Mark Nessia

Three years ago, I received a magnet from Olivia Garcia.

She was stepping away from her post as editor of Bakersfield Life Magazine, thrusting me into a role that, frankly, I wasn’t ready for. The magnet she handed to me was something her mentor Mary Lou had given her years ago.

Its message was simple, yet powerful: Leadership is the ability to hide your panic from others.

It seems rather silly on the surface but those words were crucial in my development – not only as a working professional but as a human being.

Olivia was one of many individuals I’ve had the honor of calling my mentor.

She was my professor at CSUB and gave me my first real break as an aspiring journalist. It was the opportunity to contribute to Bakersfield Life Magazine that sparked a love for the place that would become my permanent home. I got to peek behind the curtain and see a side of the community that’s not always visible and share it with others through the stories I wrote and the photographs I took.

Olivia would later take what I considered a huge risk – hiring me as assistant managing editor. She, along with Art Director Glenn Hammett, saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself, as I thought I was severely underqualified for the position. I joined the BLife family on Jan. 5, 2015, with a chip on my shoulder. Not only did I want to live up to their expectations, I needed to prove to myself that I belonged.

So when Olivia announced that she would be leaving, I naturally panicked. I wasn’t prepared to step into her shoes.

But that’s life.

We’re never truly ready for what’s next. We learn and grow as we go.

That’s when the magnet’s message became crystal clear. This wasn’t just about me. There’s an entire crew aboard a ship that’s sailing toward uncharted waters and it needed a captain – it needed a leader.

And if that leader lets his fear show, the crew, too, shall become fearful. If that leader questions himself, the crew will second-guess him as well. But if those in leadership roles stand tall and confident, then those around them will rally and feed off that energy. Even if the ship is sinking, a leader will reassure others that everything will be OK as they hand them a life vest and guide them to the lifeboats.

Leaders stand firm so those whose knees shake can lean on them and steady themselves. Leaders lift others up when the weight of the world drags them down. Leaders aren’t respected because of position or title but through action and example.

I know this because I’ve witnessed it firsthand.

Leaders don’t invite others to follow, but encourage them to be leaders themselves.

And so the magnet will be passed on once more.

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