As a female founder, attorney and a Winter Olympics participant in snowboarding, half-pipe, I learnt how to be a leader, achieve success and work hard in a male dominated world at an early age. I started snowboarding professionally at the age of 12 and almost everyone in my team were boys. I think that sports helped me to learn discipline and how to thrive in a career as a girl with men actually supporting and encouraging me instead of making me feel like I don’t belong.
I love seeing women succeed and share their stories. I met a remarkable entrepreneur, fashion designer, mother, Lindsey Mallon, and could not help to offer her to share her story about mindful leadership with Thrive Global.
Lindsey Mallon is an RISD graduate whose senior thesis was featured in V Magazine. Her fashion company, Nadjarina, is a luxury clothing line focused on ethical business practice and sustainability. She is also one of the founders and CMO of Splyt Foundation, a decentralized, fair-minded marketplace for brands to sell their products through the use of blockchain technology. Today Lindsey shares her experience in the industry, her responsibilities and strategies as a leader, and how she manages to balance work, fun, and being a mother.
- So people call you the “mother of splyt”. Is that because you’re one of the founders or because of your role in the company?
Yes, one of the founders, albeit later in the mix than Cyrus. “Mother” just felt like the best title that encompasses my persona and responsibility within the brand. But as much as I own my executive title, it doesn’t entirely encompass my role or how I interact with our team.
When I think of my actual parenting style, I teach my daughter right from wrong and the consequences of things. I don’t tell her who to be. I let her discover that. I let her experiment and fail. It’s my job to support her journey, not dictate it. Sometimes it’s a little more work – more conversations around consequences and the emotional impact of things, but it enables her to find her own voice and strengths and passions.
My approach in the workspace is similar. Our onboarding conversations with new team members start with their individual goals in life and career and how that can grow within our team. Our brand thinks progressively in regards to how businesses operate- that ethos runs deeply internally as well.
- What’s your leadership style?
I don’t believe in hierarchy or traditional leadership. We’re only successful as a team. As a whole. Both Cyrus (CEO) and I are more of a servant-leadership type mentality.
One of the best things my dad said to me was, “if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re standing in the wrong room”. I believe that whole heartedly. We are constantly growing, learning, and evolving. I want my individual team members to be better at their skills or roles than me. We need diverse opinions to be a progressive and visionary brand.
I want to work with people who show up because they love what they do, not just because they have to. People motivated by accomplishments and goals, not just fiscal incentives. It really shows in your work when you love what you do, when you are nurtured and have room to grow. Of course, you have to make executive decisions sometimes, but that doesn’t mean you’re the only valid voice in the room.
- Have you worked under overbearing bosses before?
Yes. My background is mostly in fashion/luxury. Times are changing, but I used to joke “fashion is an industry of oversized egos who were never hugged enough as kids”. The Devil Wears Prada really isn’t too far a cry from some of the personas in that industry. I’ve had great bosses and some absolutely horrible bosses.
I’ve seen people send interns out for one-fourth of a sandwich. A CEO who ran his business into the ground because he didn’t know how to collaborate or listen to any idea that wasn’t his own, including the CFO, which led to ultimate demise. Bankruptcy. Another micromanaged so much that he was consistently tackling things our team had already finished a whole day prior.
But through all of those experiences, you learn what not to do.
- Being nice is one thing, but how do you get people in gear at crunch time?
When it’s down to the wire, it’s really about the “all hands on deck, let’s divide and conquer” mentality. I think most people get overwhelmed by the bigger picture, so I’m a big advocate of breaking down the macro goal into micro goals, and focusing on those step by step, instead of getting overwhelmed by the big picture.
Ultimately, I think it comes down to a team of individuals who take ownership for what they do and are willing to go all in when needed. When you’re under the pressure of a big deadline, you really see who is invested and who is not.
I’d like to think I navigate with optimism and vision. You’d probably have to ask the team to verify that though, ha!
- Speaking of crunch time, what do you do to manage heavy workloads? What’s Lindsey like at 100%?
I operate really well under the gun. I’m very calm in chaos, thrive in fast-paced environments, and multitask like a mother****er. I’ve actually been told a few times that I’m oddly calm in the midst of chaos. In fact, I had one person ask me a while back if I understood what was at stake under one deadline because I was, according to him, a little too optimistic and calm considering the time we had to finish a project. Stress is a handicap, though, so there’s no room for that under deadlines.
Something always goes wrong when you’re in the final moments. Anticipating those potential problems and coming ready with solutions or a plan B, that’s typically the best way to take those shots gracefully.
Anyway, I’m a single mom, so I’m multitasking even when I’m not consciously multitasking.
- Tell us a little about self-care after a big work week. How do you unwind in a healthy way?
Balance has always been something I’m good at. That could be the Aquarius in me. It’s rather intuitive to me. I’m not phased by 18-hour work days and will go go go, but I also believe that we work hard to live the life we want.
Fun fact: when I was in college, I had too much work to go out, so I’d bring the party to me… and take tequila shots while hand-sewing on the couch. I find my ways to have fun!
In all seriousness, I really love to cook, and I see it as something that is essential so I find it easy to justify stepping away from work to do it. I try to hit the farmers market every week. Get outdoors as much as possible. Workout after I drop my daughter off at school. Host dinner parties on weekends. I’m also big into meditation. I try to meditate, even if just for a few minutes, in the morning and at night. That is time connecting to my higher self and to ground myself.
I can probably accredit motherhood to the balance I have now. Having a little one, especially during Covid, requires that I slow down and be present, no matter what chaos is spinning around me.
- You have a daughter too? How does she feel about her mom being the boss? Has she met the team?
I do! My mini me! I think she has mixed feelings. On one hand, it’s all she knows. Her reality of a female founder as a mother is just her norm. Which I think is great. Especially because she has expensive taste. I keep telling her she better have the work ethic to match her taste level! Some days, though, she does have less patience when I have long work weeks, especially being home so much through Covid, but she sees the rewards so she’s learning the value of working hard.
I spent a lot of time in my dad’s office growing up, so I can likely credit him for some of my drive. I hope to impart the same on her. I think, as a female, it’s important to see other women leaders, and more importantly, women leading as women, opposed to women trying to fill the shoes of men.
My work takes up a lot of my time, so I try to involve her in it so she has a sense of ownership and pride, instead of resentment, towards where I focus my energy.
She’s very hands on. With Nadjarina, she comes to showrooms and likes to pick out fabrics. She comes to photoshoots. I bring her along sometimes to Splyt team days. She knows everyone I work with and has her own relationships with them.
- What other advice can you give women founders to help them balance work, family, and fun?
I would say my primary advice for women is to not be afraid to be a female and taking ownership of that, opposed to trying to fill the shoes of men, I think a lot of women overcompensate and try to fill the shoes of men. But we don’t need to. It’s ingenuine and people feel that. Kindness, empathy, intuition: those are great traits as a leader, and those are all feminine attributes. That brings balance internally, and likely the rest will fall into place.
In regards to more tangible balance: What do you value most in life and how much time do you need doing those things to feel fulfilled? Work backwards from there. If you make two hours a week for hikes, you’ll find you have the time. If you’re somebody who can’t stop working, don’t guilt yourself for taking a weekend off and relaxing and catching up with friends. We need stimulation outside of work to come back with fresh ideas.
I think we all need to prioritize ourselves a bit more. Old systems have trained us to think otherwise, but we contribute best when we are our fulfilled, whole selves. That doesn’t mean ditch work for a spa day. It means carve out time in your schedule for what you love and need. You have the time. So set micro goals and build up from there until it’s intuitive!