We had the good fortune of connecting with Natalie Samarjian and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Natalie, do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
I disagree with any advice that describes leadership as positional or authoritative. At Coro, we think a lot about leadership, and the leadership traits, approaches and characteristics that are most effective to propelling a thriving and healthy organizations, movements, and systems . What we know for sure is that the most effective styles of leadership are those that are adaptable — the most effective leaders have the flexibility to pivot, change their mind, perspective and course, the commitment to learn and grow, the creativity to think beyond the conventional, and transparency to do so with deep integrity. And, and this is a very important and, adaptive leadership is as effective as the trust that the leader has built with their team, constituency, clients – those who they serve and are served by.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Our journey, my journey, wasn’t easy. As a formerly undocumented immigrant, war survivor, and child of a single mother, there was a lot to overcome. My formula has been authenticity, reflection, grit, and step-planning – i’ll explain… I am interested in people, their full selves and their full stories. Relationships, professional and personal, are paramount to me, and they blend – I don’t carve out boundaries between the professional and personal. I don’t approach relationships transactionally, and often shut down when I sense that someone does. I am interested in the full self – the self that is thriving and struggling, the self that wants to collaborate one a project, and the self that wants to share how challenging parenting during the pandemic has been. I value input and feedback from others, seek it out consistently, and engage in self-reflection. I’m a life-long learner, and have committed to that as a core trait early in my career, so I built systems in my life to allow for life-long learning that is most introspective and input driven. I surround myself with friends and colleagues I trust, I request their investment via input and feedback, I self-reflect, learn and grow, and this is a core and critical part of my growth hygiene. I’m also a step-planner. One of the best piece of advice I got came around college graduation when I was full of angst about what would come next, what I would do in 5-10-15 years. A good friends shared, “just plan the next year or two, and allow the learning from those years to propel your planning for the next year or two.” This simple piece of advice has been transformationally grounding. As a life-long learner, I remain open to the journey and the learning along the way to carve my path. What I want the world to know is that we need to lift up leaders with lived experiences – if we want to tackle immigration, we need to lift up the voices and leadership of those who have experienced immigration, same for homelessness, public health – all of our public challenges. Those who have lived experiences should be invested in, uplifted and centered as we collaborate for solutions. What I want under-represented emerging leaders to know is that you have everything it takes to transform this world. I know you live in a world that advances a narrative and positions resources out of reach for you. I know you have to work double, triple time to get “there”, I also know that you bring leadership that is necessary – you bring the lived experience of being overlooked and underestimated, and with that, you bring the healing and transformational leadership we desperately need.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We would start our days with music (probably Charles Aznavour or another Armenian classic performer) and a big Lebanese breakfast. I’m Lebanese-Armenian, and my culture deeply influences the art and cuisine in my home. Cooking is also my love language, if I cook for you, I love you. We would then venture on a long hikes, taking in the vast beauty Los Angeles holds, from Runyon Canyon to Malibu to the Eastside. I would plan post-hike LA culinary treats, with visits to LA’s rich ethic corners, Little Armenia, Thai Town, Chinatown, Little Ethiopia. Starting with Carousel restaurant in Little Armenia, Hollywood, a classic Lebanese Armenian eatery, for a delicious post-hike spread; Guelaguetza for incredible mole; Zanku Chicken for a quick Lebanese-Armenian classic quick-eat. We would plan afternoon visits to LA’s museums, including the Getty, LACMA and my favorite, Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. Other afternoons would include some craft-making, perhaps a woodworking class or a pottery class. I love making things in new cities. I love to see how the place inspires and influences my art and creativity. We would also of course bring in civic LA – visiting some of LA’s civic institutions, City Hall and quintessential LA architecture, the Bradbury Building, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Higashi Temple. And of course, we would close out with evenings at the LA Opera! Are you interested in visiting for a week? Hope so!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
COMMUNITY. My shoutout is dedicated to the fabric of community in all of its contours. I’m an immigrant to the US from Beirut, Lebanon. My mother and I are war survivors who fled the civil war in Lebanon in 1989, arriving to the US undocumented and under-resourced, but with big dreams of better. My success, our success, is a product of our community – of the family members who supported us, the policymakers who advanced policies that supported our status, the neighbors who invested in my education, the teachers who made me feel seen when I didn’t speak a word of English. The credit goes to all of them. We are never raised in a vacuum. As an undocumented immigrant, the daughter of a very young single mother working to lift us out of poverty, there were moments of awareness that not much was expected of me. Very special people along the way shot down that narrative – they gave me the confidence to reach beyond my circumstances, and the foundation and resources to fly.