Building the Leaders of Tomorrow
Engage Magazine Winter 2023

Building the Leaders of Tomorrow

Interview with Karina Barragan, EMERGE Coach and Director of Resident Services Programs, TELACU

Karina Barragan is the Director of Resident Services Programs at TELACU as well as an EMERGE Coach for LeadingAge California. We sat down to chat about her experience with EMERGE and what is needed for the leaders of tomorrow.

Karina BarraganWhat made you want to be a coach for EMERGE?
I’ve always had interest in educating. So, I saw this as a forum to educate the new generation, the up-and-coming leaders that will be out in the workforce. It’s an opportunity to pass the baton and share whatever wisdom I’ve learned with them. Hopefully that will help shape who they become. EMERGE gave me so much that I felt this was an opportunity to give back to them. I feel privileged to be selected. 

How has being part of the program impacted the type of leader you’ve become?
Going into EMERGE you really don’t know what you’re getting yourself into! I always say as far as the concept of leadership, you can read a book or read tips on how to be a better leader. But through EMERGE what you learn is the process of recognizing your own skills set, your own strengths, and utilizing them to work with people in the industry. EMERGE is about learning who you are, and using the strengths you have, and also recognizing areas of opportunity to build the skillset you need to be a leader.

Are there any stories you can share that illustrate the growth you’ve seen in some of the participants?
There was an EMERGE fellow who was very timid. She stayed quiet unless you asked her questions. But through the process I saw her blossom – sharing her thoughts, her perspective, and even sharing what she’s doing at work – setting policies and procedures that not only help her but also help her team. She’s kind of like a spokesperson for her team at work because she speaks English and Spanish. So, it’s really nice to see how she’s embracing some of these leadership principles we’ve been teaching them, and to see her coming out of her shell and voicing her opinions. 

Outside of programs like EMERGE, what can someone do if they’re interested in finding a mentor in the industry but they don’t know anyone?
Finding the right mentor is really important. It’s a commitment. It’s time you’re dedicating to another person. And vice versa. It’s time you want to spend with someone who maybe has some leadership qualities that you really admire. I would look at who you have in your immediate circle. And then if you find someone that’s of interest start developing that relationship with that person and see if they would be interested in becoming a mentor. You need to make sure that person does have that availability and is willing to mentor. Look for individuals at conferences or other networking opportunities and use those opportunities to strike up a conversation with individuals who you admire. See if they’ll be willing to make the connection. 

What advice would you give someone just starting out who’s eager to rise through the ranks?
See if there are opportunities within your organization to learn a new skill set, or even create a position that doesn’t exist. But don’t be so eager to just move up. Learn as much as possible, talk to team members within your organization. Never be afraid to ask questions. See if some of the leadership is willing to spend time with you. Ask them for 30 minutes so you can ask them more about what they do and what they do for the company and see if that’s something of interest. If so, begin to ask the question, what could I do to move in this direction? Sometimes we pigeonhole ourselves to a specific area, but if we start asking questions, we might learn that we could be interested or have the potential to expand our career path. 

With all the changes in the industry the last few years, what do you think are key qualities needed for tomorrow’s leaders?
Knowing when to speak and when to listen. It’s important to learn to listen to your staff. Listen to what’s happening not only within your company but out in the world, so you can accommodate and change with the times. 

If things are changing that are really going to impact your workforce and you want to retain them, you really need to figure out how can your line of work adapt.

Also, to be empathetic and really spend time with your staff. They need to know that you’re accessible and not just business-like. I think that’s one thing I’ve seen with the future generation is they crave that one-on-one time. They want to get to know you and for you to know them, so they feel like they’re part of a bigger picture.

Learn more about EMERGE: