Katie Leonard is a force to be reckoned with. Her development as a leader and entrepreneur inspire us to make big things happen. There are too many gems of wisdom in our quick Q+A to count, so we are just going to let you read and enjoy.
Be sure to check out Katie's latest feature, Leading from Behind, in our latest Leadership issue of En Root!
Tell us about your personal and professional journey to date. How did you get to where you are today?
I've learned so many valuable lessons in my professional journey. If you would have asked me five years ago if I would be doing what I'm doing today, I would have laughed in your face. If you would have shared everything I would have to go through to get to where I am right now, I would have told you that you chose the wrong person and that I wouldn't be able to be determined, self-motivated, and as strong as I would have to be. But, it's 2020 and I've been through so many things (good and bad) and had pure determination, motivation, and strength to see me through. I've learned that you must always go after your goal no matter what. As someone who loves process and strategy, I had to learn that my journey has to be flexible. I had to let go of what I thought the plan was. Our journeys are not perfectly scripted; we must always be flexible, able to pivot and continually monitor and adjust.
At OutGrowth, we are committed to giving access. Tell us about your approach to your team's leadership development and career competency-building, and what this concept of access has meant for you.
Access is power. Taking it a step backwards, people must know what access (and opportunity) look like. Additionally, individuals must have the belief in themselves and know that they deserve to walk through a door when it is opened for them. My approach/philosophy is, "The whole team wins." I work hard every day to create lanes in which others can travel. I pass along all knowledge and lessons, I work to build relationships that others can take advantage of. There's more than enough for everyone to win, but winning is a group effort.
Tell us about a pinnacle point or moment in your own development as a leader and professional.
As a leader, you must be very self-aware. Every hurdle or success always gives you an opportunity for inner-reflection and growth. The pinnacle point for me was fully understanding that the work I do, being a leader, has nothing to do with me. However, I must be full and whole to best serve others. What's in my cup is mine - the the overflow is for everyone else. Early in my start-up journey, I thought I was a leader, but I was not. I was managing tasks, outlining targets, but not truly leading the team. That was hard to admit. Leadership isn't about what you read in a book or a great moral philosophy. Leaders have to show up every single day and not only work through their own problems and journey, but equip and motivate others to work through theirs. Leaders are way-makers.
How did this experience change the course of your life, your career or your outlook?
I've had many ups and downs the last two years. I've been proud of my success. I've doubted myself. I've cried. I've screamed with joy. All in all, my startup journey has taught me to believe in myself fully. I learned that the hardest thing to overcome is your mind, and that when it comes to success and goals, I was the only thing holding myself back. I can sit here right now and say that I am so grateful for all of my experiences and hard lessons, but I have to be 100% real and say that it was brutal going through it. But as cliche as it is, the only way out is through. It is not about being smarter or more talented, it's about executing your tasks (as small as they may be) every single day, even when it's hard. That's when it's most important. Business is business. Some businesses fail, some are wildly successful. Same goes for life. We win some, we lose some. But we must always keep moving forward with a full understanding that:
1. You will always be okay.
2. You are exactly where we are supposed to be
3. You are powerful (you only have to believe in your power and then tap into it).
Tell us your approach to remaining dedicated to your own professional development. What are your top three pieces of advice for students and professionals who are looking for ways to stay committed to their own growth?
1. You have to parent yourself. Success comes from discipline and consistency which, in many cases, is not easy. You have to force yourself to make the hard choices and force yourself to do the things you don't want to do.
2. The 'rules' are fake. Your journey is your journey. You can't compare your goals, the steps you take, or your journey to anyone else's.
3. Everyone is scared. Whether it's public speaking, starting a company, or changing careers, etc. - fear is real. Winners feel the fear and do it anyway.
If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
You have what it takes and are so powerful. Stay focused, don't be scared, and use your magic.
What is your favorite quote?
“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” Marianne Williamson
Based on your professional experience, what are the top three career competencies that you believe will be most important in 2020 and beyond?
2. Time management / Efficiency
3.Communication - Communication is not what you say but what others hear.
What's next? What are your next steps toward growth in 2020?
I'm taking all of my lessons from the last two years and being very intentional with my work. It comes down to clarity, focus, organization, and execution. My 2020 mantra is "head down - do the work." There are may steps, but to get to where I intend, I must be accountable to my numbers/targets, have laser-like focus, have real conversations, use my time wisely, and have the best time!
Katie Leonard is the Founding Partner of Zero Model NOVA, a for-profit business incubator that exists to promote the innovative potential of formerly incarcerated people as they pursue goals of employment, entrepreneurship, and independence. Katie is passionate about communities. She is a social justice advocate who works to positively transform communities through business and economic development.