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How 11 Women Leaders Have Empowered Our Team

How 11 Women Leaders Have Empowered Our Team

There's a saying that you can't be what you can't see. Having worked for three amazing woman bosses during my 20-plus-year career, I've had a front-row seat to the strength, intelligence, and persistence of women leaders.

International Women's Day is a day that reminds us how essential it is to empower those around us. So the Influence & Co. team wanted to highlight why this is important to us and share stories of the women who continue to empower us in both our careers and our lives.

Diana Kander

Submitted by Kelsey Raymond, CEO

I met Diana when I was a couple years out of college and in the crazy startup mode of Influence & Co. At our first coffee meeting, she was so generous with her time and knowledge, and she was open to share the mistakes she'd made early in her career. She also helped me look ahead by sharing what she had learned from running multiple businesses and how she vetted what she wanted to do next.

She asked me a ton of questions that pushed me in an incredible way. She made me feel confident in my abilities and what I was bringing to the table in my business partnership. I credit some of those initial conversations with giving me the confidence to buy out my business partners in 2018 to become the majority owner of Influence & Co. for the first time.

Diana has since moved, so we don't catch up in person as often, but she's still impacting my career more than she probably realizes. She has an incredible podcast called "Professional AF," where she interviews different authors and has conversations around challenges she and other women face in their careers. I'm so happy she started this podcast because I know Diana can have the same positive impact on the careers of so many people that she has had on mine.

Empowerment Means:

Diana asked the hard questions in a way that helped me build confidence instead of discouraging me on my entrepreneurial path. She was open about her mistakes and pointed out how those lessons might help me avoid the same pitfalls.

Susanne Bylund

Submitted by Becky Ruyle, Vice President of Marketing

I was introduced to Susanne when Influence & Co. was one of the companies in her portfolio as the president and COO of Permanent Equity, and she became one of my most valuable mentors. We quickly learned that we both had a common interest in the St. Louis Blues, and she and my husband share a common interest in hard rock bands. I always look forward to meetings with Susanne because I know I am going to be challenged to think deeper, no matter what topic we're discussing.

As a manager, and really in any role, it's easy to focus on putting out immediate fires without understanding what's really causing them. Susanne was the person I could bring into any issue I was facing, and she would help me dissect it to determine the root cause before jumping into solutions. This is a skill I have honed because of her, and it is one of the most valuable skills I possess. I no longer waste time trying to solve problems that are tangential — I've learned to really home in on the actual problem. This has made me a more efficient manager because, while not all the solutions we come up with will work the first time, we at least know we're focused on the right issue.

Empowerment Means:

With Susanne, the obvious answer was never good enough. She empowered me to go deeper to uncover the core problem I was trying to solve. She never let me make assumptions about what the problem was and asked the difficult questions until we were both sure we knew the real issue.

Mary Wilkerson

Submitted by Carrie Watkins, Director of Special Projects

When I first joined her team, I didn't think Mary liked me. Even though she hired me. Even though she was kind, encouraging, and provided the resources I needed to do my job. There was still a professional line, and I assumed it was something about me that kept her at arm's length. It wasn't until I got a promotion overseeing marketing in a different department that I realized Mary understood that a boss is a completely different relationship than a friend. As a manager, her job was to help me grow by giving me projects that expanded my skill set, putting me in situations that gave me important experiences but might have been a little uncomfortable, and providing constructive feedback at every step.

Once she was no longer my direct support, though, I really got to see what a mentor should be. Mary listened and talked me through difficult projects, job offers, job changes, and world-altering personal obstacles. She showed me the type of leader I want to be for those around me. And now I absolutely consider Mary a good friend.

Empowerment Means:

Mary always believed that everyone she hired should have the potential to take her job if they wanted. She hired smart people and give them the educational opportunities to continue growing. And when they got offers to continue their growth elsewhere, she encouraged them to fly.

Sarah Bell

Submitted by Sarah Czirr, Account Strategist

During college, I worked under Sarah for two years at Literacy KC, a nonprofit in the Kansas City, Missouri, area that focuses on empowering adults by advancing their literacy skills. Not only was Sarah driven, passionate, and focused on teaching adults basic skills such as reading and writing, but she also inspired me to continue to absorb, learn, and seek knowledge in the world around me. She challenged me to take more initiative and develop innovative solutions, and she showed me how to lead a team effectively for the first time. As I planned my transition out of college, she took the time to talk me through my options, give me valuable resources to read, and share her own experience for me to learn from.

Empowerment Means:

Sarah always challenged people to learn in any situation, conversation, or opportunity they found themselves in.

Jennifer Rodriguez

Submitted by Lauren Tellman, Director of Content

After joining the Influence & Co. team, I had the pleasure of working with Jenn for a few years. She was my direct support for most of that time, and I learned so much from her. She is an expert at her craft, but that doesn't stop her from constantly learning, growing, and refining. And even though she had a lot of authority in any room she walked into during her time at Influence & Co., she always made people feel valued, intelligent, cared for, and heard. Jenn can make anyone smile at any time, always with a joke in her back pocket. I'll always be grateful for her kindness, confidence, skill, mentorship, and wit — and her constant quest to impact everyone around her in a positive way and leave each place better than she found it.

Empowerment Means:

Jenn always looked for ways to challenge me and equip me with the skills I would need to take on more responsibility. She didn't hold tight to authority and instead looked for ways to empower those around her to make an impact and constantly grow. Instead of leading from the front and asking people to follow, she worked right alongside us, keeping us laughing along the way.

Anisa Purbasari Horton

Submitted by Meagan Nolte, Senior Publication Strategist

Anisa is one of my favorite voices in the conversation around productivity. As co-host of Fast Company's "Secrets of the Most Productive People" podcast, she's always looking for the best hacks to get her listeners through life. While I've tried out my fair share of her secrets, what's most encouraging about her is her ability to step back from what she's passionate about and looking at it through a critical lens. It's easy to critique what you don't like, but a lot of people have a hard time admitting that their latest obsession isn't perfect or that the thing they're striving for might not actually be good for someone else. Her insight has helped me examine my own struggles with the productivity and self-help narrative and look for better uses of the energy I was putting toward it.

Empowerment Means:

In a world where everything and everyone is telling you to always do more, having a voice that asks, "Why?" and pushes for a more honest, nuanced conversation is only going to inspire change.

Leigh Morgan

Submitted by Katie Doherty, Managing Editor

Leigh is an inspiring thought leader, a warm and effervescent human, and a feisty advocate for justice. She demonstrates by example that with grit, audacity, and hard work, and with a finger firmly on your own pulse, you can keep following your passions to exciting new heights.

Empowerment Means:

Women aren't excluded from boardrooms because they're lesser or unqualified; they are excluded simply because it's the way the world has always been. Leigh proves that women don't have to accept this or feel limited by it; instead, they should believe in their own unique contributions.

Penny Holm

Submitted by Erin Holm, Director of Talent Acquisition

I've been fortunate to have a strong, warm, caring, and hilarious woman for a mom. She is the force behind our family, the North Star that we all follow. She's the first one you want to talk to when something is happening, good or bad. She provides the best advice but is never condescending and doesn't press her own opinions.

She recently retired after nearly 30 years as a teacher and assistant principal. I always found her humble stories of how she helped students enlightening and empowering. She has been a champion of the misfits, the strugglers, the students that just didn't have anyone else to turn to. But what's empowering is that she never treated them as such. She treats everyone with kindness, equity, and fairness, something many of her students weren't experiencing with others. I've tried to implement this in my own life and career. It's taught me to listen and not to judge. As a hiring professional, it's pushed me to ask questions and see people for more than what's on their résumé. I've been taught to treat all people in a way that makes them feel like their story is important — because it is.

Empowerment Means:

No matter what, Penny is always kind and inclusive. Being a strong and powerful woman doesn't always mean saying or doing the exact right thing. Sometimes, it's as simple as allowing others to be heard and providing empathy.

Jen Wilkin

Submitted by Brittni Kinney Ratliff, Vice President

Jen Wilkin is a Christian teacher, author, and speaker who leads in a field that's male-dominated and that often actively stifles women leaders. She co-leads a podcast with two men who regularly attribute their learning to her wise teaching, and they constantly revert listener questions they're unsure of to Jen because of her breadth of knowledge.

Their admiration echoes my own: This woman is incredible. Her knowledge and research have shaped my own understanding of faith and the study of theology. She has authored books, regularly speaks, has a well-respected family she's partnered in raising, and is unapologetic in her desire to help educate women in biblical literacy. I've watched her retract statements and make apologies clearly and succinctly without making excuses. I've learned so much from her on multiple levels — plus, she's obsessed with pugs, which makes her instantly lovable.

Empowerment Means:

Jen's tagline is "Your heart cannot love what your mind doesn't know." We can all apply this concept. In order to truly enjoy something, you also have to actively partake in learning about it. That's true of your relationships, your job, your fitness — anything you intend on enjoying to the fullest has an emotional component and a mental component that go hand in hand.

Chanel Miller

Submitted by Diane McGraw, Managing Editor

In 2015, Brock Turner raped an unconscious Chanel Miller behind a dumpster at a frat party. While she went through the grueling criminal justice process, she was known only as "Emily Doe," but she reclaimed her identity and her story when she wrote one of the most poignant memoirs I've ever read. It managed to be both a deeply personal story and an informed analysis of how society dehumanizes and retraumatizes sexual assault survivors. The courage and perseverance Chanel exhibited in speaking her truth inspire me in all aspects of my life, and her gift for storytelling is both empowering and encouraging.

Empowerment Means:

Speaking your truth!

Revie Jane Schulz

Submitted by Alyssa Patzius, COO

Revie Jane is a fitness influencer I stumbled upon via Instagram a few years ago. She has continued to evolve as a woman business owner who has taught me that people are attracted to authenticity and vulnerability. You can build the strongest community of supporters and brand advocates by first and foremost being honest.

Empowerment Means:

Being authentic in everything you do. No matter your area of expertise, people can see your true intentions and values through your marketing and communications.

 

We're so thankful for these powerful women — and the many more who weren't mentioned — who have shaped our lives and careers for the better. At Influence & Co., the empowerment of all employees is central to our culture. Our co-founder and CEO, Kelsey Raymond, consistently reminds us that her goal is to create more happy Mondays for both employees and clients, and she works to create an environment where employees look forward to Mondays because they feel respected and fulfilled by the work they do. That type of culture doesn't just happen. You have to have leaders like Kelsey actively working to make sure all employees feel empowered.

We all have stories of the people who have made us better through their guidance, advice, and mentorship. This International Women's Day, take a minute to recognize the women who have empowered you and also look for ways to lift up those around you.

Do you need help getting your story out there so you and your company can have a greater impact? Check out our free thought leadership guide:

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Picture of Carrie Watkins

About Carrie Watkins

Like a good game of Tetris, I love connecting people and ideas. Exploring new places, new technologies, and well-crafted stories make me a better person. I am on a crusade to bring back the handwritten thank-you note.

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