What does it take to be an effective and respected leader? You must be willing to embrace your strengths, account for your weaknesses, believe in yourself and your ideas, be resourceful and be humble. This leadership series showcases women, but the lessons revealed are gender neutral.
They Reinvent Themselves
Sheila Brooks, 56, grew up poor in Kansas City, MO. Her parents instilled in her and her sister a value for education. Brooks admits, “I’m very demanding of myself. I set a high standard of quality and excellence”. After starting out as a news reporter, she became an Emmy Award-winning news producer. She then went on to found a video surveillance company in Maryland, where she won contracts with local police departments and high-level security agencies. In 10 years, her business had 73 employees and annual revenues exceeded $1 million dollars. Then September 11, 2001 happened.
Brooks lost 60% of her business as demand evaporated. Clearly, it was time for a new strategy. In response, she created a board of advisers for her company and drew upon her experience in broadcasting to redirect the business to web casting, media placement and advertising services. “Strategically figuring out where we needed to go took courage and determination. You have to be a risk-taker”, Brooks says.
Today, Brooks is once again contemplating her next move. “My goal is to sell the business in the next seven years. We must always know when to reinvent ourselves. We have to be willing to re-engineer”.
In 2010 Danielle Torain, then 27, was both law student and full-time employee. One week before exams, she was asked to coordinate the citywide response in her hometown of Baltimore to a national grant competition designed to provide educational services to low-income neighborhoods. The timing was lousy, but Torain nevertheless met the challenge and sprang into action by contacting private, not-for-profit, government and philanthropic institutions. “The goal was to bring together organizations that don’t normally interact to share wisdom and resources and plan the course of action”, Torain says.
As a result of her efforts, 49 public and private agencies collaborated on a proposal that was submitted with 58 letters of support from city and Maryland state officials. Ginny Clarke, President and CEO of Talent Optimization Partners of Chicago, applauds Torain and describes her as a leader who has “the ability to empower others, get the best out of them and give them what they need to be successful”.
They Are Servant Leaders
Whether it originates from spirituality or a belief in the social good, there is power in recognizing a purpose greater than oneself. Elizabeth Horsey, 54, is a social worker at a Philadelphia children’s hospital. Being a social worker in a medical setting requires both resiliency and authority. “I have to think of words of encouragement to ease the pain of the children and parents I work with. I’ve learned to advocate in the midst of those who disagree. I am able to point out people’s strength when others see weakness”.
Leadership development expert Katherine Tyler Scott, Managing Principle of Ki ThoughtBridge, the Indianapolis, IN based leadership development company, notes that while technical skill is important, it is not the ultimate characteristic of a good leader. “It takes personal security to be able to stand in that place of conflict, where people differ, and still be able to listen respectfully, question yourself, and still come out whole”, Scott notes. She continues, “Such leaders have done enough inner work to make their outer work effective”.
Thanks for reading. To those in the US, have a happy and safe July 4.