You told us you wanted leadership advice from some of the Valley’s top businesswomen, and we listened! Our “Take Me To Your Leader” feature is a regular question and answer session on leadership from a female perspective.
This month, Kelly Kaysonepheth, a senior marketing coordinator for global employee-owned firm HDR, discusses the attributes of great leaders, her volunteer experiences with Junior League of Phoenix, and what it’s like to be a young leader.
1. What does “leadership” mean to you?
Leadership is inspiring people around a mission while encouraging them to reach their own full potential – to push their own personal boundaries to grow as individuals both professionally and personally.
2. Where did your perspective come from? Was there someone or something in your experience that led you to become the type of leader you are today?
I had an awful boss my first year after graduation. She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was a micromanager at best, and led through instilling fear on the team instead of inspiring people to do their best work. She certainly led by example because I learned a lot from her – everything not to do – and that having “power” and “leadership” are two fundamentally different things.
3. How would you describe your leadership style?
My leadership style continues to develop and evolve as I gain more experience. I learn so much from the leaders and mentors around me. I’m definitely a “big picture” thinker. I’m motivated, passionate and determined. I strive to build consensus but also champion change – I’m constantly looking for process improvements instead of going with the grain of “this is how we’ve always done it.”
4. How has your leadership style changed over time?
I used to be a “yes” person because I wanted to do it all or felt like I had something to prove. Now I’m more of a “why” person in that I want to understand and appreciate the reason behind a task and see how it aligns with the larger goals of the organization. Having that sense of purpose and communicating that effectively to rally a team is an important skill to me as a leader.
5. What is your greatest satisfaction in your leadership role?
Outside of HDR, I volunteer with the Junior League, where I credit much of my leadership development training. The greatest satisfaction is seeing the difference you’re making on the organization you’re in and knowing your work matters in the community. It’s doing something bigger than yourself and inspiring others to do the same.
6. What leadership skill do you wish you had developed earlier and why?
I’m generalizing, but, like many women, I am a people pleaser and just want to make everyone happy. I think it’s just in our nature as women. What I’m learning as I move up the leadership ladder is the skill of decisive decision making. There will be tough decisions that just won’t please everyone. Once you make a decision, own it and be okay with it. People may disagree or criticize, but it’s about having the confidence in your decision. It’s a skill I’m constantly working on.
7. What is the biggest mistake leaders (of either gender) make?
Recognizing and valuing the contributions of your team. A simple thank you goes a long way.
8. What advice would you share with other leaders?
Be adaptable and open minded. As a millennial and a woman in a male-dominated industry, I sometimes feel misunderstood. I feel the glare of what I call generational misunderstanding all the time. I bring a different perspective to the table that I know adds value and, sometimes, this challenges the traditional routines of the office. In my opinion, the best leaders champion creativity, are open to new ideas, and willing to mentor. The only way toward a successful organization is having a succession plan. This is especially true because my generation is here, we’re eager, we’re excited, and we’re poised to lead.
9. Do you subscribe to the theory that leaders are born or that they are made? Why or why not?
If we were all satisfied with the status quo, we would have no leaders, so I believe that leaders are made and they evolve. Leaders emerge from the environment around us. They are the innovators and the motivators that push others to inspire positive change in our communities.