Katerina Glyptis explains that one of the most important parts about being a leader is remembering that you can’t do it all on your own — nor should you. Empowering her team with a shared vision and the resources to bring it to fruition is what has helped her succeed in her role as Vice President of Franchise Operations for Burger King North America, part of RBI (Restaurant Brands International Inc.) That and just going for it.
“For a lot of us, probably particularly for women, we like to be very prepared,” she tells Fairygodboss. “Yes, have your plan. Have your vision. But you have to be prepared for some level of ambiguity. Be as prepared as you can be but, at some point, jump in and get it done.”
And that’s precisely what Glyptis has done at Burger King.
“I kept embracing new challenges and worked my way up,” she says, since getting promoted from General Manager of the Central Division in January. “The company has grown a ton over my time here. I joined straight out of college in a leadership development program, and I chose the company because I saw a massive amount of responsibility being given to people, even junior ones. If you were smart, hungry, curious, and hard-working, the company would throw a ton at you and let you grow with it.”
Flash forward seven years, and Glyptis is still with the Burger King brand. She says she stayed because she’s never had the chance to get bored. Rather, every time she’s approached any level of comfort some new challenge has come her way.
“We have so much more work to do,” she tells us. “We have so much more progress to make… And the company is a very ambitious one [that] continuously provides opportunities to its people to do a bunch of hands-on work and have a bunch of real impact and real responsibility.”
What Glyptis finds most exciting is getting to work with so many different people within the company. Because she’s worked on both sides of the business — in the field and in the restaurant support center — she’s in a prime position to be a “bridge” between her team, franchisees, and the rest of the company.
In her current role, Glyptis leads the North American field team comprised of General Managers, Franchise Business Partners, Operations Partners, and Field Marketing Managers who are responsible to own the relationships with and performance of the 450 franchisees who own and operate over 7300 restaurants. “I get to have my hand in a lot of different buckets, which, from a strategic perspective, means you have a holistic view of the business,” she says.
She loves getting to work with franchises, as it’s “where the business is.” They work together to bring strategic market plans to reality, enhance restaurant operations, navigate problems as they escalate, and more.
Despite the impact of her role and the size of her team, Glyptis says that the company feels quite small and close-knit.
“I think that, to the outside world, we look like a massive company.” she says. “Our Brands have 20,000+ locations across the world in 105 countries with a massive global presence across three iconic, amazing brands that serve millions of guests each year. But, once you’re in [the company], you see that in many ways our teams function like a startup – scrappy, get-it-done teams working collaboratively without formalities and bureaucracy.” And Glyptis has played a massive role in helping to create those small but mighty teams. She says that, the bigger her role as a leader has become, the more important it’s been for her to “build and manage strong teams.”
“I’ve been putting most of my energy into my people first, and letting that translate out to the business,” she says, describing her leadership style as one that involves people into the decision-making process. “Whenever we have a problem at hand, I’ll come with a sense of a perspective in mind, but ask my team to discuss and brainstorm solutions together live, and come up with a decision together.”
She doesn’t only get her team involved either. Glyptis is also focused on getting more women in the company engaged. When she first joined the field, the company only had three women as area franchise leads out of a group of 20. Now, more than half are women. And she’s been part of this change by having countless coffee chats (albeit virtually, these days) with women who come into the company either through the leadership development program or other sources.
“I feel [very lucky] to be in a position where I get to connect with so many people and provide an example of what a career in leadership, especially in the field, could look like,” she says. “I appreciate being in this space where more junior people can look at me and say, ‘Hey, look, she came straight out of school, worked hard, embraced challenges, prioritized people and doing things the right way, and made it to where she is.’ I hope that path is something others can relate to.”
She reminds other women looking to grow into leadership roles that leaders are all different. “You don’t have to look or sound or behave in any specific way to be a leader. You can have your own personality and be you,” she says.
“Be genuine, be yourself, know what your strengths are, and lean into them,” she explains. “Leaders come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and all types of Myers-Briggs personalities.”
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