#LeadLikeAWoman with Maribeth Leonard

Chief Executive Officer at LifeWays Community Mental Health

Being a kind leader can go a long way in helping those with adversities gain trust in others and in doing so gain strength to begin their recovery process. No act of kindness or generosity should be underestimated. The kindness you show may be the only kindness they see.

What does leadership mean to you?

That is a broad question, as there are many factors that comprise leadership, but at the heart it is about being someone who people will follow. I believe people will follow those who they trust, who they see as authentic and who they believe is genuine. Another important aspect of leadership is the ability to admit your mistakes and be willing to fail.  Brené Brown, a well-known author on leadership, sums this up in her book “Daring Greatly.” I have attended several national conferences where she spoke on leadership and she states that as a leader you must show up and be seen: ”You need to know you will get your butt kicked, people will be critical, but being courageous and leading with courage is not comfortable and there are no guarantees.” 

I have seen this in my field, that if you remain where you are comfortable, you will eventually not be relevant. A leader must be willing to challenge the status quo, to question: “If this is the way it has always been done, is that good enough?” Failing is an opportunity to learn and to move forward and advance your industry. Finally, leadership is finding opportunities to develop those underneath us. We need to find ways to free up staff from the status quo to be their best self.

Who has influenced your idea of leadership?

There have been two key people that have influenced my idea of leadership. One was Brené Brown and the other was a former CEO of LifeWays: Nancy Miller. She was a leader who met my definition of what I shoot for. She was someone that I trusted, and someone who was authentic and genuine. She also invested in those under her, including myself, to develop us, and to provide opportunities for us to grow beyond what we thought we were capable of becoming.

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

I think that women more than men tend to view their career paths as their life’s purpose. Women tend to see their roles as more than just a paycheck. When they lead with purpose they also lead with passion. They often define their purpose as having an impact on the greater good, whether it is on an individual, community, society or global level. Many of my female colleagues have gone into the mental health field specifically for this reason. They were personally impacted by a loved one with a mental health need in some way and feel a sense of moral responsibility to give back to society -- to make a difference.  Because women are driven by purpose, they also bring to the table a level of determination that drives results.  This sense of purpose drives women to achieve great things for the organizations and businesses in which they work. 

How are you leading in your career/community?

I would like to believe that I lead daring greatly. That I am willing to take chance on something that I believe was the right thing to do, not knowing what the outcome would be. An example of that was the pursuit of a Mental Health Millage. This was completely uncharted water. It was something that had never been done, but I saw it as a viable solution to meet the needs of those without insurance in my community. There were even those who said it would never pass. With much passion, determination and the ability to dare greatly, we were not just successful in passing a millage in one county, but in two.  

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I have a general belief in the good of people, therefore, advice that I frequently dispense is to always assume positive intent. As an individual who has dealt with childhood trauma, I tell others that we never know the extent of the hardships or trials that people with whom we come into contact are facing today, or every day. Those hardships may influence that individual to be curt, mean or abrupt without their realization! I would like people to understand they may see the effect of the difficulties, but not the cause. Be kind to people and assume they are not being rude intentionally, but rather are simply being affected by their circumstances.

Being a kind leader can go a long way in helping those with adversities to gain trust in others and in doing so gain strength to begin the recovery process. No act of kindness or generosity should be underestimated. The kindness you show may be the only kindness they see.

What is the best way for someone to contact you?

Through my Executive Coordinator, Latrelle Burk, at latrelle.burk@lifewayscmh.org or 517-789-1208.

 

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