“Never burn a bridge with someone because you never know when you’ll have to walk back over it.”
What does leadership mean to you?
To me, leadership is guiding and influencing a team of individuals to achieve a common goal or mission. A leader helps to build strengths in their team members, supports and encourages diverse thoughts and ideas, redirects the group when necessary, takes accountability, celebrates the victories, and surrounds themselves with individuals who are experts in their field.
Who has influenced your idea of leadership?
Being the youngest of four children, my siblings definitely played a role when I was young. I always wanted to do what they were doing, even though I was too young or and coordinated enough. It planted my competitive nature, which I still have today. My parents also influenced my leadership with their support and encouragement.
I was always involved in sports growing up, and I enjoyed the competition it provided, along with a few amazing coaches who not only had us practice all of our skills to improve, but leveraged the skills we exceled at. I feel a good leader always does this with their team. My desire to compete, and win, always drove me into a leadership role with the teams I played on, really trying to encourage and push teammates to the next level.
I took that passion to lead that I had gained from my family and sports into the professional world with me. Over the years many have influenced my idea of leadership, from what to do and what not to do. Thankfully, I have also had some great coaches in my career. Some of the best career advice I have had came from one of my mentors early in my career. “Never burn a bridge with someone because you never know when you’ll have to walk back over it.” At the time of this advice, I was a very young professional that didn’t think much of it, but always remembered it. As I progressed in my career and began to run into the same people over and over, learning they could open doors to potential donors or other needs, that advice became crystal clear, and I always stick to it. I began to be intentional about building stronger and new bridges (networks), which has helped me excel in my current role. That piece of advice is one I continue to pass on to those I have the opportunity to influence now.
Why do we need more women in leadership roles? What do they add to the table?
We need more women in leadership because the diversity of thought, compassion and expertise that we bring to the table is invaluable. It is time to break through the stereotypes of a “woman’s place” that are still imposed on females from a young age. I believe we do break that stereotype by starting to change that image. The more women we have in leadership, the more platforms we have to share with the next generation of girls that they truly can be anything they want to be. We can get them excited about careers, degrees, skilled trades they may have never considered, all by sharing our successes and showing the diversity of opportunities out there. Ultimately, having more women in leadership roles can elicit positive results for the teams we lead, and breakdown stereotypes for a whole generation that is dreaming about what they want to do when they grow up.
As far as what we bring to the table, it is different for all us, and that makes women being at the table so important. We all have a different skillset, that based on what our role is and what task we are trying to achieve, we can help guide individuals to successful outcomes.
How are you leading in your career/community?
When asked the typical interview question, “what type of leader are you?,” my answer is always “I lead by example.” I am a firm believer that I can’t ask someone to do something, I am not willing to do myself. A good leader jumps in when needed and works alongside their team. Over the years, I have learned how to do that while still being able to delegate and leverage other team members’ expertise.
I am proud to lead the American Red Cross of Mid-Michigan and bring awareness to the community about its vital mission. I do this by being present, being accessible and being engaged.
To be present, I mean, I (or a member of my team) am at as many events and activities, as possible to connect with other individuals, organizations, and our community. One, this helps me connect potential volunteers, donors and partners to the organization, and two, it allows me to provide support to other vital programs and activities in the community. I feel a true leader provides benefits for others, in addition to championing their own cause. Additionally, when I am at work or meeting with someone, I try to avoid distractions, focus on what needs to be achieved at that meeting, or the tasks that need to be done that day.
Accessibility allows staff, community members, corporate and organizational leaders, volunteers, and students the ability to easily schedule time with me to discuss what is on their mind. When I’m in the office, and not on a strict deadline, my office door is always open. You can learn a lot about someone’s talents and strengths by listening, and I feel a true leader helps to build and leverage those strengths to meet goals.
Finally, to be engaged, your presence and accessibility leads to full engagement in the mission. Additionally, I can only be engaged when I am truly passionate about the task or mission at hand. That’s how I lead, I work for organizations that give back to their communities, so I can be engaged and committed to the mission. This drives me to achieve my goals and influence others to strive to achieve theirs. I also surround myself with others who are that engaged and committed because they’ll always help you get it done.
These three drivers have kept me focused and allowed for some great successes over the years. They have allowed me to raise significant funds for nonprofit organizations, build amazing boards that impact their communities, and receive recognition from the Lansing Chamber of Commerce as a 10 over the next 10 award recipient. These drivers also encourage me to give back to my community; in my spare time, along with my 140 pound, Newfoundland Dog, Boga, we are a therapy dog team visiting various locations around town to share Boga’s chill personality with those who could use the pick me up.
What is the best way for someone to contact you?
Kelly.firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-702-3345
Michigan ATHENA is a program dedicated to developing, supporting, and honoring women leaders throughout Michigan. This program is part of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce Foundation initiatives. To find out more about this program please visit us at www.michamber.com/ATHENA
If you have any questions or would like to nominate someone to be featured in our #LeadLikeAWoman series please email me at email@example.com