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“Now I have come full circle...mentoring at the Leadership
Institute felt like a natural progression”Sara Moscato Howe

Sara Moscato Howe, MS, CHES
Chief Executive Officer
Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association (IADDA)

Sara Moscato Howe’s work in the substance abuse field has truly come full circle.  Beginning in her sophomore year in High School, she was involved with Operation Snowball (OS), a leadership program managed through the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association (IADDA).  Now, years later, she is serving as Chief Executive Officer of this very same organization!

Sara’s experience with the Leadership Institute mirrors her professional growth as well.  She began her journey as an emerging leader in the Great Lakes ATTC/PFR Leadership Institute and returned later to serve as a mentor.  Her experience in the Institute helped clarify and prioritize the issues surrounding her personal and professional life.  As a mentor, she was able to build on what she had learned before and simultaneously help her own protégé grow.  “Now I have come full circle and mentoring at the Leadership Institute felt like a natural progression,” stated Sara.

How did you choose to be in the addictions field?
While I was involved with Operation Snowball it dawned on me that I enjoyed substance abuse prevention work and wanted to make a career in this field.  Once I decided what I wanted to do, my focus never changed.  With the help of my professors, I was able to concentrate my own degree coursework on addiction.

How did your mentor help you?  My experience with the Leadership Institute couldn’t have happened at a better time.  Through a difficult transitioning period in my career, my mentor helped me to focus, prioritize and sift through everything. He helped me to figure out my path and let me know when I was taking on too much.  He always said, “First things, first.”  I was encouraged to ask myself, “What is important to you?”

What was the most helpful advice you’ve received about your career?  As an emerging leader, I was grappling with the issue many women face of having to choose between family and career.  I learned from my mentor that I can have more than one priority.  I could still be a professional working in the field and have a family.  I also learned that I didn’t need to leave my “own backyard” to be on the right career path.  It’s okay to stay where you are –Leaders are needed right here too.

Do you have any advice for future Leadership Institute participants? First of all, it is an honor to be nominated, and I would highly recommend participating in the Leadership Institute.  It is a unique, unforgettable, wonderful, intense experience.  Be prepared to look inward.  Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and learn a lot.  Self examination is extremely helpful and the benefits far outweigh the necessary work.

What other words of wisdom were helpful to hear when you were participating in the Leadership Institute? 
- Be willing to take calculated risks.
- Get out of your comfort zone to try new things. 
- Do something different. 
- Remind yourself that you were chosen for a reason.  When in doubt, remember that.
- Leaders need to speak up and say the uncomfortable things.

On the flip side, what have you learned about mentoring?  Mentoring requires a different skill set than leadership and takes on a more supportive role.  I am not the one who should take the action.  It is the protégé’s responsibility.  Giving back to a protégé has been very gratifying.

Where to you want to be in five years?  I am very fortunate to have a job I love!   With this said, I would be happy being here to continue my efforts toward elevating the association.  I would also consider doing some work at the state level where I could have a role in making the substance abuse treatment/prevention field even stronger while building on the partnerships we have now.

Ask An Addictions Professional!

  • Have a question about getting started in the addictions field?  
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Contact Sara Moscato Howe or other experts in the field across the country waiting to hear from you!

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