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7 Questions on Leadership with Kristy Ryan

Name: Kristy Ryan

Title: Chief Operating Officer

Organisation: Move For Hunger

Kristy is a Non-Profit C-Suite Executive passionate about optimizing operations to propel Non-Profits further toward fulfilling their mission. Her current work centers on solving Food Insecurity in the US & Canada while equally reducing food waste. She is known as a high-impact, results-driven, anti-boring senior business management professional. She is also well-regarded as a shrewd strategist in developing sweeping business practice reforms to address untapped, undervalued, and overlooked opportunities. As a calculated risk taker, she focuses on moving methods quickly in transforming ideas into action; she is highly skilled in connecting complex and disparate information into a distinct concept and a formidable plan of action.

Kristy has been a noteworthy leader in the Non-Profit space for over fifteen years. Driven by the desire to foster change for good, she takes pride in providing exceptional leadership to her team. As the Chief Operating Officer, Kristy accelerates her team's reach by being a thought partner and propelling professional development in her organization. She holds a bachelor's degree in Sustainable Enterprise Leadership and International Business and a Master's in Public Administration. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Sustainability Education.

When she is not working, she spends time with her husband, volunteering in the veteran community and honoring his 20 years of service. Mom of two daughters, she supports their growth and opportunities to engage in their communities and beyond for change through Girl Scouts and community service. Kristy lives a life with the purpose of service.

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

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


Jonno White

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

Navigating societal expectations and biases related to gender. As a female leader I have encountered resistance or stereotypes. Balancing empathy with assertiveness can be a delicate task.

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

I've always naturally gravitated towards leadership roles, from my formative years through Girl Scouts and youth programs I realized that someone needs to take a leadership role if you hope to accomplish anything. I view myself as a leader second, a mentor first. I want to see those around me rise and my true measure of success is not in my own accomplishments but in those that I lead. I also realized early in my career leadership does not require a special title and that each of us has the power to impact, motivate, inspire, and mentor one another when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and open to often difficult conversations.

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

I tackle the easiest routine items first every day, from checking through channels for updates that came through overnight to reviewing my calendar and planning my day. I review all meeting agendas at the start of every day, and work towards no meetings the first hour of my day to allow proper time for review and planning. I also believe in the power of blocking focus and deep work time, balanced with action time. If I spend an hour brainstorming I need to spend equal time researching and developing action plans for those ideas. Much of my time in the day is spent connecting with individuals and teams to provide support. The last thing I do each day is review any open items that I was unable to resolve and high level evaluate the agenda for the next day so I can block time to accomplish any open tasks. My family and I have made a commitment to being engaged with one another in the evening, unless there is an emergency I insist that we are able to step away from work and school commitments and spend time together when ever possible.

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

I would not say this is a recent lesson, rather one that I am constantly reminded of and attempt to center in my own leadership roles. Leaders drive change by understanding the motivations of their team. The reality is that one's perception is their reality and if you want to drive change you must first understand the motivations and perspectives to find commonality and a way forward.

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?

Start With Why by Simon Sinek. As I mentioned, understanding one's perception and motivations allows you to tune in and to lead them thoughtfully. Opening the opportunity to engage in honest and earnest leadership conversations. Asking "why" is the most impactful way to engage in conversation, professional development, mentorship and relationship management. Purpose or why should be the foundation of inspirational leadership and developing those you lead.

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

Remain humble and open. Remember that striking the right tone of empathy while also maintaining a strong leadership stance can be challenging. It's important to be compassionate and understanding, but also firm and decisive when necessary. Leaders are human and imperfect, remain open and willing to grow and learn just as much as you strive to foster growth in those you lead.

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

For me the power of an impactful leader comes long after your direct leadership role has ended with the person. A former team member recently reached out and asked for my opinion on an pathway decision she was facing. When I asked her why she was struggling she shared that no one ever asked her why she was doing something until we worked together. It was always an assumption that "this" is the next thing she needed to do regardless of her wants and she knew that I would challenge her to answer the harder question of "why" she would take one path or the other. It has been years since we worked together, but the fact that she sought me out to provide her the space to safely ask deeper questions humbled me. As a leader we must always remain open and humble, willing to stand in discomfort and support our teams throughout their professional and personal journey.

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