Q: You’ve been named one of Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Women Who Mean Business 2019. How can other women leaders win similar accolades for their achievements?
A: I believe that women should seek to align their professional and personal lives with roles that help fulfill their own individual purpose. By being true to ourselves that helps bring out our very best. Our accomplishments often reflect this and are genuine, authentic and deserved. I’ve seen some women share that they feel very uncomfortable shining light on and owning their accomplishments. I encourage women who feel this way to be very proud of what they’ve achieved and also to view it through a different lens. Don’t view it as about you and tooting your own horn. Be comfortable with your contributions and, if it helps, position your achievements as opportunities to highlight the things you care about, and to bring visibility and awareness to organizations and causes that truly mean something to you.
Q: What does leadership mean to you?
A: There are so many great definitions and styles of leadership floating out there. Whether it’s been in my volunteer life or my professional career, through the years I’ve learned that leadership is truly about those you serve with and not about you. Putting the organization you serve and the team you serve with, before yourself. Being authentic and genuine, even if that means being vulnerable. There are many other characteristics and traits that define leadership but I believe this should be at the core.
Q: Please give some details about one of your top accomplishments of the past year that you are most proud of.
A: This past year I successfully transitioned my role within American Red Cross. For seven years I served in a dual role – CEO for the Georgia Region and executive director serving Metropolitan Atlanta. The Georgia Region has some of the highest service delivery in the entire country when you look at our mission delivery — disaster preparedness and response, services to the armed forces, blood services and more. As a single parent with a growing daughter and aging parents, I reached a place in my life where I really wanted to achieve better work/life alignment, harmony, balance — whatever you want to call it. Given that the Red Cross mission is to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies, while the work is incredibly fulfilling, the demands and expectations can be great and taxing. I was fortunate to have leadership support to transition into just half of the role – that of the executive director, where I can still make meaningful contributions and better focus on key responsibilities, such as engaging our wonderful board of directors, developing and supporting community volunteer leaders, and cultivating important external relationships. I hope that this can help serve in some way as an example to other women considering career transitions. Sometimes we need to make the choice that’s best for us at that point in our lives. It’s not always about the title, the position, the salary and climbing the ladder. My role at work is just a part of who I am as a person, but it’s not my identity.
Q: What are you currently reading?
A: I always seem to have 3-4 books that I’m reading at one time. Some, just for fun on my Kindle and then those hard-bound books I like to highlight and keep around long after I’ve finished them. Currently, I’m enjoying two “keepers” — Maria Shriver’s “I’ve Been Thinking…Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life.” It contains prayers, quotes, and reflections to help readers get to what she calls “the open field” – a place of acceptance, purpose, passion, and joy. It’s an easy read and great for anyone at any point in time in your life. I’m also reading “Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills MATTER MORE Than Grades, Trophies or ‘Fat Envelopes’” by Madeline Levine. As the cover says, it really is a great read for raising independent, productive and well-adjusted young people. I’m reading it as part of a parent book club at my daughter’s school, The Mount Vernon School.
Q: How do you motivate and inspire teams to achieve big goals?
A: Whether it’s Red Cross, The Junior League of Atlanta or other organizations I’m committed to, it’s important to understand that everyone has a purpose, even if they’re not aware of it. Helping them to tap into that purpose is important. At Red Cross, we’re very big on communicating and understanding “the why.” It really helps for team members to articulate, understand and appreciate the why, and see how our work resonates with their individual purpose, your organizational or team purpose, and the outcomes you’re striving for. When this all aligns, a motivated and inspired team can accomplish anything they set their sights on.
Q: Where do you find inspiration?
A: My daughter inspires me every day. I was blessed to have her “later” in life. I love to see her experience the world and see the joys and lows of life through her eyes. It’s also a continual reminder that I need to do everything I can to bring good to her world and be an active part of positively contributing to our community. That inspiration helps guide me every day with my Red Cross work, especially when faced with the suffering we observe and experience – be it an individual who lost everything to a home fire, a hurricane that desolates a community, a loved one needing blood to battle cancer or trauma, or a service member needing support following multiple deployments. Whatever your inspiration, I encourage you to funnel it towards helping others and making a difference in our world.