CEO Spotlight: Kathy Albarado on Leadership
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with our founder, President and CEO of Helios HR, Kathy Albarado to pick her brain on leadership. As Kathy’s passion is working with enlightened leaders to build a culture that attracts, retains and engages exceptional people, I wanted to find out what leadership means to her and how she believes others can become great leaders. Read the full interview below!
What does leadership mean to you?
Kathy: Leadership is what happens when there is a need for it:
- Leadership is someone seeing an opportunity and filling a void. It is not necessarily a calculated or staged behavior.
- Leaders encourage others to take new actions. Good leaders are able to get people to change and participate in a behavior that they would not have otherwise. They influence behavior. Leaders encourage and stretch others to be, do and expect more.
- A leader develops those around them and respects and challenges them to do more than what they think they are capable.
What is the difference between management and leadership?
Kathy: Managers execute and get things done through themselves or others. A leader’s role is to develop others.
What do all leaders have in common?
Kathy: Followers. Leaders develop their people and have people excited about following them.
Who are your leadership role models? What have you learned from them?
Kathy: I had a lot of mentors growing up who encouraged me, believed in me and stretched me. My mentors thought I was capable of doing more than I thought I could and gave me opportunities to do so. I once worked for a CEO who asked if I was "ready for an opportunity to fail”. He made me the head of our shipping department, a role for which I had no experience and was completely out of my comfort zone. I learned a ton. This made a huge impact on me and made me realize most people are capable of doing far more than they give themselves credit for.
Should leaders let their constituents fail?
Kathy: Absolutely. People won’t grow if they don’t fail. People only grow and develop when they have to struggle and when they are taken out of their comfort zone.
How can leaders create a climate for change and encourage risk-taking?
Kathy: Celebrate failure because it means you took a risk. Each failure provides knowledge of how to improve next time. Organizations only scale and grow when leaders surround themselves with people who will say what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. Remove fear to encourage honest feedback. There can’t be retribution for disagreeing or being openly authentic. Create a safe environment where you can make mistakes, stretch, and grow.
What are some ways in which a leader can get personally involved and show that he or she cares?
Kathy: Know what your team members value and show interest in what’s important to them.
In what ways do individuals and organizations benefit from shared values?
Kathy: If we all have similar values, that’s the secret sauce. It’s not all about skills. Skills can be learned, but you either have shared values or you don’t. Without shared values, an organization struggles because people are conflicted around what they are being asked to do and what their values are. When everyone in an organization has shared values, they are all aligned and it doesn’t feel like work. Everyone is speaking the same language and there is no divide between personal and professional values.
At Helios, our values are a part of who we are. We attract people with corporate social responsibility values and you can see it through how energized everyone is around all of our community initiatives. In fact, the greatest recognition I receive is when the Helios teams supports our community service initiatives with such enthusiasm. It shows me that I have made an impact and that my team truly supports me and believes in me.
What can leaders do to help others in the organization share the vision?
Kathy: Ensure that communication is deliberate and frequent.
- Share a story: Communicate and articulate. Let everyone know what they can do to impact and contribute to the vision and recognize everyone for their participation and contribution to the vision.
- There is power in synergy: When employees’ values are aligned with the company’s mission and vision, everyone understands their role in accomplishing the mission and how they can participate.
In what ways does having more clarity about your values help you become a better leader?
Kathy: It helps me to be able to articulate my values. When you talk about your values, you attract people who believe what you believe. You can’t have shared values if they are not articulated. Values must be broken down into behaviors for understanding and those behaviors should be recognized to encourage the values.
I selected Kathy for this interview not only because she has built a successful business around developing leaders, but also because she practices what she preaches. At Helios, she encourages us to experiment and take risks by creating a safe environment for all of us to be authentic and honest with each other. One of Kathy’s greatest strengths is enabling other to act. She lets each person know what they can do to impact the vision and then recognizes and celebrates each contribution, no matter how small. By sharing her own personal values and showing interest in the values of her team members, Kathy has built a strong and collaborative team at Helios.