#LeadLikeAWoman with Kelsey Perdue

Kids Count Project Director at the Michigan League for Public Policy

I did Tae Kwon Do when I was younger and will never forget a t-shirt my mom bought at my first competition. I was so proud of it. It said: “when they say you kick like a girl, take it as a compliment.” I continue to carry that pride in womanhood!  

What does leadership mean to you?

The endless books on leadership tell me that it’s something everyone is trying to figure out and get better at. For me, leadership is caring about folks just as much as project goals and key performance indicators. It is removing roadblocks to help others succeed and moving a project to success (and then to the next level) while supporting the growth and development of others. The way I do this can and will evolve, but this is the core of my belief.  

Who has influenced your idea of leadership?

I give credit to my first boss post-college, Sam Dodson, for being an early model of great leadership. He gave me room to grow and make mistakes, openly affirmed my strengths and critiqued my weaknesses in a helpful way. He did this while also ensuring our team was high performing. I bring that dual focus and grace to my work to this day. 

I’m confident, assertive, caring and love a good question.. pretty well agreed upon leadership traits. But I’ve been called aggressive and bossy instead. This made me self conscious, especially in my early and mid 20s. It honestly wasn’t until this past year that I became fully comfortable with my pioneering, high-D high-I leadership style. One thing that helped me was developing relationships with more established leaders with similar traits who own who they are while experiencing success.

Lastly, I believe that leadership comes in all positions and forms. I think the popular narrative for women leaders is of those in the C Suite or on their way. This misses a ton of amazing women leaders. My mother has helped influenced this idea. She has been in the same non-management role for over two decades. And truth be told her current career was not her original plan - she pivoted when she started a family so she could work right away. She is a leader in my eyes and I believe her contributions are just as important and valuable as those in high visibility roles. 

Why do we need more women in leadership roles? What do they add to the table?

Why wouldn’t we? You name it, women have it. Still, women face unique challenges leading in the workplace. To achieve parity with men, we need policy change to better support young women, working moms, women close to retirement and so on. Trainings on bias, while important, will not get us there and I hope we begin to think and invest more systematically. 

How are you leading in your career/community?

In my career so far I’ve held multiple management roles. I like to set big, thoughtful goals and get to work to make it happen. In community, I lead mostly behind the scenes. Well, I like to think so. I don’t post much about what I’m doing but I’m starting to realize that word spreads quickly when you do good work and you’re genuine about it. (Pro-tip to young professionals: take this approach and you’ll gain the connections and opportunities you want and need.) 

I want systems to change and I believe in community so I serve primarily in these areas. For example, I’m on the Grand Rapids Community Relations Commission, in a leadership role for a political action committee and the Grand Rapids Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. I also volunteer with a youth program and at various community events. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I did Tae Kwon Do when I was younger and will never forget a t-shirt my mom bought at my first competition. I was so proud of it. It said: “when they say you kick like a girl, take it as a compliment.” I continue to carry that pride in womanhood!  

What is the best way for someone to contact you?

I believe in mentoring “up, down and across”. If I can help you or if you want to connect, find me on LinkedIn or email me at kperdue@mlpp.org

 

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 akeimach@michamber.com