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What it Means to be a Woman in Leadership

When I think about who I am as a woman leader, I think of the ways that I show up in this world through all my relationships. We are always “in relationship” with others, whether we are working with others to make the best decision or in considering the impact of that decision. When I hear people say, “it’s business, not personal,” I counter with, “it is always personal, and that is not only ok, but it’s critical.” The decisions we make, how we show up as leaders, our successes, and our failures all impact people. There is no “business” without the people we are there to serve, the people who make the “business” possible, and the people who support us when times are tough in the “business.” I know and admire many women leaders who embrace their strengths of compassion with confidence and conviction, and I try to do the same.

As a person and as a leader, I care deeply about showing up authentically, with compassion, values driven behavior, and effectiveness in making a positive impact for others. Leading an organization certainly adds some complex variables that impact my approach, but at the core, the way that I am as a parent to my two little ones, how I show up for my family and friends, is very similar to my intention and execution as a CEO. Empathy is foundational – I learn by intentionally connecting with the experience and perspective of others. Being responsive means that I take the time to understand the needs of my children, my spouse, the people on our team, the people that we serve, and make decisions to respond to their needs, create belonging, and provide opportunities to thrive most effectively. I believe in cultivating growth by showing up with an openness to learn and a willingness to share and give.

I also believe in the power of people to overcome tremendous barriers and obstacles in their lives. While sometimes I wish that others, my children, for example, would never have to experience pain and suffering, I have confidence that they have the capacity to experience hard things, to do hard things, and through that, find a path forward with meaning and purpose. The same is true for the people on our team and the people that we serve-we can do hard things, because it matters and we matter.

I’m learning every day through my own successes and failures, with gratitude for the courageous and resilient women who came before me, and with love for the women on our team and in my life who inspire me with their authenticity and determination to show up and use their unique strengths to change the world for the better.

Kiara Kuenzler President and CEO of Jefferson Center, Mom, Wife, Sister, Daughter, Friend

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