Women Who Lead: Kristy Wallace, CEO of Ellevate Network

When I first started to brainstorm ideas of what Be Digable should be, I kept coming back to helping females in business. In my 10 year career in marketing, I have been very fortunate to have worked for very smart and strong female leaders. I know that not every girl is as fortunate as I am to be able to learn from female executives or have models of them to look up to in the C-suite. My experience and drive led me to create Be Digable to help female executives build their personal brands to position themselves as thought leaders. It is important we are seen and heard.

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In my passionate mission to build Be Digable, I have come across some incredible resources and communities for women in business. One of those communities has been Ellevate Network. Ellevate's mission is to help women advance in the workplace, both for themselves and the greater good. They strive to change the culture of business from the inside out - by investing in women. I was so inspired, and yearning for community, I joined their LA Chapter.

I am thrilled to be launching our brand new series, Women Who Lead, with Kristy Wallace, the CEO of Ellevate Network. Women Who Lead aims to highlight female leaders and their unique perspectives on how they got to where they are today. Kristy is responsible for executing Ellevate Network’s mission to close the gender achievement gap in business by providing professional women with a global community to lean on and learn from.  Dive into our Q&A below to learn more about Kristy!

Did you have any bosses or mentors that taught you or modeled what it was to be a great leader?

I've had a number of great bosses.  One boss was incredibly creative, the other taught me everything I know about sales, and another was always my biggest advocate in the office.  What's important is that every boss was different and had their own unique leadership style.  One trait that all of the great bosses shared was a powerful ability to communicate goals, to inspire action, and to acknowledge successes. They also cared a lot about employees and fostering an environment of inclusion and success.

Which females in business do you feel really paved the way for women today?

Sallie Krawcheck!  I've had the great pleasure of working with Sallie for a number of years and I appreciate all that she's done and continues to do to push for gender equality.  I'm really inspired by Sylvia Acevedo, currently the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA, who has a degree in Systems Engineering and worked at NASA, Dell, and Apple.

What is the best advice you received on how to lead a team/run a business?

As a new leader, it can be hard to let go of responsibilities and delegate.  But holding on to prior tasks will weigh you down.  Trust your team and share responsibilities as a way to help everyone grow in their roles.  Another piece of advice is to be very intentional about how you communicate with each team member.  Communication is tough.  Some people love heated debates while others thrive on positive reinforcement.  Taking a few minutes to learn how best to communicate with each team member can lead to stronger alliances and deeper dedication.

How do you keep your team(s) engaged and motivated? 

It is important for me to give everyone in the company a chance to lean, grow, and shine.  I don't want a team member to become a manager never having managed anything before.  At Ellevate we often have special projects that role into our core business objectives and we offer anyone in the company a chance to be a leader and decision maker on projects, to provide input, and to take ownership.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned leading your team/company?  

I've learned to trust my gut and to own my vulnerability.  As a leader at Ellevate Network, I recognize my vulnerability every day. I don't have to be always perfect or right; in fact, I'm very comfortable admitting that I don't know the answer. There is always space for team members to offer up a different opinion, and we pride ourselves on an open and respectful dialogue around the business challenges that we're collectively working to solve. I think this approach makes me a more successful leader because ideas and innovation come from everyone on our team, which leads to a deeper sense of employee ownership and engagement.

When did you start looking at yourself as a leader or realize you could lead?

I always thrived in leadership positions.  From an early age I ran for school president or volunteered to be the leader of a club. Even with my first job i quickly became a manager.  Believe in yourself and your abilities, value relationships in the workplace, and always try to learn new things.  

We believe in the importance of personal branding because it allows leaders to extend their influence from offline to online—why is your personal brand important to you? 

Your brand is what people say about you when you aren't in the room.  Are you creative? Hard working? Trust-worthy? You want to own your own brand and how others talk about your strengths and abilities because these discussions can lead to new opportunities!

What advice can you give women who want to step into leadership roles, but are intimidated by the challenge?

Leverage your Squad!  I have a close group of peers that support me.  They help me role play tough conversations, offer advice on business and career decisions and are my biggest cheerleaders!

Thanks again to Kristy for taking the time to share her experience and insight! You can learn more about Ellevate here and listen to Kristy on the Ellevate Network podcast here.