I set out with the intent in this interview to gain more insight into what makes Danielle Phillips-Edmonds tick as a leader. Well, Danielle did more than just supply me some insight, she stepped into the questions I sent her fully, just as she has with Give Back Jax and the amazing positive things she continues to do for the city of Jacksonville. 

For any of us to become better leaders we must also learn from other leaders so I sought out a handful of leaders I personally know of and respect. I met Danielle at a local networking event sponsored by The 904 Collaborative and I instantly was drawn to her vision. There was more than just this need to contribute, but a genuine caring character fueled by action.

Take a second and see how you align with this leader in the bold city.

Do you consider yourself a leader? Why or why not?

I consider myself more of a connector and collaborator than a leader. I have had a tendency to fall into leadership roles throughout my life because I care about making change, so I get to work instead of waiting around for it to happen.

What do you consider a leader?

I consider a leader to be someone who inspires others to work toward a common goal and helps to guide them along on way.

What is your biggest goal for your business / organization?

The biggest goal I have for Give Back Jax is to make a positive impact on Jacksonville, this city I grew up in and (as an adult) grew to love so much.  I want GBJ to be a great resource for the nonprofit community, as well as an authentic network of individuals bound together by a passion for giving back. I hope people gain joy and purpose from the group; and I hope the people and charities we help think of us as tireless crusaders for good. 

How do you measure your own success?

My own success is measured by moments of gratitude from those we aim to help and smiles from our members. It’s much more about quality than quantity for me. I know a meetup is a success when I connect with at least one person who gets energized to give back more. I feel successful when positivity and hope is sparked because of this organization. 

Why did you start your business / organization?

I started Give Back Jax to fill a void I was feeling in my life, as well as in the community. What I personally was missing was an outlet to give back in a variety of ways, and to connect with people irl who value giving for the sake of helping others. I’m not religious, so religious organizations were out (even though some of them do incredible things); and I saw that there were other groups out there with a charitable component, but they turned out to be more focused on business networking and professional development. I have volunteered and interned with several nonprofits, and I saw the hard work the people who run them put in day in and day out- often thanklessly and anonymously. I knew there needed to be a dependable resource to go to to help pick up some of the slack so they could focus on their important work. I thought that if I was feeling that way, maybe others were, too. So I made an account on Meetup.com and began by group! (Luckily, others felt the same way 🙂 )

What’s been your biggest hurdle?

My biggest hurdle in life is making sure I’m prioritizing self-care when so much of my free time is devoted to helping others and making new connections. I know a lot of people struggle with this. I don’t like saying “no” or turning down anyone I could help. But I know it is imperative that I find a good balance of putting myself first as much as I want to make everyone else happy. Otherwise I would burn out and not be able to sustain my efforts in the long run! I LOVE connecting with people, but as an “extroverted introvert,” I need time to recharge on my own.

What values are most important to you as a leader?

The values that are most important to me as a leader are authenticity, open-mindedness, and optimism. 

What does character mean to you?

Character is being equally as kind to the janitor as the CEO. 

If you could go back to your 10 year old self, what one bit of advice would you give yourself?

I’d tell my 10-year-old self to keep drawing, stop comparing myself to others, and trust my instincts. Oh, and never get cornrows again- you look ridiculous. 

Sometimes our path in life comes from the hurdles we face after we have just jumped in. We end up finding out more about ourselves from supporting the ideals and missions of other people. This reminds us that we have to start somewhere. It gives us the opportunity to learn and grow. Furthermore, this allows us to learn what we truly value and also see what matters the most for ourselves and others. 

Danielle is the quintessential definition of a leader by seeing beyond the vail of how it is traditionally done and seeing how it could be done better. She stepped up and made her own organization that is built on character. As much as she might not consider herself a leader, her humbleness of denouncing the leadership moniker earns her the true title of being a leader. It’s often the master who never considers themselves a master, because they are doing it for the right reasons. 

If your values, beliefs and ambition align with Danielle and the amazing work she is doing I encourage you to get involved with her and her team at Give Back Jax. Follow GBJ and get involved here https://www.facebook.com/givebackjax/

Maybe this is your chance to give back and find your own mission in life. I’m JusSayin