Leadership Lessons from a Second-Generation, Female Business Owner

This is a decisive time for women in the workplace. Culturally, female leadership issues are front and center. Businesses are realizing the potential of female leaders and are searching for ways to incorporate more women into positions of power. But this wasn’t the case when my mother, Laura Herring, founded IMPACT Group back in the late 80’s.

I saw firsthand the challenges and setbacks she encountered, but I didn’t truly understand them until later in my career. Despite sexism and biases, my mother was a force to be reckoned with. She didn’t let anything or anyone stand in her way. It was her tenacity that inspired me to love challenges and believe the sky’s the limit. I was lucky to have her as a role model as I built my career.

I started at IMPACT Group in 2001 as an Account Manager. When I took over as CEO in 2008, I had my mother, the founder of the company, and my father, the former vice president, to help guide me. My parents taught me that you don’t have to be perfect. I think many leaders, especially women, start out feeling like they do. It’s human nature to make mistakes. My parents instilled in me a discipline to focus on what I can do and try my best. It’s a lesson that I rely on to this day. I evolve my plans as I go and learn from the roadblocks I encounter along the way. This learning process motivates me as I strive toward my goals.

Throughout my experiences, I’ve come to realize that women are often over-mentored and under-sponsored. As a female leader, you need an ally – someone who will go to bat for you and keep your name in the conversation. I certainly had that in my mother. Find that person and engage them to help build your career!

As a second-generation business owner, I had the opportunity to see my mother’s leadership style first hand. It’s very different from my own, and that’s okay. Leadership styles depend on a lot of variables. My mother had to be tenacious. She was the driving force behind all business the company managed. My style is different because our company is in a different place now. I’m doing more to empower the team. I’m enhancing my leadership skills which requires me to delegate tasks and develop other leaders. The bottom line is your style of leadership should change as the business changes. There’s more than one way to be a successful leader.

My advice to other women in leadership or those looking to become a leader is to create goals that will motivate you. Find sponsors who will talk you up when opportunities arise. Finally, discover a leadership style that works for you, your company and your team.