/ Modified jan 30, 2014 4:23 p.m.

AZ Foundation for Women CEO Pushes Others to Become Leaders

Former Flagstaff Mayor Sara Presler says though leadership roles vary, "You have been called to lead."


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At 34 years old, former Flagstaff Mayor Sara Presler has held top positions in a number of industries, and she wants to use her knowledge to show others they can make a difference with their work.

She recognized — throughout her tenure as an elected official, a public defender, a private-practice attorney, general counsel at an energy company, and CEO of a health organization — she has learned a lot about herself, her leadership style, and how to inspire others.

Presler uses those points in her quest to encourage others to get involved in topics they are passionate about.

"Anybody can put a round peg in a round hole. But talents are transferable," she said. "They’re the things and the experiences and the people and the lessons that we’ve learned. And they’re the way that we apply them to a dynamic and ever-changing environment."

Her talents have been honed in her numerous positions, but in all of them she's been a leader, she said.

“I have been called to lead," she said. "Sometimes I hear it like it’s a regular voice...and I feel it deep in my bones, and I know that whether you admit it or not, that you have heard that call, too.”

Among the things she's learned: the value of listening. That was important when she ran for reelection in Flagstaff, and won a second term in office, she said. It also became relevant when she was general counsel of Southwest Wind Energy.

"I learned the power as general counsel, of listening in a corporate environment to the needs of the business community and the needs of the private property owner as they try to navigate the renewable energy frontier in Arizona and across the country.”

She struggled to keep Flagstaff government running without cutting public safety officials, and even without cutting arts funding, she said.

“As a public defender I learned the importance of advocacy and giving a voice to people like children and the mentally ill, that need someone to speak up for them and to speak the truth in an ethical manner," Presler said.

With that talent, and listening, she said she has been able to forge relationships, another key leadership ability, she said.

"If somebody’s going to give you $10 or owe you a favor, baby take that favor. Right? Skip the $10, take the favor. Favors, relationships, interactions, they matter," she said.

Watch Presler's entire speech at the Tucson YWCA:

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