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7 Questions on Leadership with Athena Dean Holtz


Name: Athena Dean Holtz


Title: Founder / Publisher


Organisation: Redemption Press, Inc.


The life story of Athena Dean Holtz is a tale of a search for affirmation, meaning, and significance that trapped her in spiritual deception and caused her to lose everything she had. Fiction? No. True. It is also a story of restoration and a love lost and found.


Out of great loss, including a twenty-year career in publishing, Athena survived toxic spiritual abuse. She uses her platform to encourage others through sharing the faithfulness of God.


36 years in Christian publishing, Athena pioneered the independent publishing movement in the Christian space in the early 90’s. Publisher of the hybrid Redemption Press, she was recently named Publisher of the Year by the Soul Café Awards 2022. Her memoir, Full Circle: Coming Home to the Faithfulness of God (Redemption Press 2017, 2023), continues to resonate with and inspire readers. Redemption Pressed qualified for 3 years in a row for Best Christian Workplace and Athena recently wrote a book with her husband, Ross entitled Together for a Purpose.


Her vision for bringing together women called to write for Him ignited the acclaimed She Writes for Him Writer’s Online events. Even after the pandemic ended, they continue to connect, inform, and inspire writers and have sparked a growing community of writers and speakers ever growing in their craft. They recently relocated their offices into a 100-year-old bank building in historic downtown Enumclaw, WA with a full-service Christian store offering Redemption Press books, gifts, cards, Bibles, and personalized wall art.


Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!


I hope Athena's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Cheers,

Jonno White



1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?


Being able to lead well, authentically, and intentionally while having to put out fires that rob me of focus and time.


2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?


My first experience was starting a company after working for a fundraiser for first responders using a phone room. The culture was one of saying whatever you had to to make the sale, and many of the workers pretended to be police officers or firefighters. I saw the deception as taking advantage of the non-profit groups that were receiving a flat amount, no matter how much cash was raised. I determined to do something similar in a way that would reward the non-profit more if we raised more. This turned into a business that raised money for a similar clientele using helpful products for consumers at an elevated price to support the organization. This was the beginning of 4 decades of leading with the core value of integrity and inspiring others to invest in something bigger than themselves.


3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?


Starting my day at 5 am, I tithe the first hour of my day to Jesus, spending time in prayer, reading The Bible, journaling my thoughts and prayers, along with reading devotionals by “dead guys” … Andrew Murray, AW Tozer, CS Lewis, Charles Spurgeon, and the like. This will usually give me an additional hour to work on whatever manuscript is on a deadline before starting my workday. When I’m not traveling and speaking, I work 3 days a week from the office and our brick-and-mortar Christian bookstore which is 5 minutes away from my house, the other 3 days are working from home.


Since our team is remote, 2 days a week are filled with agenda-led full team meetings and different departments. Add to that virtual training for writers across the country and Zoom meetings with potential authors. Some evenings are church activities, life groups, and quiet dinners with my husband. I try to head for bed by 9 am to be asleep by 10.


4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?


Knowing that God is in the middle of all that we do as a Christian publisher, it doesn’t matter what the trial or challenge is, He always seems to use it to make us better and stronger. Recently we weathered a tough storm when Amazon completed a warehouse shedding which returned 3 million books to our distributor, 1,000 of which were our titles. This wiped out thousands of dollars in royalty income that became a hardship for us for at least 3 months. As bad as it was, the crisis exposed some areas where we were not recouping return deductions and were unaware.


Another area of financial loss was spotlighted as well, which never would have come to light had this storm passed us by. This reminded me that God does work ALL THINGS together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. (Romans 8:28) and I choose to be transparent and authentic as a leader and do the right thing, even when it hurts.


There is always a lesson and time of refining with each struggle I walk through as a leader, and how I handle each one shows the team that I care about doing the right thing, which inevitably affects how they are treated as team members.


5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?


"Streams in the Desert" is my favorite devotional which has time and time again shown me how to look at pain and suffering, emotional, physical, mental, and often business and financial, in a way that changes my perspective and sees the good that comes from the refiner’s fire.


In the middle of a turbulent time where the challenges seemed to outweigh the successes, the words in that little devotional seemed to glow on the page, Taking in these words fortified my soul and allowed me to see the struggle as an opportunity for my Father in Heaven to show Himself strong in my weakness. I chose to, in my desire to just give up, pray, instead, to be a stronger person, and He answered that prayer!


Be courageous; be strong.


1 CORINTHIANS 16:13


Never pray for an easier life—pray to be a stronger person! Never pray for tasks equal to your power—pray for power equal to your tasks. Then doing your work will be no miracle—you will be the miracle.1


1Streams in the Desert Morning and Evening

L. B. E. Cowman

Zondervan Publishers


6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?


Be teachable, and authentic, and learn how to serve others well.


7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?


That would have to be at the end of 2023 when we came out of the Amazon Warehouse Shedding storm that was compounded by an extremely slow August and September where we had to cut back hours of our 12-person remote team and curtail any excess spending which included my choice to not take a paycheck for a number months. As we got things back on track, I wanted to see how the team felt about our leadership, culture, and the benefits of working with a Christian company.


It would be our 3rd year to qualify as a Best Christian Workplace and I wondered if we could, after all the struggles we weathered as a team during the year. As the surveys were completed anonymously so that all employees were able to answer honestly, I held my breath that we would qualify again after such a tough year.


Not only did we qualify, but our rating was even higher than in 2022, in the top 2% compared to all other qualifying organizations. What seemed to come through is the respect and trust, the love and care and communication with the team, combined with the commitment to excellence and integrity. Being willing to do the right thing even when it hurt, secured our place as a Best Christian Workplace for 2023 for the third year running.

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