What Is Your Leadership Why?

by Eda Topuz ’22

On October 4th, Google’s Director of Agency Business Development, CMC Alumna and
KLI Board Member Tina Daniels ’93 came back to campus to have lunch with the KLI team. Although we were excited to ask Tina questions, she started by asking us one:

“What is your leadership WHY?”

This “start with why” strategy was initially introduced by Simon Sinek. It allows people to focus on their purpose rather than what they are doing. The answers ranged from being able to impact others to analyzing how other people’s identities and backgrounds shape their leadership styles. The reason I give leadership such importance is because I believe that people start to grow when they leave their comfort zones. Leadership for me is leaving your comfort zone by taking an action mindset and influencing others to do the same. This individual growth eventually results in a collective growth of society which makes leadership a fundamental element in societal growth.

As we were looking at this successful alum, we wondered what unique challenges she faced. One of the pieces of advice which had a significant effect on me was that, “Being right isn’t always enough, and sometimes it is not important.” Tina stresses the importance of going beyond being right and having the skills to persuade people. Unlike school, having the right answer will not be enough in your career to be successful. Your effective communication skills will be the significant aspect that will push you forward in life.

Then Tina told us about how her first job was in accounting despite the fact that she was not an accounting major. She noted that this was one of the moments that pushed her the most. However, this moment was also the one that made her grow the most. She reflected, “Putting yourself in a position where you are uncomfortably excited is good.” If you settle at a job that you are overqualified for, you will be eliminating your opportunity for growth.

At KLI, we always emphasize the importance of incorporating leadership throughout our lives and having an action mindset that will allow us to practice our leadership muscle. Tina explained that she exercised this muscle by being active throughout her life and creating opportunities for herself to be involved. As she emphasized the importance of if lifelong embeddedness, she reflected, “You always have to focus on optimizing the seat you have at the table.” Leadership is not the final goal or a position it is a mindset that we can all adapt to our lives. Living with leadership mindset will bring along the bravery to maximize the utilisation of the opportunities. Moreover, this brings up the concept of “presence”. When you are present and trying to maximize your impact at your current position you will grow.

We asked, how about business school? Is it worth it? Tina responded that Harvard Business was a second network to CMC’s very connected network. With the extra credibility it gives, business school is especially vital for women. She recommends us to create advisory groups throughout our lives. She has a group of friends from Harvard Business School, who she has brunch with every month and gets to exchange ideas. She worked for two of them already. I believe that this is one of the most important advice she has given to us. She shows that we have the power to create opportunities for ourselves. Support will not come to you if you don’t actively look for it.

Tina had experience in both small and large companies before she settled at Google. She believes that starting your career in a small company allows you to participate in leadership roles. However, large companies have a more structured program for beginners and can provide another network.

As we talked about the importance of networking and an action mindset, we asked her THE question: what are your networking hacks? She replied, “To be honest, there are no hacks. If you are open, friendly, and neutral, it will all follow.”

We thank Tina for making time for us and sharing her valuable advice. If you would like to know more about Tina, you can find her bio here