Karen Baker – Week 20: 30-in-30 Honoree

In recognition of Disaster Preparedness Month, this week’s 30-in-30 honoree is Karen Baker, Leadership Southern California ’91, leads CaliforniaVolunteers, the State Service Commission charged with administering the nation’s largest state AmeriCorps portfolio. In addition, CaliforniaVolunteers serves as the lead agency for disaster volunteering and donations management, and promotes volunteering and service across California.

We recently caught up with Karen for a quick Q&A, keep reading below!

Who played the most significant role in your development as a leader? Do you have any role models?

Karen Baker:  Maria Shriver and Daniel Zingale both played significant roles in my development as a leader. I worked closely with Daniel when he was Chief of Staff for Maria Shriver during the Schwarzenegger Administration, and he managed me the same way that I like to manage others: with a very long leash, a ton of humor and also with a sort of “beg for forgiveness”  approach rather than an “ask for permission”  methodology. He was willing to take creative risks. And that’s what made him so brilliant. Maria Shriver as a role model was phenomenal. She is such a great a role model because no one is as creative as she is. She demanded the best work from her staff and truly believed in us; that we could produce the high quality of work that she desired.  She believed everything was possible.  So you end up adopting the same approach, and there is so much power in that belief.  She and Daniel were a great team and a powerhouse duo that I had the honor of working with.

What are ways that in which people can become more involved in civic and community work?

KB: First, decide why you really want to you get involved. Is it a passion of yours that you want to address? Do you want to work alongside friends, neighbors or colleagues to address an issue facing your community? Do you care about an elected leader’s message and want to be involved?  Then what do you do? You simply affiliate. Find organizations that align with your passion or purpose. Then get on their mailing list or go meet with their staff to get familiar with them and understand what you can contribute. Same is true for elected officials, school organizations, sports, etc. But be honest with yourself about what you want to put into it. Then you literally “shop” around. It’s okay to gradually find a cause to align with. The biggest problem that people have is that they start out by leaping into an organization and making a long term commitment, instead of saying “Why don’t I attend one meeting and get back to you on if this is a fit?” Think of it as sort of speed dating rather than marriage. Then you can get back to the head of the organization with a decision.