A ‘Catapult interview’ with Karen Beard-Greer

Karen Beard-Greer, Chief Executive, Independent Living Services

What’s the most valuable leadership lesson you’ve learned?

You don’t need all the detail to lead and achieve a positive outcome.  Sitting in the chaos and evaluating as I go along often brings the best result because I am open to creative thinking and problem solving from my team.  The net result is we are often blown away by what we achieve. 

What’s the most useful piece of leadership advice / wisdom you’ve received?

Leadership is action not just position.  Taking the lead and choosing a path, even if it is not the right path, is better than not stepping up at all.  And just by being a CEO and showing up everyday to work does not make me a great leader unless I choose to “wear the boots” and take the lead.

What’s the most rewarding thing about leading?

Watching transformation that happens with people as they learn and grow and reach new levels of confidence.  Also completing a project as a team that seemed impossible to start with but entirely possible having achieved the outcome.  This happens as a parent too, and it’s incredibly rewarding when you get it right. 

What do you find the most challenging?

Having to convince people to come along on the journey.  I’d much rather they saw the value and mobilised themselves.  I realise why this happens with different personality styles, however I still find it the most challenging thing!

What gets easier as you become more experienced as a leader?

I’m less concerned now about what other people think of me.  Also backing myself and trusting my instincts.  I’ve learned that I am an early adopter and will often lead with ideas that don’t seem relevant now, but I now know they are just before their time.

What doesn’t get any easier?

Breaking bad news to people, especially when it affects their families and livelihood.

What attributes do you think Kiwis most look for in their leaders?

Authenticity, “guts” and to a degree the “number 8 wire” ingenuity.

Who has inspired you most as a leader?

Sir Peter Blake. His leadership transcended so many parts of NZ society and still does.  He was passionate, authentic, stood up for what he believed in and was prepared to take the lead for elite sailing, for New Zealand in general, the environment and for leadership itself.  He has inspired so many people to dream big and step up as leaders.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about leadership?

That it’s reserved for senior management and that by being in senior management you have excellent leadership skills.  I see amazing leadership everyday, in my sons’ schools, in our communities, by people that I work alongside.

If you were able to go back in time, what leadership advice would you give the young you?

“Don’t be afraid to back yourself”, wisdom does come with age but you can show incredible leadership skills at any age and stage in life.