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Greenville Business Magazine

Those Who Lead

By David Dykes

This month, we salute women in business in South Carolina, a group of business executives, owners and entrepreneurs who take responsibility, accept accountability and excel in various fields. 

They are not only succeeding in respective marketplaces, but also in neighborhoods, communities, and civic groups where they strive to set an example and make a difference.

They represent a variety of ages, backgrounds and career trajectories.

Our panel selected these businesswomen from across the state based on their career achievements, contributions to their companies and community involvement.

We all should seek to follow in their footsteps.

In their entries this year, we asked each nominee to define leadership, what makes her an effective leader, who was an important mentor, what is her greatest fear and how she manages it, her greatest strength, the best advice she’s received, and the one thing she wanted to recount that she has learned.

The responses were enlightening and at times sobering as they wrote of challenges and disappointments, but also of opportunities.

A sampling:

How do you define leadership? 

“Leadership is definitely a calling and a purpose. It’s being a visionary. It’s the ability to influence, empower and inspire others. It also takes a certain level of confidence, emotional intelligence and empathy to be effective. Leadership is being a change agent and pushing past the status quo.”

“Leadership is an acquired skill in which an individual has the ability to motivate and inspire people to achieve a common goal. In business an effective leader should display several characteristics such as: self-confidence, level-headedness, strong communication and management skills, and perseverance.”

What makes you an effective leader? What are you still working on?

“While I can be decisive when I need to, I am a collaborative leader. I empower my employees, support them, get out of their way, and celebrate their amazing accomplishments. I still need to delegate more. I have an amazing team, and I need to give them the reins more often.”

“I’m fortunate to be a person with a disability and represent the same community that I fight so hard for, which is my greatest strength. I have a deeper understanding of the barriers that impact the disability community, which gives me the ability to develop innovative solutions that will make the lives of all people with disabilities better. I am an ambitious leader and something I continue to work on is patience. I just want to fix everything right now!”

“Being an effective leader is about being authentically yourself and positioning others to succeed.”

Is there a mentor who has meant a lot to you in your career? A book?

“I have been blessed beyond measure with several amazing mentors along my career journey. So, rather than call out one above the others, I’ll share that God has brought people into my life various times throughout my career at precisely the right times to counsel, guide, and help me embrace my strengths while accepting that I am still a work in progress.

“So many great books have influenced me personally and professionally. “Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown, was a recent read…”

“A book that has inspired me to lead with integrity is the book “The Hero Code: Lessons Learned from Lives Well Lived” by Admiral William H. McRaven: ‘I will use my unique talents to inspire others and give them hope that tomorrow will be a better day.’”

What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?

“I carry the weight of knowing that my decisions can affect my employees. If I made a bad strategic move I can not only put my employees job on the line, but their ability to provide for their families. I take that very seriously and it keeps me up at night. I manage that fear by knowing that I have evaluated all possibilities, analyzed the different outcomes, obtained advice and counsel, and try to make the best possible decisions based on that.”

“Leadership is a privilege and, at times, a burden. As a mission-driven leader, my greatest fear would be epic failure to do what is needed for my organization to fulfill its mission. I first lean into the fear, acknowledge it, and manage it through my faith. If something needs change and I have influence, I change it. If something is out of my control, I’ll try to mitigate its impact, and if I can do absolutely nothing to impact an outcome, I accept that and support others through the change.”

What’s the best advice you have received in business?

“When setting goals, do not think small. Do not limit your goals to what others think is attainable for you. Your goal should be big enough to scare you (a little), and should excite you, motivate you, bring meaning to your life.”

“Money comes and goes. It helps but it is truly not the most important thing. People are. Empathy is. Desire, focus, and drive to achieve things bigger than yourself is. To help others is. To have dreams is. To picture the future is. To stay positive is. To be courageous is. To work hard is. To strive to be better is. To have integrity is. To be responsible and reliable is. To believe in yourself and others is!”

“…There is no such thing as a self-made person. Somewhere, at some time, there was somebody who helped you. If you are at the top and you’re lonely then you didn’t do your job correctly. We cannot function as an island. Help someone else on your rise to the top so you can be there together.”

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

“My greatest professional accomplishment was doubling my business in 2020 during a pandemic. I also had my first child and took an 8 week maternity leave during this time. I realized in 2020 that anything is possible, and that I truly can create my life by design. Now, in 2021 we are on track to increase our business again and serve 350 families in our community.”

“I remember when a younger colleague told me that I was an inspiration to her. That made me realize that I’m not just doing it for me, but I’m doing it for them.”

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

“When you see a problem, instead of asking why no one has addressed it, ask yourself how you can.”

“Never stop learning and always treat people like you want to be treated.”

“To whom much is given, much is required.”

“The one thing that I have learned over the years that has served me well is to work hard and stay humble.”

“The most important words in any relationship are, ‘Let it go!’ Don’t burn a relationship or die on a hill that is not worth it.”

Those are messages I’d share with my three daughters.

Each is successful in her own right: Sara is an attorney at Garland, Samuel & Loeb, P.C., in Atlanta who worked for a decade as a public defender; Abby is a registered nurse in Greenville who has started her own home-health care business; and Ellen is a senior graphic/web designer in Charlotte who has traveled extensively, including to India and Iceland.

Each has been challenged at various times and to varying degrees. But each has persevered.

So, too, have the women who are part of our 2021 Women in Business.

Congratulations to each. And thanks for all you have done – and will do.