Leaders have a lot of power and influence. And people follow the example of what leaders do more so than what they say. That's why it's important to cast the right shadow of leadership. Kathy Caprino, author of the upcoming book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss (HarperCollins Leadership; July 2020), shows the impact great leaders truly have – things like creating a vision, having courage of your convictions, and unleashing the power of your people.
A career, executive, and leadership coach, trainer, therapist, writer, and speaker, Kathy is dedicated to the advancement of women at work, and Founder of Kathy Caprino, LLC and The Amazing Career Project online course. She is a Senior Contributor for Forbes.com, as well as a VIP voice on Thrive Global and influencer on LinkedIn. Her podcast, Finding Brave, is a leading resource in careers and leadership and reaches a global audience of professional women.
As a global industry author, educator, and thought leader she has been an inspiration for many. Who inspires her? “Thank you so much for your kind words. I appreciate them. Regarding who inspires me, I feel very fortunate to be able to interview each week amazing and inspiring people from all walks of life, in my Forbes blog and Finding Brave podcast. From bestselling authors, to entrepreneurs, business and leadership experts, creatives, startup gurus, and disruptors, I’m inspired and uplifted every week by those who are “finding brave,” closing their own power gaps and choosing to make a powerful and positive impact in the world while leveraging their unique talents in service of others – that’s what really inspires me, “ she says.
Kathy is famous for a vision that she had about the “Finding Brave,” We wanted to know what this mission was. Kathy says, “I’ve been a career, executive and leadership coach for 15 years now and worked with thousands of professionals around the world who want more, different, or better in their careers. Before this work, I served as a marriage and family therapist for several years, and before that, a corporate marketing professional. I’ve seen a lot in all this time of work, and a few years ago I began to observe some very common, repetitive patterns emerging in terms of what professionals were dealing with in their careers and jobs. I decided to pull back the lens to identify what’s at the heart of this widespread experience of unhappiness, disillusionment and disengagement. I wanted to get to the bottom of why professionals globally are experiencing the same types of crushing challenges and disappointments and are struggling so hard to understand why or what to do about it. And I wanted to understand why professional women were facing numerous crushing challenges that men didn’t face in the same way.
In looking at the data that emerged from thousands of interviews, conversations, trainings and client sessions over the past decade, I sought to address this core question:
“What is missing from the lives of professional men and women who feel they can’t experience the joy, success, reward and impact they deserve and want?
The answer that emerged was this: There are two key ingredients that professionals need more of to reach their highest potential, and those are bravery and power. To me, bravery is the courage to examine what isn’t working in our lives, to take full accountability for what we can change, and to walk through the fear and doubt to take proactive steps and make the critical changes necessary. And I see power as the ability to act on one’s own behalf and on behalf of others in an effective and results-oriented way – becoming more of a true author in one’s life and having the ability to see oneself more bravely, and speak, ask, connect, challenge and serve with greater confidence, strength and impact.
From many discussions about what professionals need and remembering back to my most unhappy periods in corporate life, it became crystal clear that for professionals to experience the success and contribution they long for, far more bravery and power are essential. In fact, according to my latest research and work with thousands of professionals around the globe, there is an epidemic of powerlessness that professionals are facing. In fact, according to my latest survey, 97% of professionals are facing at least one of the 7 damaging power gaps and over 75% are experiencing three or more at the same time.
I have now seen that “finding brave” – every day mustering more bravery and commitment to do what’s required to live authentically and serve the world the way you wish to--is THE way forward to more rewarding and successful lives and careers.
In this era of technology and scientific advancements, employee retention still remains a challenge for even the top organizations. What needs to change?
“I’ve written a lot about this topic in my Forbes blog “Career Bliss.” From what I’ve observed, at the heart of it there are three core issues that we haven’t learned how to address as we need to, to retain and engage great talent. The first is work culture. There are so many organizations riddled with work cultures that are toxic, damaging and highly unproductive. Great talent will not tolerate these types of work cultures for long, and a damaging work environment (including toxic and narcissistic bosses, etc.) prevent people from contributing at the highest levels.
Secondly, there’s a crisis in leadership and management today. So many people are managing others who really have no business doing it. To manage and lead others, we need training, growth, self-awareness, accountability, compassion, strong communication, emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills and more. We need to understand what’s involved in getting people excited and engaged in a shared vision. So many managers haven’t learned how to motivate, inspire and lead people effectively and as a result, employees end up under the thumb of inept managers and they decide to leave because of it.
Finally, engagement at work and retaining great talent is flagging because many people have been put in the wrong roles, or they themselves have chosen the wrong fields or jobs where they feel disconnected to the work they’re doing day in and day out, or the outcomes that they’re striving so hard to achieve feel meaningless to them.”, she says.
Kathy’s success is rooted in the way she leads. Learning from her example can help anyone become a leader people are excited to follow. But the number of women in the top leadership chart still remains less. What is it going to take to get more women in the C-suite?
Kathy says, “When I wrote my first book, Breakdown, Breakthrough in 2008 about the 12 hidden crises working women face, there were serious challenges professional women faced in the workforce, and unbelievably, the needle hasn’t moved nearly as much as it needs to on these key issues. One core problem is the relatively small number of women ascending to leadership roles in our country. As of May 2019, there were only 33 women leading the Fortune 500 organizations. That number was up from 24 the year before, so that’s some tiny progress, but the representation of women in leadership across many industries and fields is still terribly low. And women of color make up an even smaller percentage. The same 6 core reasons that contributed to a lack of women in the C-suite that I wrote about in my Forbes blog back in 2013 still stand:
1. Key and common differences between male and female styles of leadership and management are still not understood. And in the patriarchal system we live and work in, often, assertive, confident women are penalized and punished, and their perceived competency and value drop precipitously when they’re seen as forceful.
2. Whole-self authenticity is something that many women need and want in their work, but often can’t have in their current jobs and work-lives. For thousands of women, if they can’t be real, true, transparent, honest and authentic at work – and can’t be recognized, valued and appreciated for what they bring to the table -- they won’t want to follow the shadow of leadership at the helm or do what it takes to succeed in their organizations or roles. If the political environment is so crushing, and the competitive terrain so negative that work feels like “theatre” and women have to pretend to be something they are not (which it did for me for numbers of years in my corporate life), then it’s not sustainable, and not worth it.
3. Life, family and other priorities clash and work policies still do not create environments conducive to many women being able to effectively manage and balance multiple life priorities.
4. Extreme work demands and the requirement of being connected to work 24/7 can drum women out, given the roles they play in their families, as mothers, caregivers and more
5. Marginalizing women is still more common than we want to admit. We still have a long way to go for organizations to effectively identify, hire, retain, train and promote high potential women all along the pipeline.
6. Personal accountability still needs to be expanded. Women need to become more powerful, authoritative, confident, and clear on what they want and they need to ask for what they deserve, every step of the way in their careers, ultimately becoming stronger advocates for themselves and other women.”
It's been shown that the most successful companies have a culture where every single person feels valued. No matter what the position, they all know they have a chance to contribute and make a difference.Talking about some major changes, is there anything that is lying ahead that she finds scary as well as exciting in terms of work culture?
Kathy says, ”Many people are feeling scared about the changes coming regarding the future of work. In interviewing Alexandra Levit in my podcast about the future of work and staying competitive, she shared powerful information about how we can stay relevant and highly contribute. I’m excited about these changes as they’ll require us all to become more intentional about our work and our talents, and more focused on honing those specific talents that we love to use but are also highly needed. We’ll need to take career planning into our own hands and not rely, as we did in the past, on our managers or CEO’s to chart our path for us.”
Creating a vision, finding courage in your convictions, and unleashing the power of your people – these three qualities allowed Kathy to cast a shadow of leadership success. How well do you lead with these qualities? What actions will you take to become a better leader now that you know some of Kathy's secrets to success?
This list only scratches the surface of what anyone can learn from Kathy Caprino. To get more of her insights, listen to our full video interview.