Board member blog post: Build leadership skills with JAWS board

By Angela Greiling Keane, JAWS Board Member

I joined an amazing group of women one recent weekend in Washington to hear from the talented Jill Geisler about honing leadership skills. It was the second in what I hope will be a longer series of JAWS leadership trainings for which Jill has generously given her time.

One thing that struck me about the participants was that most of them, like myself, weren’t freshly minted college graduates. Most were seasoned, midcareer professionals looking to up our game and our careers through newsroom leadership. Jill’s message was one of empowerment, showing us not just how to be journalism leaders but also how to frame the experience many of us already have to show our aptitude for management or for leading from positions we’re already in.

I won’t spoil all the surprises of the training, but I will tell you that despite spending seven hours of a sunny Saturday indoors, I left wanting more. I will also tell you something else I thought about while soaking in all I’d heard from the day — I thought how JAWS board service is both a fantastic way to build leadership skills as well as a way to demonstrate a track record of leadership.

Jill talked about how lack of budgeting experience is something women often cite as a reason for not seeking a management position. Fortunately, while serving on the JAWS board, like many nonprofit boards, members not only have an opportunity to read and parse budgets, but they are responsible for making and approving the organization’s budget each year.

We also heard about how leadership involves conflict resolution. While the JAWS board is highly collegial, not everyone is in 100 percent agreement 100 percent of the time. Debate is an important part of setting an organization’s strategy, and that’s one of JAWS board members’ responsibilities.

Leaders also move groups toward action, using different motivational skills depending on the people and the situation. The JAWS board sets goals and works to accomplish them, both through the work of board members and through enlisting other JAWS members.

So, here’s where you come in: The JAWS board needs fresh blood each year, and it’s that time of year where the nominating committee is gearing up to look for our next set of leaders. It could be you. As the chairwoman of the board nominating committee, I am interested in hearing from you if you think you have skills and readiness to work to bring to the JAWS board.

Women have a tendency to wait to be asked to fill an opening, and don’t worry, I am happy to make that ask of good people. But we are also looking for people ready and willing to raise their hands and put themselves forward. If you’re that person, you can find me at to tell me why you’d make a great JAWS board member.

You know you want it. Just raise your hand.