Coaching Alumni Profiles: Laura Buckwald

by Whitney Hopler, Communications Director

Coaching Alumni Profiles: Laura Buckwald

Laura Buckwald had faced numerous challenges in her job at the U.S. Department of State (DOS) when she signed up for a professional education leadership course from the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being (CWB). She had managed a group of people who were assisting the Iraqi government during a time of conflict and chaos in that nation. Although she was working hard, she realized that something was missing. “I realized that I needed more training for leadership on a real life, day-to-day basis, so I needed to find something that could help me with that.”

After participating in the training, Buckwald said, she discovered that switching her focus toward positivity was what she needed to succeed. “Sometimes we spend far too much time and energy looking at people’s weaknesses, when it’s much more effective to focus on their strengths,” she said. “Bringing out the best in people is what really works for leaders to see good results.”

That approach soon led to success overcoming difficult problems, such as creating a team working toward a shared vision. “I had seen that having a vision of where we were going helped us in Iraq tremendously to get the violence down and stay on track with progress toward our goals,” recalled Buckwald.

Buckwald said her experiences learning about leadership at CWB in 2011 inspired her to enter graduate school at Mason to learn how to teach others what helped her. Now Buckwald is studying for a master’s degree in Leadership Resilience and Well-Being, Interdisciplinary Studies. She’s also teaching some leadership training at DOS, where she still works. “I know the CWB leadership principles work,” she said. “I’ve seen them in action in my own workplace, so I know that they work well. In fact, they work better than anything else I’ve ever learned. The CWB course has been the best leadership course I’ve ever taken. It’s been life-changing, honestly.”

Traditional leadership programs miss the most important focus of 21st century leadership – building relationships with people – said Buckwald. It was CWB’s focus on leadership in the context of people’s well-being that empowered her to build strong relationships with her coworkers, she said, adding that the mutual trust between them has been key to their success together.

“CWB is unique in that it prepares you better than traditional leadership courses to lead in the 21st century,” Buckwald said. “It’s all about people, and if we’re going to meet those challenges that are coming at us so quickly, we have to learn how to be resilient, and CWB gives us the practical tools we need to do that.”