Kathleen was born and grew-up in Lansing, Michigan. She started working for a member of the Michigan Legislature while a senior in high school and continued to do so, so she stayed and went to Michigan State University. She then moved to Washington, DC where she lived for 16 years before moving to Southern California where she has lived for the past 5 years, in a small community called Ojai.
Kathleen, which qualities do you think characterize your personality best to get a little impression of you?
Kathleen: As I work with all my clients, I am aware and always evolving my sense of self. My talent is seeing the highest potential in people and organizations and how to best guide them as they navigate the path from where they are to where they want to be. I am a systems-builder and create effective strategies and pathways to allow individuals and organizations to effectively reach their goals. I am a natural communicator, as a speaker and writer; I am able to engage people in this transformation process that unleashes the best of their leadership in the world.
Please tell us about your vita. Did you study? And what was your first job?
Kathleen: As I mentioned earlier, I started working in politics while finishing my last year of high school. I was working for a woman legislator that has since become a US Senator. I continued to work for her through college before moving on to work in two different departments for the Governor of Michigan. Because I had the opportunity to work in government, I stay to attend college at Michigan State University, where they had a wonderful public policy program. I graduated in three years, working nearly full-time with a dual major in International Relationships and Political Economics. I would not recommend the intensity and pace and it worked for me in that moment!
Was there a point in your life where you had to think about or to decide leave your “comfort zone”? What was it?
- My life has been a series of moments where I left my comfort zone! Because I am a person who clears the path for others, in order for me to do my work I must be willing to take the lead. One of the key concepts in my unique approach to leadership is that if you are not doing what you love in a way that suits you, then things will not flow in the best possible way. When you become clear about who you are what you want to contribute the opportunities reveal themselves.
- For me, early on I left a “good job” to start my own company, Leadership Connection, which was the beginning of my life “leading on the edge of the inside.” I understood systems needed to change to better work for people inside and outside of them and that sometimes the best way to bring about change was from the outside in. Within a few years I was one of the first progressive women on talk radio in the US and I was offered the opportunity to begin teaching graduate classes at The George Washington University—both were leaps that pushed me to broaden my sense of what I was capable of doing.
- Becoming a mother, I now have two sons 13 and 18, was also a step into the unknown both in terms of the experience itself and what it would mean for my understanding of myself and my purpose in the world.
- Finally, leaving Washington, DC was a big move. I am passionate about improving the qualities of political and policy making bodies throughout the world, and leaving the Capital was difficult—and once again I understood that in order to grow and create change, one has to leave our comfort zone to discover where and what are strengths truly are.
When did you start your own business “Leadership Connection”? And what is your idea or aim with it?
Kathleen: I started Leadership Connection in 1995 with the purpose of supporting the election of women and other underrepresented groups in the political process. Throughout the years, the mission evolved to emboldening every person who wants to have an impact on the world to lead in his or her lives. At the beginning of April, I made another shift in my business—to focusing exclusively on my services as a leadership guide, author and speaker. It is another opportunity to move beyond my comfort zone to boldly promote the message that everyone can and needs to live leadership to be at their best and to contribute their best to the world.
How does your business culture look like? Is there a team with you?
Kathleen: With this shift in my business model, I am the product of my company. For individuals and organizations that are interested in powerful transformation of their leadership capacity—I am the person with whom you want to work. I work with most clients for six to 12 months to allow them to achieve and develop the skills to sustain their leadership effectiveness.
In addition to a small support team, I work with a broad network of dynamic individuals and organizations that come together to work for larger organizations that require a comprehensive approach to leadership, communications, crisis management, etc. It is a great way to be a part of a team while staying focused on my message and unique offerings.
Is there any issue in your life you still wish to change or develop despite you’re happy and satisfied at the moment?
Kathleen: That is the secret to a joyful life—being happy with what is currently in your life and knowing that more good is coming. While I continue to practice this wisdom, I often need to stop and remind myself about how much I’ve done, when sometimes it is easier to look at how much I have yet to do. I published my second book at the end of last year, “Choose to Lead” and one goal is to see it sales soar around the globe. My purpose in writing it was take the message that everyone can lead to people throughout the world who feel they must wait for someone or something else to begin creating and living their life they desire, when in truth it is up to each of us to begin leading in our lives. When we do this, our lives, our families, our communities and world will improve. I would love to see this message get to as many people as possible.
What are you doing in your free time? Do you take part in specific MeetUps? Do you think it’s important to interact with other people, especially women to get new inspiration?
Kathleen: I believe that my work is my life and my life is my work and as I have evolved (yes, that is a euphemism for getting older!) I find the line between my two very thin. Creativity is an important part of what I do, so artistic pursuits and creative writing are a part of my free time—I’ve even started writing a screenplay! I am ever eager to meet and network with other people on a variety of topics and I play sports, to keep my body and mind stimulated. Even being in the company of wonderful people for great meal in our homes is a terrific way of keeping the flow alive. And, of course, being a mother to two active boys provides an endless stream of opportunities to learn about myself, grow with them and enjoy life.
What do you think is the most important characteristic of a powerful and inspiring woman?
Kathleen: It is the same for men or women—to know who you are and to be comfortable being yourself and to put your best self forward in service to the world—that is the essence of living leadership.
My vision is to shift the way people think about leadership—to understand that it is not about position or authority it is about being one’s best and confidently offering it to the world. When individuals understand that power they have to create lives of meaning and fulfillment, the world will change. I want as many opportunities as I can handle to deliver this message in person through clients and audiences and through my books and videos, so that I see a significant shift in my lifetime.
Thank you so much, Kathleen! We hope to meet you personally some day.
If you have any further questions about Kathleen or her company, please comment this article! We are looking forward to getting feedback from you.
Bildquelle: © Kathleen Schafer