Liz Gardner, Impact Denver (ID) Spring 2018 alum and customer community relations for Xcel Energy, was named the 2019 Outstanding Impact Denver Alumni this month. Gardner is an authentic leader who is passionate about her community, her work and her family. She truly exemplifies Colorado’s Civic DNA and rolling up her sleeves to strengthen our community.

Get to know Gardner and how she’s continuing to engage in our community.

What does it mean to you to receive the Outstanding Impact Denver Alumni Award?

Knowing the caliber of the alumni from Impact Denver, I was honestly blown away! I don’t consider anything I have accomplished to be anymore outstanding than the next person, but I have been fortunate to be mentored by great individuals; to work at exceptional companies and nonprofits; and to have been raised by parents that taught me the value of hard work and giving back.

What did you find to be the most impactful opportunity from participating in Impact Denver?

The relationships built during and following the class are something I truly cherish. Whether or not you see your fellow classmates often or periodically once Impact Denver has concluded, the opportunity to share six months with individuals who are engaged in helping to make Denver great made each of the opportunities truly remarkable.

How did Impact Denver impact your engagement in the community?

Prior to Impact Denver, I was and continue to be engaged with Girls Inc. of Metro Denver. Impact Denver reinforced my passion and desire to be an engaged and committed volunteer. I think people can sometimes become overwhelmed trying to figure out how they can contribute to the community but the best advice I can give is just make that first call to a nonprofit that aligns with your passion – the longer you put it off, the harder it becomes.

Since completing Impact Denver, I served as a coach to the Impact Denver fall 2018 class and joined the board of directors of B:CIVIC, a partner of the Leadership Foundation. The opportunity to be involved in such wonderful community organizations is something I see as personal blessing and a gift.

What leadership lesson from Impact Denver do you still carry with you today?

One quote that has stuck with me from my True North group (a small group that discusses how to discover your leadership style as part of Impact Denver) is “the reality is that no one can be authentic by trying to be like someone else. There is no doubt you can learn from their experiences, but there is no way you can be successful trying to be like them. People trust you when you are genuine and authentic, not an imitation.”

Being my true, authentic self as a leader and embracing who I am have always been important to me but was reinforced in Impact Denver.

Share with us your leadership journey. How did you get to where you are today?

I think the interesting thing about my leadership journey is that I have gotten to a point in my career where I truly do believe that you can be a leader from wherever you stand. Leadership is not about a title or the number of employees you have reporting to you. It is about how you inspire others around and above you, how you show-up, how you contribute outside of your career and how you live your authentic self.

And, as a mom to one and soon-to-be two boys, I have a new perspective on how I am not only working to be a leader in my career and the community, but one in which my kids will ultimately aspire to emulate. That has been one of the greatest motivators of all.

Tell us what you consider to be the most valuable lesson to pass on to other leaders?

My grandma lived by the mantra it is always better to give than receive, because then you have less thank you notes to write. When I give of myself – whether professionally, at home, philanthropically or elsewhere – I always get back 10X in return. It is easy to make excuses because we are all “too something,” but when we say yes to one request or opportunity, it often opens endless possibilities.

What Colorado’s Civic DNA value do you try to live daily in your civic leadership?

Responsibility – I strongly believe that we all have the skills and abilities but just need to make the time to be a part of this community and leave it better off than when we got here.

What’s your favorite thing about being an alum of the Leadership Foundation?

The PEOPLE! Being a part of such an incredible alumni network is such an honor and a privilege.