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7 Questions on Leadership with Ivonne Kinser

Name: Ivonne Kinser

Title: Founder & CEO

Organisation: Vantage Innovation Lab

Ivonne Kinser is a trailblazer in the marketing field, consistently challenging the status quo in her pursuit of creativity-driven exponential growth. Within the realm of marketing and innovation, Ivonne has carved out a distinguished reputation. She boasts over 40 accolades for her creative, performance-driven, and innovative contributions, and notably, she became the first Latina to receive the Marketing Lifetime Achievement Award from The DFW American Marketing Association. She has also been included in the list of the 100 Most Influential Latinas in the US for two consecutive years.

Prior to that, she was honored with the Changing the Game Award in the Brainwave category when the She Runs It organization recognized her as one of the five women who fearlessly make bold moves and transform their brands and organizations.

Her impact transcends industries, leaving an enduring mark on the marketing landscape. Her unwavering passion for martech-led marketing innovation drives her to continuously seek groundbreaking strategies that propel brands to unprecedented heights. Her remarkable 20+ years in the field of marketing disruption have contributed to the redefinition of marketing in the industries she has left a mark on.

From pioneering the initial digital marketing initiatives for the world's largest airline, American Airlines across 20 Latin American countries in 2002, to leading the innovation agenda that propelled Avocados From Mexico to the top of Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies list on a global scale in 2021, her career has made a lasting impact.

She also serves as an innovation advisor for the Food Institute and is a regular marketing lecturer at IPADE, Mexico's top business school. Additionally, she is on the board of the DFW American Marketing Association, holds an honorary board membership with the DFW Interactive Marketing Association, and is an active board member She also serves as an innovation advisor for the Food Institute and is a regular marketing lecturer at IPADE, Mexico's top business school. Additionally, she sits on the board of the DFW American Marketing Association, holds an honorary board membership with the DFW Interactive Marketing Association, and serves as an active board member for the University of North Texas’ College of Merchandising, Hospitality, and Tourism Advancement Board.

In June 2023, she founded Vantage Innovation Lab, a marketing firm dedicated to accelerating growth-driven innovation by integrating marketing technology in unique and disruptive ways.

Through her multiple ventures, from entrepreneur and founder to an author and speaker, her work is characterized by a nontraditional approach to marketing, guided by bold creativity and unconventional problem-solving.

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

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


Jonno White

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

As a leader, I've always considered one of the most important missions to engage each of the people under my leadership in a way that resonates with them personally. Whether the team consists of 5 people or 5000, I believe that true leaders are capable of recognizing and honoring not only the value of the team but also the value, strengths, and uniqueness of each individual. While this task can indeed be challenging at times, I view it as an essential and rewarding aspect of leadership. It's about understanding that each individual on the team is unique, with their own talents, strengths, passions, values, goals, aspirations, and preferences. It is important to understand what makes them tick and how their unique combination of attributes and skills makes them exceptionally better than anyone else in certain specific areas. To lead effectively, it is crucial to craft a leadership approach that aligns with each of them as unique individuals, not just as a team. This approach not only fosters a sense of trust and collaboration but also empowers each team member to thrive and contribute their best, ultimately leading to a more successful team dynamic and more empowered, fulfilled, happy, and loyal individuals.

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

My journey into leadership began when I recognized the critical importance of perspective. It was a pivotal moment when I understood that, as a leader, my role extended beyond merely having a strong point of view. True leadership meant fostering an environment where the perspectives of my team members were not just acknowledged but valued. To achieve this, I learned to shift the focus from my own viewpoint to that of my team.

This transformational realization compelled me to become a mindful listener, eager to understand the diverse perspectives within my team. I found that by actively listening and empathetically considering their points of view, I could create a collaborative space where their insights and ideas became essential components of the solutions we pursued.

In essence, my journey into leadership was marked by the evolution from being the holder of a singular vision to becoming the facilitator of collective insight. It's a path that continues to guide my leadership style, as I firmly believe that harnessing the power of multiple perspectives leads to innovative solutions and fosters a more cohesive and empowered team.

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

I find myself at a critical and exciting juncture in my career, deeply immersed in the development and expansion of multiple ventures. This includes the establishment of a cutting-edge marketing innovation company, as well as the launch of a book complemented by a brand built around its core concepts.

My daily routine reflects the commitment and dedication that entrepreneurship demands, especially in its earliest stages, which often leaves little room for relaxation. However, the satisfaction of witnessing my ventures rapidly booming and exceeding expectations is a reward in itself. It's challenging to step away when your responsibilities align closely with your passions and values. There will be plenty of time for relaxation later. Although I do carve out some time here and there to pursue my personal passions, such as road bike riding, and to spend with my family.

In essence, my workdays are a testament to the unwavering commitment and drive that are essential in the world of entrepreneurship. From dawn to dusk, I invest my efforts in propelling these ventures forward, continually working towards achieving both my goals and my clients' goals.

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

One of the most impactful leadership lessons I've learned, or perhaps been reminded of, is the profound importance of enabling the success of every member within my teams. It's a lesson that continues to resonate deeply with me.

In my journey as a leader, I've come to understand that my own success is intricately linked to my ability to facilitate the success of those I lead. This involves providing them with the essential tools, equipping them with pertinent information, affording them the space to explore and innovate, offering unwavering encouragement, extending robust support, and above all, empowering them to excel.

This lesson underscores the fact that leadership isn't about standing at the forefront, but rather about creating an environment where every individual can thrive and contribute their best.

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?

One book that has profoundly impacted my leadership journey is 'The Influential Mind' by Tali Sharot. This book provided invaluable insights into the intricate workings of the human mind, particularly in the context of influence and decision-making.

As a leader, understanding how people think, make choices, and are influenced by various factors is paramount. 'The Influential Mind' delves into the psychology of persuasion and the science behind effective communication. It illuminated the importance of empathy, active listening, and crafting compelling narratives to connect with others on a deeper level.

One key takeaway from the book was the concept of 'emotional resonance.' It emphasized the significance of connecting emotionally with team members to inspire action and drive positive change. This notion profoundly reshaped my approach to leadership.

By genuinely understanding others' perspectives, concerns, and motivations, we are better equipped to lead with empathy and create a collaborative, high-impact environment

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

If I were to offer one piece of advice to a young leader, it would be this: Embrace the power of empathy in your leadership journey. While we've witnessed various leadership styles over the years, leading with empathy consistently leads to stronger and more effective results.

Empathy is not a sign of weakness; rather, it's a hallmark of strong and enlightened leadership. It involves genuinely understanding and connecting with the people you lead, recognizing their needs, concerns, values, and aspirations. By placing yourself in their shoes, you build trust, foster collaboration, and inspire your team to achieve their best.

Legacy leadership styles may have emphasized authority and control, but the world is evolving. Today's leaders recognize that empathy is a formidable force that propels individuals and teams toward success. It's not about ceding control; it's about empowering others to excel.

So, my advice to young leaders is simple: Lead with empathy, as it will not only make you a better leader but also guide your team to achieve remarkable results.

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

One particularly meaningful story from my time as a leader emerged during my work with new teams on exciting projects within my new ventures. It's a testament to the power of collaboration and adaptability.

Ee had a diverse group of individuals, each bringing their unique talents and perspectives to the table. As we embarked on our project, challenges arose. What made this experience memorable was how our team rallied together to overcome these obstacles.

There was a pivotal moment when a critical decision needed to be made, and the viewpoints within the team varied widely.

The team engaged in a passionate discussion, with everyone contributing their insights and concerns.

What transpired was remarkable. Through respectful discourse and a willingness to understand each other's perspectives, we arrived at a solution that none of us had initially envisioned. It was a collective effort that exemplified the strength of collaboration and the power of diverse thinking.

This story reminds me that, as a leader, fostering an environment where diverse voices are not only heard but valued can lead to innovative solutions and stronger team cohesion. It was a meaningful reminder of the extraordinary outcomes that can emerge when we embrace teamwork, adaptability, and the richness of diverse perspectives in our leadership journey.

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