4 Top Pieces of Leadership Advice From Leaders With Different Strategies, Styles, and Paths

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Photos of Kristin Arnold, Melisa Boddie, Tanya Mukerjee, and Rani Nair.

Photos courtesy of DISH.

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July 15, 2024 at 8:59PM UTC

Not all leaders lead in the same way, and there are many different paths to take to grow your leadership abilities, even within a single company. Take DISH, for example. DISH has a culture in which leaders of all backgrounds, styles, and strategies can succeed. The company takes pride in “creating opportunity for all and cultivating an inclusive environment where people thrive because of their differences.”

Due to this culture, leaders of all different backgrounds, paths, and styles can excel at DISH. Take Kristin Arnold, an accounting director, for example. Arnold started at DISH 22 years ago as a staff accountant and worked her way up to a manager after several years. Then, six years ago, she was promoted to director where she leads a team of approximately 40 people. Her top piece of leadership advice she’s gleaned from her journey?

“I would say my #1 piece of advice is don’t be afraid to ask for it. I’ve read countless articles about how women don’t apply for a position because they don’t meet 100% of the criteria listed. Everyone experiences a learning curve in a new role, so we can’t expect to be perfectly suited to a leadership role right out of the gate. If you’re interested in moving into a leadership role, be observant of others in similar roles and mentally note what you consider good leadership traits vs. bad ones so that you can avoid pitfalls and focus your style on more effective behaviors.” — Kristin Arnold

Arnold’s long tenure at the company is also shared by her colleague Melisa Boddie, the vice president of Programming Acquisitions at DISH. Boddie has been at DISH for nearly 15 years, and throughout this whole time, she’s been working and growing within the Programming team. From this unique leadership journey, Boddie shares the following top tip:

Never give up. Never stop pushing yourself. Never stop pushing the boundaries. Never settle. Never doubt yourself (if you don’t believe in yourself, how could you expect anyone else to believe in you?).” — Melisa Boddie

Tanya Mukerjee, meanwhile, is the director of Systems for Integration and Program Management. Her current job responsibilities include providing operational, program management. As for Mukerjee’s personal leadership style, this is centered around mentorship and supporting her team members’ growth. As such, it’s no surprise that her top piece of leadership advice is to:

Make sure you have a seat at the table, be assertive, and vocalize your ideas and opinions. Always be authentic, show empathy, and empower and nurture those around you. The best leaders are those that help develop other leaders within an organization!” — Tanya Mukerjee

Finally, Rani Nair, director of Data Management and Business Intelligence, leads a team of data architects, data engineers, analysts, and business intelligence developers and administrators. She has served in this role for three months since transitioning from leading a smaller team of analysts and business intelligence developers and administrators. This was a big leap, and to do so, she relied on her own #1 piece of leadership advice. 

Trust and believe in yourself. We don’t have to know everything before we move to the next role. I had doubts about myself moving into the current role on whether I would be able to execute. And while it is still early into this role, I am growing in confidence each day.” — Rani Nair

Fairygodboss sat down with all four of these women to talk more about their different leadership strategies, advice for managing direct reports, and more. Here’s what they each had to say.

To begin, what’s one strategy you’ve used when managing an individual (or team) that you think has been particularly effective?

Arnold: It sounds very broad, but one thing that has been effective is making a personal connection in whatever way works for each individual. I celebrate work anniversaries, birthdays, and other milestones on the team with a little treat of some sort. When I have meetings with my direct reports, I don’t multitask. I pay attention to what they are experiencing. I make sure that they know I recognize their contributions and extra efforts. Also, I’m not afraid to show some vulnerability.

Boddie: Understanding that not everyone is made the same. So, there isn’t one strategy that I use to manage people. Instead, I tailor my strategy for each individual person.

Mukerjee: One strategy that I have used that has been very effective is establishing and maintaining trust within my team. Trust is an essential component to any relationship and particularly in a team. It is very important that the individual team members trust their leader and each other to do the right thing, deliver what was promised, and to support the individuals on the team. As a team leader, it is important to trust that they will deliver work in a timely and professional manner, that they share the same goals of both the team and organization and that they will do right by the team. By being understanding of mistakes, being flexible and open to new ideas, encouraging open communication, and being transparent one can create trust within their team.

Nair: Believing and trusting the team members to do the job right. When you give people the freedom and trust (empowering) to execute, they become more effective in their work and in turn trust that you will be there for them when needed. You should also be receptive and  open to their ideas and thoughts, take the good ones and give them the credit for it, and let them know why some ideas may not have been considered.

How do you think about making sure your direct reports feel well-supported in their lives both in and out of the office?

Arnold: I think it’s as simple as asking them what they need, following through, and making them part of the process. I don’t want to just answer a question, so I work on eliciting their thoughts and prodding a little so they have ownership of the solution. I’m also very lucky that I’ve worked with my direct reports for a long time so that we are very comfortable being honest with each other. 

Boddie: I am constantly checking in to see if they need anything. When they need a day off, I never hesitate to make sure it happens for them, despite anything we have going on in the office. I also try to make it clear that they don’t owe me an explanation for needing a day off because I never want them to feel like they have to explain themselves. I also let them know that there is no job too big or too small for me. I have been in almost every position here in Programming, so if they need help, I am here to help them. If they need a day off, I am here to cover for them. 

Mukerjee: I believe in managing direct reports with inclusive leadership where empathy and effective listening are important aspects. It gives an employee a sense of belonging and fosters strong connections. For a team to succeed, it is very important for managers to get to know their employees on a personal level and show genuine interest in them. Taking the time to do regular check-ins and follow-ups builds trust on a personal level, which makes them feel comfortable to come to you with questions or concerns and helps them feel like their position on the team is valued.

In addition, involving employees in the decision-making process shows them that I care about their ideas and opinions. I believe this also helps them develop their decision-making skills and confidence. I also try as much as possible to empower them through delegation. I strongly believe in work-life balance, so I ensure I regularly check in on their workloads and encourage my team to take time off and spend quality time with their families. Getting to know their needs and personal circumstances allows me to offer more flexibility to meet both their work and personal needs.

Nair: As a leader, we should be able to work hand-in-hand with our team so they know that we have their back. This also helps us lead with empathy. It is important to know each individual, their strengths, their weaknesses, and what makes them tick. No two individuals are the same, and they do not have the same experiences. So, a leader should be able to tailor their interactions based on the individual.

What’s the No. 1 thing you hope your direct reports are getting out of working with you?

Arnold: I hope my direct reports feel simultaneously challenged by and supported by me.  I prefer to work with engaged people, so I want to do my best to make sure they are engaged.  I’ve seen the best engagement when a team feels like they are working toward a common goal.  

Boddie: I hope they learn a greater sense of self-love and self-confidence. Whether they believe they can or can’t, they’re right. I also want them to learn to be their own number one fan. Working hard, then hitting a milestone or an accomplishment, can be the biggest reward you give yourself. Having pride and confidence in yourself comes from being prepared and is one of the best things someone can do for themselves, at DISH or anywhere else in life. Doing the work for yourself, you will learn to love whatever it is you are doing. Doing the work for someone else is a recipe for burnout. 

Mukerjee: The number one thing that I hope my direct reports are getting out of working with me is acting with integrity and following through on commitments. It is so important for them to see that I practice what I preach and that I am accountable for my actions and decisions independent of whether the outcome is successful or not.

Nair: I hope that my direct reports are excited to come to work every day and that they have the freedom to exchange ideas. I want them to know that they can approach me anytime to discuss anything on their mind. I want them to feel well supported, that they have the tools and skills to do their job, and that they have the ability to grow in their careers.

What’s been your most valuable career mistake?

Boddie: Letting myself believe others when they didn’t believe in me. Looking back, it made me learn to look to myself for validation and recognition of my accomplishments. There is nobody harder on me, than me and nobody harder to please than me, so it really pushed me to push myself. To me, it was like teaching a baby to self soothe rather than to consistently seek comfort from someone else. I learned to seek value and recognition from myself. It made me a happier person and made me a better employee.

Mukerjee: One of the most valuable career mistakes that I made early on in my career was not negotiating my salary and benefits that were commensurate with my skills and experience. I underestimated my worth and professional value that I provided to the organization. Especially for women, knowing exactly what skills and talents one brings to the table and how we are able to differentiate ourselves from our peers will give oneself a competitive edge. Keeping track of one’s accomplishments, knowledge, experience, and skills will prevent them from settling for less than they deserve. At the end of the day, if you do not understand your own worth and the value you bring, why would anyone else?

Nair: When you move from an individual contributor to a manager role and above, you carry with you the tendency to do everything on your own, including both the work you have been doing and the new responsibilities. This means that you are working much longer hours than necessary and your productivity is impacted. To avoid this, delegate work and trust your team to do a good job. This has paid dividends in my own experience, and I am able to concentrate on the tasks that are important to me while the work gets done.

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