Empathic, open, driven

February 13, 2013 · by Alvarez Porter Group · Filed Under Choices, Lives of Leaders · Leave a Comment

Helene on phone square

Helene O’Brien

b. 1963, New York, NY.

She’s been organizing for justice since her first rebellion in kindergarten, but the President of the Louisiana local of SEIU makes time to dance and read to her son.


1. What three words describe your leadership style?

     Empathic, open, driven

 2. What are you best at?

     Understanding power and how it works.

 3. What is the most important thing you do?

      Being a mother.

 4. What do you know to be true about leadership?

      It must be authentic and accountable.

 5. What is your earliest memory of injustice?

      Kindergarten — they didn’t tell us the nurses were coming into class to give us immunizations — so I organized a rebellion.

 6. What traits do you possess that are typical for your family?

      Working-class intellectuals with left wing politics.

 7. What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I’m still at it after almost 24 years.

8. What are you afraid of?

Losing hope.

 9. What is the last thing that made you really angry?

When I felt I was being used and unappreciated.

 10. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would be in better control of my emotions.

 11. What do you do for fun?

Read books (especially with my son), exercise, and dance.

 12. What is the best advice you ever got?

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

 13. What failure or success taught you the most?

My failure in a national leadership role in another organization taught me that being connected to my self and my own values and thoughts is essential.

 14. How would you like to be remembered?

As a strong, passionate, and lifelong fighter for what I believed was just. I hope my work can make even a small contribution to the ongoing struggle for economic justice in the U.S.




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