I spent a lot of time in grad school reading and analyzing business cases. Many touched on strategy, culture and of course leadership. Yet, it wasn’t until I graduated, that I learned the most poignant lesson about leadership from Emergency Room Physician, Dr. Louis Francescutti who announced to a healthcare workshop crowd: “the role of a leader is to make more leaders.” But how? How could one sole leader create more leaders? What characteristics would they need to help new leaders flourish? I started collecting these necessary qualities in leaders I have come across in my everyday life and here is what I found.
We have all heard the phrase, ‘think outside of the box’. Yet, I think of being creative as also being able to identify issues and come with potential solutions. No matter how unrealistic they are. Being able to create an environment that supports the psychological safety of individuals to share, is a skill.
Sur la Table’s national chef, Joel Gamoran and host of the fyi/A+E TV show SCRAPS knows a thing or two about creativity. I sat down for breakfast with Joel and I listened intently as he spoke passionately about the intention behind SCRAPS. Food scraps is a huge waste among the food and beverage industry that contributes to global warming in the long run with huge amounts of waste in landfills in the short term. Sadly, even with all of these food scraps around, there are a sizable number of Americans who are consistently unsure where they will find their next meal. Travelling across the country, Joel collaborates with Chefs/other food waste champs and creates a creative menu from food scraps.
Joel simply put, is joyful. His face lit up as he talked about his beloved 1963 VW van turned mobile kitchen Pippi and his Pacific Northwest roots where his love for food runs deep. Someone that exudes that much enthusiasm for their craft can’t help but serve not only as a great teacher but also a great leader. I left the heart-warming interview, believing that even with my limited knowledge around the kitchen, I too could make something out of carrot tops and invest in a bench scraper like a pro.
Being a proactive leader, one must understand the current culture to their advantage to move forward. Someone who is proactive understands the stakes (because they have been in the trenches themselves) and helps others raise the bar so that everyone wins.
Michelle Kantor co-founded Cinefemme as a fine arts graduate student at San Francisco State University and has served as Executive Director since 2007. Working for HBO, fyi and OWN to name a few, Michelle has empowered women to greenlight their own projects. Through Cinefemme, over 40 sponorees to date and have raised over $110,000 for their projects in 2017 through qualifying tax-deductible donations, government grants, crowd-funding campaigns, and charitable trusts. The work of these Cinefemmes appears on Netflix and PBS, earning them Emmy Awards nominations and numerous notable accolades.
Michelle has built comradiere across the nation, as three chapters of the Cinefemme Directors Collective exist in the US: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.Cinefemme offers production companies and studios a vetted database of talented and resourceful women who are ready to work from directors to writers. As someone who was once in front of the camera, not behind – I did not understand all of the synergistic work that is needed to make a project happen. Michelle understands both sides of the coin and uses her experience to connect and inspire others to work together.
People come in different shapes and sizes coupled with different talents and skills. Great leaders acknowledge the importance of strength in diversity and welcome inclusion both in the workforce and beyond.
Several companies have excelled on the basis of celebrating our differences and bringing inclusivity into the main stream. Whether it is 40 shades of foundation from Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty line or Christian Louboutins seven shades of nude flats or the perfect fitting bra, now with 70 sizes (and half sizes) thanks to ThirdLove the brainchild of Heidi Zak.
After leaving her postion as Senior Marketing Manager for Google, Heidi put her MIT MBA to work and started ThirdLove with the mission of building a better bra, with the help of ThirdLove’s innovative online FitFinder™. Heidi has taken diversity and inclusivity to another level as she oversees an executive team that is 64% female. Recognizing the importance of giving back,she is an active angel investor in early stage female-founded companies and has donated over $4 million worth of bras to women in need since the inception of ThirdLove. In my last piece, entitled Who Runs the World? Girls.I explore a pay-it-forward approach with women helping other girls. Heidi brings another layer of inclusion to the table, by not only helping other females – but making sure all women – shapes, sizes and economic statuses are included.
These three trailblazers illustrate the qualities that have helped them grow their own tribe of budding leaders all the while, making a difference in their community. When thinking back to the business cases I have read, these qualities may not share the same clout as others like the concrete characteristics of decisiveness or delegation. They may be seen as “too soft”. Yet, if what Dr. Francescutti proclaims rings true, it is these characteristics of creativity, being proactive and inclusive that will help create more leaders. Successful leaders that are able to inspire others and see significant results by leading not only with their head, but also with their heart.