Written by The Business Journal Staff
This profile of Patricia Smith, CEO, Dairy America, was published in the “How She Leads” supplement from September 2021.
Through my years as a leader in the dairy industry, I have relied upon my personality, passion, and values that have been instrumental in defining my leadership style. Joining DairyAmerica a year ago as their CEO provided me with the opportunity to lead a global organization to the next phase of growth and success while navigating a new work environment due to the onset of a global health pandemic.
Commitment, Transparency, and Empathy are three of my values which are critical in being a successful leader. Never in my mind did I dream that I would live or lead during a global health pandemic. As I prepared to join the team and begin my journey as the leader of DairyAmerica, I reflected on what had worked for me as a leader in the past, and what would be different joining a new organization during a time of uncertainty. My new team not only had to adapt to a new leader, but also was having to navigate working remotely, helping with children’s remote learning, facing potential health concerns of loved ones, and learning to live under quarantine conditions. This was not a typical transition for myself as a leader or for the team as we all faced new factors influencing our health, and wellbeing. I knew I had to get to know and understand my new team while not necessarily being able to be face to face with them on a daily basis. I needed to show my commitment to them and to our organization. This needed to be through direct actions and not just words. My focus was on ensuring the team knew and could see my commitment and dedication to our people, our company, and our communities we work in.
Transparency was key in gaining trust and respect. I had to show that there was nothing to hide and no hidden agendas. As a team we spoke openly about what was working, opportunities for improvements, and what was important to our people. Through sharing of information, our team gained a greater understanding of how their roles contributed to our success and what factors they had direct influence on.
Empathy has always been important to being an effective leader. That is even more so today. It was crucial for me to feel what others feel, understand, and be willing to appreciate what the team might be going through. Everyone was impacted differently and to be an effective leader, I needed to understand their triggers and what was at the top of their minds. I had to put my feelings aside and envision what they were facing and how that impacted individuals while knowing this could change daily or even within the same day. Our people are our greatest assets, and we need to understand the drivers that will continue to motivate, empower, and inspire them.
As we navigate the new business landscape of today, it is important to lead with passion, empathy, and integrity while never stopping to believe you can make a difference.