Leaders often struggle with where to focus their efforts and how to give each area of their life the appropriate amount of energy and attention. Recently, I sat down with Brenda Ramirez, an attorney and leader in the community and the legal profession to discuss how she manages all the roles leadership requires. Brenda was born and raised in Polk County and four generations of her family have ties to Polk County. She is a proud product of Polk County Public Schools and received her law degree, Cum Laude, from Florida State University College of Law in 2010.
After law school, Brenda worked as a Prosecutor in the 10th Judicial Circuit which encompasses Polk, Hardee, and Highlands County. During her time at the State Attorney’s Office, Brenda successfully prosecuted thousands of cases ranging from criminal traffic cases to capital cases in the Crimes Against Children Division. Brenda currently practices law at the Kaylor Law Group. Her practice is dedicated to representing both the accused and victims in criminal courts. She also represents individuals in injunction matters and risk protection proceedings and is a hearing officer for the Polk County School Board.
Describe a key milestone in your career.
I was hired by former State Attorney Jerry Hill and began my career as the Prosecutor in the 10th circuit. Within a year or so, I was entrusted with the role of Prosecutor in the Crimes Against Children Division. This division handles only crimes where a child is a victim. This work was fulfilling because it taught me a new level of litigation and helped me develop deep empathy for these children who had been through trauma and were now facing the complexity of the court process. These clients were not just looking for clarity on the legal process but had a need to know how I was fighting for them and that I was truly in their corner.
That experience made me see the importance of serving not only as a lawyer but truly as a counselor in the law for my clients. It was a huge honor to be entrusted with those kinds of cases, and it was a privilege to serve as an advocate for children in need.
Name a key decision that has proven pivotal to your success in both work and life.
I have many roles in my life. Personally, I am a parent, wife, daughter, and community volunteer. Professionally, I am a lawyer, a board member, and I volunteer in the legal community. You can imagine that there are a million things I could be thinking about or giving my attention to at any given time. When I became a parent, I decided to be completely present in the current moment and give 100% of my attention to what I am doing right now. This intentionality has allowed me to move from role to role and be successful in each role because I am giving each part of my life the focus it deserves when it is needed. If it’s bedtime and I’m with my daughters reading a book, that’s where I am. If I’m out on a date with my husband, that’s where I am. If I’m in the courtroom in a four-hour hearing or a three-day trial, that’s where I am. This commitment has been so fruitful because it’s given me a tool to manage all the areas of my life and provided me with a different level of fulfillment.
What compelled you to make that commitment to yourself, to be fully present in whatever you’re doing?
Before making this commitment, I was plagued by a sense of not being able to do everything. Divided attention means that you’re not accomplishing anything at 100%, and it makes you feel like you’re not thriving and ultimately might fail at various aspects of your life. Making that commitment to myself was a gift to my family, work, and community. Everyone in my life knows that when I’m present, that’s what I’m doing – which has erased those feelings of being overwhelmed and like I wasn’t performing at my full capacity.
What is the most important lesson about leadership you’ve learned through experience?
I look at leadership as a privilege and a responsibility gifted to us by the people we’re leading. Authenticity is a vital leadership trait, and I believe in the power of being authentic to those around you. A key component of my leadership style that reflects my character is that I do what I say I’m going to do. This sounds simple, but you would be surprised how often leaders say one thing and do something else. Authenticity builds excitement and trust in the people you’re leading because they know they can count on you and take you at your word. Authenticity arises when leaders view leadership both as a privilege and a tremendous responsibility.
How do you relax and recharge?
I’m grateful for this question because everyone must recognize the need for and the power of relaxing and recharging. I make it a habit to calendar time for myself, and I try to do something small for myself monthly or something bigger yearly. My favorite way to recharge is to take family vacations. When I can be somewhere with my family, traveling, exploring, and trying new foods, I can let go of the stress of my work and immerse myself in the joy my family brings me. As a working mom, I also find it essential to do things independently. Whether it’s an hour-long solo walk on the beach while on a family vacation or just taking a hike at a park in town, time to step out of all the roles I fulfill and just be myself is critical. Challenging both sides of my brain is another way I relax. Sometimes I play piano or visit a museum. Experiencing and appreciating the arts helps me explore the part of me that is not the Type A, highly organized, and detail-oriented person my profession requires.
What sense of purpose guides you in your work and life?
My sense of purpose is born out of my faith. My faith has inspired and grounded me since I was a child, and I hope to pass that on to my girls. I believe that any gifts and talents are gifts from God, and therefore, I must use those gifts to serve others. The need to serve drives my sense of purpose and guides me on my life’s journey.
Interested in strengthening your ability to lead with confidence and excellence? Consider enrolling in one of Emily’s professional development programs for women leaders.
Emily Rogers, Founder & CEO of Emily Rogers Consulting + Coaching and a 2021 Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Businesswoman of the Year Finalist, is an executive coach, business consultant, and retreat facilitator. She strategically advises and supports individuals and organizations in growing and realizing their full potential in purposeful and balanced ways.