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7 Questions on Leadership with Kate Wexell

Name: Kate Wexell

Title: Founder and Executive Director

Organisation: The Compass Online 501(c)(3)

Kate Wexell is an environmentalist working in outreach and education. Originally from St. Louis and currently living in San Francisco, she studies public policy and is the founder and executive director of The Compass Online 501(c)(3). ​

Passionate about combatting environmental issues and fostering global awareness, she is on the United States Local Conference of Youth 2023 delegate in anticipation of COP-28 in Dubai, served as a Theme Partner in the G20 India Changemaker20 Summit, and received a United States Department of State Green Leaders fellowship with the embassy in Namibia.

In addition, she has worked in communications and outreach positions through FXB International, the American Conservation Coalition, Renew Missouri, Playing at Learning, 10 Billion Strong, and the Mississippi River Basin Ag and Water Desk. Her writing, artwork, and photography have been featured in numerous publications and museum installations, including Penguin Random House, the Mississippi River, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis Holocaust Museum, and Missouri State University. Her poetry is featured in three anthologies.

Her ultimate aspiration is to leverage these skills to make a significant impact in the realm of public policy, paving the way toward a greener world. By harnessing her passion, experience, and expertise, Kate is driven to play a pivotal role in shaping sustainable policies that prioritize environmental preservation.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Kate's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

So far, the largest challenge has been logistically determining how to accomplish the goals I have. Being so young and starting an organization when I was 16, I was unable to sign legal documents and enter into formal agreements. There is the pressure to lie by omission about my age, especially when organizing volunteers and reaching out to speakers for my organization.

However, my advice to any young changemaker is to never sell yourself short. If you have a goal or problem you want to solve, never tell yourself that you are too young, too inexperienced, or that you haven't followed a societal timeline that deems you to be "enough" to work on your goals. Just try to do what you are passionate about, and you will learn and grow along the way.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

When I was five, I put on my vest and held up three fingers to recite the Scout Law as a brand-new Daisy Girl Scout. At that point, I vowed to "make the world a better place." Through being raised in an environment of service, I learned to be a leader by teaching younger girls about skills such as robotics, conservation, and outdoor skills. This has led to me wanting to utilize my skillset to organize others in social innovation to further humanity and protect the environment.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

Morning: I start my days by making a pot of coffee and eating breakfast (usually oatmeal) while answering emails and accomplishing brief tasks for my non-profit.

Late Morning: I typically spend my time before lunch taking a shower, cleaning up my living space, and exercising by taking a walk or a long bike ride while listening to a podcast or talking to friends and family members who live back in the Midwest.

Afternoon: This time is spent usually in meetings, accomplishing marketing tasks and strategic planning, and sitting in a workspace to make sure everything is done that needs to be completed.

Evening: This time is reserved for networking events, outings with friends, time to meal prep for the week, exploring San Francisco, and attending festivals. Most nights I will spend time with others. This is important to recharge my creative batteries.

Late Evenings: I will either end my days by working on personal projects, such as art, poetry, and photography, or I will read a book to fall asleep.

Weekends: While it doesn't always pan out this way, I try to spend my weekends away from a computer screen and working mainly on shopping for groceries for the week, spending time with friends, and exploring the surrounding area.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

Having recently moved to San Francisco, something I've remembered is to not forget where you came from. Although I am meeting new people, finding new resources, and being engulfed in a vastly different culture than what I experienced in the Midwest, my upbringing is still valuable in my interactions with others. Being able to talk about my life in the Midwest and the work ethic for the sake of benefitting your community that is preached to us in the Midwest has been hugely important when collaborating with people in the Bay Area and remembering my values.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

When I was a freshman in high school, I started my deep dive into poetry by reading a collection of Emily Dickinson's poems. There was one poem that stood out to me:

"If I can stop one heart from breaking,

I shall not live in vain;

If I can ease one life the aching,

Or cool one pain,

Or help one fainting robin

Unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain."

When I read this, it brought me back to what I consider to be my purpose in life: helping other people

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

I would say that young leaders should always have confidence in their passions and ability to complete their goals so long as they are willing to seek out the expertise necessary to assist them and put in the work necessary to complete their tasks.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

I would say that I have many stories just from listening to the people involved in my organization. If you try to listen to the people who work for you and treat them like fellow humans, you can learn so much about other cultures, perspectives, and ways of interacting with others. Many of my volunteers for my non-profit are from Africa, and especially listening to their perspectives on global issues helps to reorient my Americanized way of thinking to consider how much progress is being made in the world.

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