Jacob Kniep Ep 168 Unconditional Leadership

Unconditional Leadership

With Featured Guest

Jacob Kniep


Blog divider

Jacob Kniep Ep 168 Unconditional Leadership

Unconditional Leadership

With Featured Guest

Jacob Kniep


Blog divider

Top Takeaways From This Episode

  • Everyone has the power to make a positive impact. 
  • Big, beautiful, amazing things can come from the seed of an idea.
  • You will be stronger if you view your obstacles as opportunities.
  • Just a little bit of intentional compassion can change your life.  
  • We can speak our truths and support others without being harmful and hateful back.
  • We have to be intentionally compassionate to ourselves before we can to others. 
  • There are different ways to lead, and different types of leaders in every situation.

Call to Serve

Jacob Kniep loves to connect with people. As a former hairstylist, Jacob’s favorite part of their job was getting to know the people in his chair. Once, while working at a private salon in rural Illinois, they got to talking with a teenage client. The client came out to them as nonbinary and told them a bit about their dating life. They begged Jacob not to tell their mother, but as a gay person themself, the kid’s pleas weren’t necessary—Jacob gets the closet. Instead, Jacob wanted to make sure that the kid knew about contraception and STI prevention. When it became clear that they weren’t practicing safe sex, Jacob knew they had to do something. They decided to start a LGBTQ youth program right in that rural town in Illinois.

Nobody thought it would work. Jacob’s town is ultra-conservative, and the thought that someone could forge a safe space for LGBTQ youth within that bubble sounded impossible. Nevertheless, Jacob had a vision. As a young gay kid in Arizona, their mom connected them to an organization called one•n•ten. One of the services one•n•ten offers is a local, weekly support group for LGBTQ youth. Jacob knew they wanted to offer the same service in Wheaton, as well as other community-building programs that help youth in the area feel connected and empowered. With this goal in mind, Jacob started OUTspoken Leaders in 2019. 

Fruits of the Labor

OUTspoken Leaders helps children and their support systems feel comfortable and confident in LGBTQ spaces. Jacob’s favorite success story is that of a young trans boy named Eric and his conservative mother. Eric’s mom used to call him by the name she gave him at birth (his “deadname”) and use “she” pronouns when referring to him (an act called misgendering). In the time Jacob’s worked with them, Eric and his mom have blossomed. Eric’s become more confident, and his mom hasn’t deadnamed or misgendered him in over a year. It’s important to Jacob that those who are ill-informed or afraid of the LGBTQ community have a safe, patient space to grow into thoughtful, socially-conscious beings. Jacob calls this practice “intentional compassion.” 

COVID Troubles

When the pandemic hit and meeting in-person became an impossibility, Jacob took the OUTspoken Leaders community online. They continued to provide weekly meetings on Zoom and offered a place for the kids to chat on Discord. OUTspoken Leaders continued to grow in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd prompted Jacob to develop solidarity relationships with other LGBTQ organizations and businesses. 

Founder’s Syndrome

It’s important to Jacob that OUTspoken Leaders doesn’t fall victim to Founder’s Syndrome. This means that they don’t want to hold disproportionate power and influence in the organization. “It’s not the Jacob Show,” they joke. Jacob’s more interested in offering leadership roles within the organization for the kids to grow into. Their dream is to offer someone a living wage to give back to their community. Right now, though, their big project is starting the first Pride event in Wheaton. It’s a “hybrid pride” where you can come in person or virtually through an app called Welcome Home, available for free on iOS and Google. 

The work feels brave, vulnerable, and terrifying. Jacob likes to celebrate by spending time with the community he built.

Connect with Jacob

Jacob Kniep (they/them) is a former hairstylist and current Executive Director for OUTspoken Leaders, the first LGBTQ non-profit in Wheaton, Illinois. Check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Giving is Good

Jacob supports one•n•ten in Arizona. This organization strives to help the LGBTQ youth of Arizona feel accepted, engaged, and empowered in their communities. They were there for Jacob when he was growing up, and they were there for him when he started OUTspoken Leaders. You can follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Find out ways to further support them here

They also support the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). You may know them from their logo: a yellow equal sign on a navy blue background. They’ve been around for over forty years, and their mission is to ensure that LGBTQ citizens are treated equally under the law. Find out how to get involved here. Be sure to follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

"I want other people to experience the love that I had growing up, especially if they're not getting it anywhere else."

- Jacob Kniep

Meet your Host, <em style="color:teal">Heather Vickery<em>

Meet your Host, Heather Vickery

Heather Vickery is an award-winning business owner and global leader with over 20 years as an entrepreneur. She leverages her entrepreneurial skills and expertise to coach individuals towards greater personal and professional fulfillment by helping them leverage their fear into intentional bravery. Heather says “When we choose bravely, on purpose, we choose bigger, have bigger successes and it’s contagious” A celebrated public speaker, Heather inspires audiences and empowers attendees with the tools they need to live bold and successful lives through creating balance, time management, mindfulness, as well as countless systems, strategies, and boundaries. She’s the author of Gratitude Journal: Shift Your Focus and Grow Grateful: A Gratitude Journal for Kids and Families. Heather is also the host and executive producer of The Brave Files Podcast.

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