Name: Leah Kyaio
Title: Founder / CEO
Organisation: With Respect LLC
Leah is the CEO of With Respect LLC where they tackle Diversity Repair & Recovery. She works with high performing leaders of organizations that haven't gotten the desired outcomes from their diversity initiatives. Whether it's that the initiative did nothing, did less than expected, or resulted in divisiveness or violence, Leah meets people where they are and takes them on an important adventure, providing the tools and skills to repair the system and move things forward, getting back on track to justice and dignity.
As a diversity professional, Leah has served as speaker, facilitator, coach, and consultant for over 25 years. She provides humor, engagement, and the art of integrating what you learn into everyday life. She sees every day as an adventure and every learning opportunity the chance to dive in with curiosity and authenticity. After all, if you can't have fun, why bother?
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Leah's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
There are two things I think are most challenging as a leader;
Ensuring and empowering others to hold and drive toward the vision.
Pivoting quickly when change occurs. Whether it's the market, the economy, or a pandemic being able to pivot quickly in the right direction is a great challenge.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
Truth be told, I've been a leader all my life. I remember the day almost 30 years ago that I decided to dedicate my life to being part of positive change. There was a quarter acre I passed every day on my way to work, full of large oaks and maples with a few pines. As I approached that corner on my way home, it was gone! The trees had been leveled. I was devastated. I didn't understand how someone could not understand the community that had just been wiped out. You see, as one of indigenous heritage, I see all of life as connected. The trees, like all the creatures with whom we share this planet, are my relations. Wiping out those trees was, for me, like mowing down a small village. As I sat there caught up in my grief and loss, it occurred to me that people have a hard time getting along with one another, the same species. That was the first step in finding a path forward to accept that all life is sacred. So it is I embarked on my work to support the continued development of the human race to learn, practice, and sustain the ideals of respect.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
My morning starts with connections and reflections. It looks like journaling, meditating, a bit of stretching, and lots of gratitudes. From there, I do farm chores (yep, I have horses, chickens, gardens, a turtle, dogs, etc). After a shower, I am ready for my work day. The first things I do help me to focus my day - what's due, who am I meeting, where am I going, how am I furthering my mission and my profit. I also need to check in with those to whom I have delegated and assigned tasks and projects. I spend time connecting with my marketing and messaging and any appointments and client work that needs to be done. At the end of the day, upon arriving at home, farm chores again await me followed by dinner, meditation, a bit of reading and some sudoku.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
I am reminded that as leaders we must continually strive to be worthy of being followed. This only happens by empowering others in their choices and voices.
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?
Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements. This is a book that continually challenges me to constantly explore whether the beliefs I hold are limiting me or no longer serve me. I have used it in every training, every board room, every office, and every classroom, every home I have been in over the last 25 years. It is the foundation of communication, expectations of engagement, and how best to always stand in my power while making room for others.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Find your allies, resources, and alignment as early as you can. They will serve you well.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
I was leading and facilitating a diverse work group tasked with systemic change in an organization. On a break, I had an individual approach me to say, "I don't think I belong here."
I asked them why they thought that was the case.
"I don't see things the same way everyone else seems to. I certainly don't always agree with you."
I saw this opportunity for what it was and responded, "It is for that reason that you really belong here, even more than all those who seem to agree. This group needs your voice to lead the way to push our work to its greatest good. You can model voicing opposition, respectfully. I promise to hold the space for respectful disagreement. I really do need you."
The individual stayed and offered valid consideration and likewise encouraged others who didn't see things the same way to raise their voice. I was able to make good on my promise and supported the group in practicing respectful skills and tools we learned together. It made the process rich and the end result closer to perfect for a diverse organization.