Q: As a former Women of Achievement honoree, you’ve been recognized for outstanding leadership. Different times seem to call for different strengths, so what do you feel are the most important leadership qualities for the times we are in now?
2018 Woman of Achievement
Chief Executive Officer
Arizona Foundation for Women
Given today’s climate on multiple issues (e.g., global health, political and DEI), leaders must be resilient; visionary times 10; and willing to accept, embrace and implement strategic change. Unexpected pandemics change the landscape of our lives and workplace. Most critically impacted is our spiritual, mental and physical well-being. The latter can make or break an organization even if one is compromised, creating barriers for an effective leader. Leaders must remain resilient and find ways to cope.
Our actions are magnified during adversities and all eyes focus on how we react. Those counting on us tend to feed off our energy and mimic our actions. Our responsibility is to realize that accepting, embracing and implementing change is vital to success. Remaining static and expecting the same or improved results is often not feasible and doesn’t necessarily equate to success. Those who adapt, survive. Those who remain stagnant, fail or become non-existent.
As leaders, we’re natural visionaries. During times of chaos, one must be a visionary times 10 and be proactive in expectations for future survival.
Mesha Davis is the CEO of the Arizona Women’s Foundation (AFW), where she fights for the safety, health and economic empowerment of women in Arizona. She is the recent immediate past chair and served as vice-chair, finance and governance chair of Arizona Grantmakers Board of Directors. Davis is a member on Alliance for Arizona Nonprofits Board of Directors, finance committee and policy council. She is also a member of EPWNG and Charter 100 AZ.
2017 Woman of Achievement
Senior Vice President of Commercial Banking
Alliance Bank of Arizona
It’s an interesting time to be a business leader. As companies face a growing paradigm shift that calls for us to not only adapt how we do business but how we lead and how we serve, it becomes increasingly critical to ensure those who are paving the way forward have the qualities to persevere in changing times.
The past few years has taught us that flexibility and nimbleness are more important than ever as we respond to the many twists, turns and unknowns ahead. Who would have thought a few years ago that we would be implementing and adapting to operational changes like work-from-home and flex schedules, and doing so successfully?
Additionally, as companies navigate through staffing challenges, it has become crucial for leaders to bring compassion and empathy to the workplace, specifically making sure that teams aren’t overloaded, overwhelmed or overworked, and helping shoulder the workload.
In the same vein, exhibiting gratitude as a leader and mentor is a fundamental quality, especially in today’s workplace when it seems everyone is doing more with less. Acknowledging how hard everyone is working and appreciating those who have stayed the course is critical to building trust, loyalty and camaraderie, which become priceless commodities as business tides shift.
Kate Hickman is senior vice president of commercial banking for Alliance Bank of Arizona. With nearly two decades at Western Alliance Bank and multiple honors from the business community, Hickman works with nonprofit, political and business clients throughout Arizona. She also serves as a board member for Education Forward Arizona, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Greater Phoenix Chamber.
2020 Woman of Achievement
One Creative View, LLC
Today’s leaders need curiosity, calm and resiliency to lead in a powerful way. Curiosity is the skill that allows you to lean deeper into discomfort, which is where you can identify exactly what the right problem or challenge to solve is. If you don’t dig deep enough into uncomfortable territory, you are likely very good at solving the wrong problem, fast. What your direct reports come to you with is most often not the core issue. Asking more (and sometimes tougher) questions while remaining calm, creates a space where people feel heard and acknowledged. Creating accountability becomes an easy next stage in the conversation. Clear, kind and accountable.
Resiliency is also key — the leader’s ability to manage it for themselves and their team. Uncertainty and lack of control are the primary creators of stress in the workplace. Those words define work for many of us today in all levels of all organizations. Resilient people do not bounce back from hard experiences. Instead, they find brave and healthy ways to integrate them so they can adapt and engage again.
Eileen Rogers is a leadership coach and advisor. She is a recognized Arizona community leader and accomplished entrepreneur who is passionate about supporting and growing more daring and courageous leaders. Rogers leads yearlong Women’s Leadership Development Forums and facilitates Dr. Brené Brown’s courage-building course, Dare to Lead™, as part of this mission.
2019 Woman of Achievement
Snell & Wilmer
Regardless of the industry, organization or point in time, the characteristics that most successful leaders embody tend to remain the same. Here are just a few:
Planning: Today’s leaders face significant challenges. Constantly shifting circumstances affect their organizations and their employees. Quick decision-making requires preparation for a broad range of possibilities. As a result, planning skills are vital. Scenario-based planning anticipates needs for multiple situations. Dynamic planning builds responsiveness into processes, providing opportunities to revise strategies and reallocate resources based on real-time events.
Relational Connections: Relationships are everything. Employees desire social and interpersonal connections with colleagues and managers. In employee-employer relationships, employees tend to prioritize the relational, wanting to be valued for who they are, while employers often prioritize the transactional, valuing individuals for what they do. To help bridge this gap, leaders should emphasize the relational by making time to connect, expressing personal vulnerability, respecting all opinions and promoting self-care.
Adaptability/Flexibility: We have to continually contend with new technologies, rising automation, the rapidly evolving pace of work and numerous business disruptions. Effective leaders must possess the mental resilience to thrive in times of constant change. Adaptability — the ability to adjust to new conditions — is key to developing flexibility. Adaptable people are open-minded, curious and willing to learn new things because they focus on opportunities rather than obstacles.
Bahar Schippel is a partner with the Phoenix, Arizona-based law firm Snell & Wilmer. Bahar specializes in tax planning for joint ventures and real estate transactions, including 1031 exchanges, drafting LLC and partnership agreements, structuring tax-efficient debt workouts, designing service provider equity compensation for LLCs and partnerships, and representing taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service and Arizona Department of Revenue.