Leanna Taylor

CEO, The Arizona Pet Project

I’m told I inspire others by fearlessly addressing and working toward the resolution of systemic inequities that impact our community and empathy for all.

Why do you believe honoring achievement is important?

Honoring achievement is important for the inspiration it can provide to others around innovation, thought leadership and creating meaningful change. 

But, just as importantly, it’s critical to honor achievement in all its diverse forms. Not simply for the material gains someone has made or the positions they have obtained. What obstacles have they overcome? What differences have they set in motion? What sacrifices have they made? How did they move through the world when times were hard? And how did they lift others up? 

In business, if we aren’t intentional, we can view achievement with a narrow and myopic lens, missing the incredible contributions made from some of the quietest people or in non-traditional ways. When I think of achievement, I don’t automatically think about my peers in the business world. The people who come to mind first are our clients who have faced some of the most impossible situations a person can imagine, and do it with resilience and grace, and whose main concerns are not for themselves first. 

Communities, of which businesses are a part, are strongest when we recognize achievements in all its varied and beautiful forms. 

What insights have you gained in your career that would inspire others?

When I was coming up in the corporate world, and especially during my decade-plus in sports, there were very few leadership roles available to women. That scarcity mentality created unnecessary and harmful competition in workplaces. 

While opportunities for women have expanded since then (and yet we still have a long way to go to achieve equity), the scarcity mindset in society can be very persistent and damaging. 

For me, it took leaving the corporate world and carving out my own path toward leadership to truly understand how constraining it is thinking there are limited seats at the table. This overdue realization has turned me into an unapologetic champion of all women and girls. 

Practicing freudenfreude, finding joy in others’ successes, is not just freeing, but a sure way to achieve your own joy. Find your female mentors, build your trusted circle, scream from the rafters when other women win, and compliment freely. When you can, give back through mentorship of your own and set off the positive chain reaction in a younger generation. 

Because it’s true what they say: A rising tide indeed lifts all boats.

What can we do — now — to make a difference for young people/women in Arizona?

We need to elect leaders who understand the many challenges women face in trying to balance work with raising children and, increasingly, caring for their aging parents, often all at the same time — leaders who are committed to making investments in paid parental and family leave, subsidized childcare and affordable care for the elderly and infirm. 

COVID shone a spotlight on all the cracks in our system and how women are all too often the ones expected to fill them … for free. It has driven a record number of women out of the workforce as they are forced to choose between work and caring for members of their families. 

For those still in the workforce, the data is clear on the immediate impacts simply lowering costs of childcare would have on the 40% of women who are solo breadwinners in lifting their families out of poverty. 

Investments in women and families are good for business, too, particularly at a time during which there are record lows in unemployment and companies are challenged to fill open positions and compete for talent. 

It’s time to support those who are doing the unpaid but badly needed care work. 

About Me:

After nearly 15 years of working in professional sports, Leanna Taylor entered the nonprofit space as CEO of The Arizona Pet Project in 2013. Over the past nine years, the organization has grown in its mission and impact and is recognized nationally as a thought leader in programs that bridge the gaps between human services and animal welfare. Additionally, Taylor serves on the boards and for several Valley nonprofits, focused on a variety of issues that include criminal justice reform and empowering women, and she volunteers for organizations working on protecting LGBTQ rights and the arts. 

In Few Words

  • What was the last course, certification or training you took to improve yourself professionally? The single best thing I’ve ever done is hire an executive coach. 
  • What would you say is a single characteristic OTHERS might attribute to you that defines your success? Passionate
  • What is the one thing you feel you could work on professionally to be a greater success? Work-life balance
  • What is the one professional skill you have that has gotten you where you are today? Writing
  • What is the single greatest issue facing Arizona today? Water

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