Formula for Success—Follow the Golden Rule
By Krista Rinehart, CSG National Leadership Center Coordinator
Maine Rep. Terry Hayes has never been one to shy away from a challenge.
Quite the opposite: She was propelled into her first position of leadership by a desire to confront inequality and fight for change.
“I remember serving on the student government in seventh grade and petitioning the school administration to allow girls to wear jeans to school,” said Hayes. “Boys were allowed to wear jeans, but girls couldn’t. We successfully advocated for that change.”
This initial foray into local politics and interest in the educational process proved somewhat prophetic of an adult life spent fighting for children. In addition to spending 13 years on her local school board, Hayes has spent the past 27 years advocating for children involved in the judicial system. Years spent working on behalf of children in need has profoundly shaped her life and her leadership style.
“In 1985, my husband and I trained as CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteers,” said Hayes, “and I began serving as an advocate in child protective cases where the state has removed a child from his/her home. We had time to volunteer and we wanted to give back for children in need. I found this role very rewarding.”
As she gained experience, Hayes was appointed as a child advocate in divorce and post-divorce cases. Those cases came with payment by parents. The high number of referrals led, basically, to a full-time job for Hayes because of the heavy caseload.
Finding herself employed full-time as a child advocate wasn’t Hayes’ only career surprise. She had never considered running for the legislature until her state representative asked her to run.
“I was intrigued, investigated the opportunity and decided to run ,” she said. But she lost her first race in 2004. “ That was a humbling experience, but I decided to try again in two years. I don’t like to lose!”
In the end, this refuse-to-lose attitude, first displayed in her initial grade school leadership position, paid off. Hayes is in her third term in the legislature and recently was chosen by her peers to serve as assistant house democratic leader and was awarded a Henry Toll Fellowship in 2009.
While her internal drive and determination led her to office, Hayes credits her softer side and the skills she’s learned as a child advocate with helping her serve effectively.
“Many of the skills that help me be effective as a guardian ad litem help me lead my caucus effectively,” said Hayes. “Listening to all sides, respecting those involved, sharing resources, avoiding surprises and seeking to persuade and not to coerce—these are all keys to success as a guardian and as a legislator.”
Hayes strives to lead by being inclusive and persuasive, not exclusive and coercive.
“My legislative colleagues were each selected in their own right to serve and to vote,” she said. “If I want them to vote in a certain way, the challenge is to make it as easy as possible for them to do that. If I am inclusive, if I listen to them and respond to their needs and interests, if I provide information in a timely manner, then I can bring them along. At the core, I seek to treat them the way I would want to be treated, with respect and with little to no drama.”