (LV '15)
Erika Ladouceur is the winner of the 2016 Leadership Victoria Alumni Award, and a terrific example of how LV alumni contribute to a healthier community in Greater Victoria.
We wanted to learn and share some aspects of her journey through the Community Leadership Development Program. Discover with us how Erika’s leadership development has translated into positive impacts in our community.
Tell us a bit about yourself - what were you doing before you joined the Leadership Victoria program?
I’m extremely passionate about eating healthy, being active, and supporting others in the community. I grew up with severe allergies and asthma, which affected my life on a daily basis, but didn’t stop me from being extremely athletic and active. Competitive sport has been a huge part of life for me and my siblings, and has taught me that my asthma and allergies should not restrict me from following my dreams. I have competed in flat water sprint kayaking and cross-country skiing at regional and provincial levels, and have found a great happiness from coaching youth athletes. I’m deeply involved with VI Paddling, a non-profit paddling association whose mission is to provide coaching, guidance, and support to nurture and develop paddlers at all levels of recreational and competitive paddle sports on Vancouver Island.
When did you learn about Leadership Victoria, and how did you decide to take the Community Leadership Development Program?
I originally found out about Leadership Victoria in 2013. In August that year, I signed up for the program, but realized it would be hard for me to fit everything into my schedule. I decided to honour myself, practice self-care, and apply in 2014 instead. When I started the year, I had a deep awareness of self care as an important skill for a leader, having had a lifetime of experience managing asthma and allergies. My life has also benefited hugely from involvement in sports, and coaching youth has been something I’ve really enjoyed. In signing up for the program, I wanted to learn more leadership skills and build my confidence about reaching out to others in the community.
What does leadership mean to you?
When I started the water programs at VI Paddling, I felt like I needed to be there all the time. Now, I understand that if I find the right people, I can trust them to run the programs. We have a great team of volunteers, and my job as a leader is to ensure there is good communication and we have a shared vision. Now I am there to answer questions and support the volunteers, instead of telling others what to do.
I had a chance to embrace this leadership style and practice it through the Community Action Project at Leadership Victoria. My team was really diverse, and none of us was “in charge” - LV calls it “leaderless leading.” We each had different parts of the project to develop, so we had to trust others would have their part taken care of.
After the Leadership Victoria program I have taken on more responsibility in a director role in my organization. I am overseeing and empowering others to become leaders as well. Through the program, I learned leadership is more community-oriented - it’s about building that community together, and letting each person contribute.
What do you think is important for future leaders in the Leadership Victoria program?
Pay attention to self care. (Editor’s note - thanks to Erika’s feedback, we’re incorporating more self-care learning in the program!)
Don’t be afraid to say no to opportunities and to stay with things you are passionate about
Start the program with a clear idea of what your goals are, and be open about that with your team coach and mentor. Be proactive about getting what you need.
What message do you have for alumni and other friends of Leadership Victoria?
Come out and try paddling! VI Paddling is hosting a free paddling day on April 23, but you can also come down and try it out whenever it fits your schedule. We have programs for adults, youth and families together.
I hope to see more people appreciate and spread awareness around the positive impact of recreational sports in the community. There’s a sport for everyone, and it’s a great way to keep physically and mentally healthy, as well as socially connected.
Make sure the formal leaders - politicians, planners, etc. - know that community access to sports is important to you. Write a letter to your Council or MLA to encourage ongoing and increased access to sports in your area.