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“Leader” is more than just a title

March 14, 2014

Sneeder_KimKim Sneeder, Director of Business Operations at Aerotek, was the recipient of Linkage’s Passionate Champion Award at the 2013 Women in Leadership Institute. This award honors people who drive results in their organization, have a “will to win,” and are 100% accountable, believable, and authentic. We recently caught up with Kim to get her take on the award, effective leadership, and much more. This is the first post in a two-part series where she shares insights into what it takes to motivate her team and create happy, engaged employees.—Ed

I am passionate about being my best—and finding ways to help others discover what their best is.

Aerotek is a fantastic organization that cares about its employees. In many ways, I feel this is a gift, and we are all accountable to make the most of it. Often, I believe in my employees more than they believe in themselves initially. But it is amazing to join them in a journey of self-discovery where they realize their full potential.

Vince Lombardi said, “The spirit, the will to win, and the will to excel—these are the things that endure.” This is similar to what the Passionate Champion Award encompasses. We will always face obstacles—both professionally and personally—but the belief that you will get through them and the determination to not let them define you are what make you great.

Leadership isn’t a title; it’s more of a movement broken into two parts.

First, it’s setting expectations for your team, living those expectations, and holding yourself accountable for those expectations. In my office, I expect my team to come in every day with a positive attitude, intensity, and the will to persevere. But it starts with me, and if I’m not modeling those characteristics, I take pause and correct myself. Every day, I set my alarm to be ordinary, but I jump out of bed to be extraordinary. I do my best to bring that spirit and will-to-win attitude every single day to keep the team focused and aligned with what is possible rather than on individual obstacles.

Second, it’s about discovering your employees’ “whys”—whether that’s career advancement, work-life flexibility, or something else—and using your voice to create the possibility for them. Being a leader is a responsibility. It’s important to invest in each person to understand what they need to be their best, so you can create an environment where everyone can reach their full potential and succeed. By taking the sum of each person’s skills, you can create something incredible.

My own leadership style takes a blended approach.

Most people would describe me as a coach. I spend significant time with people talking about their goals and next role, as well as keeping them enthusiastic about their future. At the same time, I believe everyone on the team should teach, coach, and develop one another.

I also apply a democratic leadership style. I remind myself to stay inquisitive to better understand others’ positions and points of reference. I will always prefer to “bring my team with me” versus demand they comply. When it comes to leadership, in its simplest form, people aren’t forced to follow you. If they understand the “why” and can perform the tasks in an engaged way—rather than tactically—we are going to have higher service levels.

I’ve found that this combination of coaching and democratic styles is successful because it builds strong teams that are aligned with not only the vision but helping one another achieve their goals.

Does your organization have leaders like Kim? What makes their approach to leadership unique? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Women in Leadership Institute

NOV. 13–16, 2023 | Orlando, Florida, or Virtual
A 4-day immersive learning experience designed to equip women leaders with actionable strategies to overcome the hurdles women often face in the workplace.

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