In a single line Kate Burda, founder and CEO of Kate & Co., explained what her company does. “We work alongside organizations to achieve higher levels of performance.” She said that while performance usually meant revenue the same ideas can be applied elsewhere in leadership. It’s clear that Kate is passionate about what she does, pushing people to think differently about themselves and their organization so that they may find connection and clarity. Kate spoke to us about her thoughts on leadership and what lessons inspire her.
What is leadership to you?:
Within Kate & Co, there are two core words that punctuate our brand. Connection and Clarity. My job as a leader is to connect with them, connect them to others, connect them to new ideas and at its core, be able to connect them to what their high-performance self. Bringing clarity and vision is critical, if the message is unclear you can’t move forward. Leaders have to bring clarity. It’s leaders that mess it up that aren’t able to say, ‘this is what we are hunting’.
What do leaders need to know in today’s world? Whether they be parents, business owners, teachers, etc.:
What we saw in this last year was, V.U.C.A. Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity. This is the first time that something has rocked the entire world within a global economy. What I see is that the leaders that are affected today, and even more so in the future, need to deal with the fact that there is always going to be this V.U.C.A. and we have to be able to form a pathway, organization, civic group, family. In today’s world you have to understand the long and winding road. Innovation that is based on a survival mentality is very different from innovation that is coming out of any other time. How do we lead continual innovative thinking within and out of this V.U.C.A. environment? If you can’t see a clear path, then how are you making decisions? If the future is uncertain and you have many variables that can shift how does one lead effectively now?
Particularly with the audience, because everyone was influenced by V.U.C.A. you can’t serve everyone the same way.
Companies that are operationally oriented or linear leading are going to be challenged because there are too many variables. What I see within companies is that they are product centric. The talk about customer service, but yet are far from being customer centric. How do we make others bigger, better, faster, stronger? How do we wrap what we do around what they care about versus saying this is who we are? People want to feel like they are cared for and they matter, yet so many conversations start with us. How do we show up this way externally to customers and internally to teams or families?
What is one thing that you learned from either a mentor or peer and have implemented into your life?:
When I was coming out of college, in that early time of my professional career, companies like IBM, Marriott, Disney framed what a career meant. It was very buttoned up and conformed thinking. I think the best thing that somebody had given to me said, “Your body and mind are strong enough to do whatever you choose. The power is in the choice.” I often quote the Apple tag line “Think Different”, I’m disruptive and that didn’t jive with the construct of a corporate leader was like 20 years ago. I see it today in others, no matter the age, who are caught up in what in the legacy thinking of what they learned what leadership is, vs how it needs to be to create something new and different. Generally, they are accomplished but not comfortable in their own authenticity. Teams that are vulnerable to each other are the most creative and productive because you don’t spend any time editing yourself. All that energy is spent towards whatever it is that’s on the table creating and moving things forward.
How can devoting one day to our own development do for people? Why should someone do it?:
Theres a phenomenon among people called the diffusion of responsibility. Everyone should do it so no one does. So, let us be the people who do it. In today’s world I’m really glad that we are all leaning into this day saying lets bring some clarity and connection. An hour is the new 30 minutes. It is a gift of just being able to do some deep thinking, in an area where people dont have to perform. In a environment where you are comfortable and not exposed. It’s a full day of just you, be really selfish! Come messy because it is your day so, who cares.
“Clarity of vision creates clarity of priorities.”
~ John C. Maxwell
Leading People During Uncertain Times: A Focus on Clarity, Connection, and Conversation