Continuing on with our Leader Spotlight series, we’re talking with Sadie Hess, CEO and Founder of Compass. Check out what she had to say on the topic of leadership. Do you have any leadership questions you’d like answered? Comment below if you do!
Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Why did this person impact your life?
I would go with Danny and Sheri Silk. Danny definitely broadened my definition of love and how to love. He was a great role model of good communication and empowering leadership. Sheri has been my practical problem solver. We talk about how to practically solve a problem. She has been my fan and cheerleader. She definitely is my encourager and motivator and tells me I can do it. And I watched her be a powerful woman which is has been cool to see.
What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?
People decisions. It’s always rooted in people for me. I am always asking myself, “How can I provide more support to the organization through people?” Vision decisions are important too in terms of where we are going as an organization, but even when I think about our vision, I think about it in terms of people and where a group of people are going together.
Where do the great ideas come from in your organization?
Books! I read and read and read some more. Often times, when I am traveling back and forth from the bay, Eric and will read a leadership book and talk about it. The inside joke around here is when my leadership team hears me say, “I’ve been reading a book,” they know things are about to change. It can be reading or listening to books. It engages me and inspires me like nothing else does. I listen to Ted Talks and podcasts as well but they don’t quite inspire me like books do. One of my strengths is ideation as well so I love how ideas can bring life to a problem and it’s easy for me to get lost thinking about ideas.
How do you help a new employee understand the culture of your organization?
One of the ways is through our values. We spend quite a bit of time on values in our Foundations training. I really do believe that if our values resonate with you, the rest will follow. You’ll learn the skills and you’ll get the education you need. But if you don’t really, at your core, have our values then we are not on the same page from the beginning. Whenever I do leadership training I come back to values.
What is one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
I see that leaders tend to do one of two things. Neither are perfect in and of themselves. They are either too involved and not giving people room for creativity and freedom or very hands off and non-confrontational. When leaders are too hands off, people don’t feel like they have very good direction. They don’t feel like they are plugged in to where the leader wants to go. There is a delicate balance between being involved and still giving people freedom. And being empowering but willing to confront if needed. Leaders need to be willing to redirect if the direction isn’t going the way they want.
What is one characteristic you believe every leader should possess?
I’m going to cheat and say two. I think every leader needs passion that is metered by compassion. I’ve seen passion go awry. If it’s left unfettered it can lead to people damaging other people or their organization. When it’s paired with compassion, it has people in mind. If you have passion, it propels you forward but compassion keeps you grounded and centered on the right thing moving you forward. Another word for compassion here is love. If I just was a driven person I would make everyone miserable so I need to also have love. Love for my employees. Love for my clients. Love for the regional centers, etc. If I don’t have my passion rooted in love, it gets skewed and crazy.