Behind Leadership: Aileen Katcher

Managing isn’t easy.  Leadership is even harder.  In my exchange with Aileen Katcher of Katcher Vaughn & Bailey Public Relations in Nashville, Tenn., she reinforced this point really well.  She reminded me the best leaders are deliberate, seek challenges that stretch them, and can make hard decisions.

Aileen Katcher

I interned at KVBPR during my senior year at Middle Tennessee State University, which I can’t believe was a nearly a decade ago, and got to see Aileen in action up close and personal every week for a semester.  I’m sure if asked, she’d say she’s a better leader today than she was then. Why? Because leaders never settle.  They’re always working to be better leaders so those they lead become better, too.  As you’ll read below, she’s still fighting the good fight to be the best leader she can possibly be.

1. What is the hardest part about being a leader?

The old adage “it’s lonely at the top” comes to mind. Leaders have to make hard decisions that are not always popular in the short-term, but result in success for the long-term. In business, those decisions that affect the lives of people the leader interacts with regularly and cares about can be the most difficult. And, while long-term, it is usually the best for all, the immediate impact is hard.

2. What is the best part?

Mentoring others and watching them grow is greatly satisfying. I have had many mentors in my life and have learned much from them. I think we all have a duty to give back and mentoring is an important part of that. Sharing and celebrating success with others is also rewarding.

3. Who leads you and how did they become a leader in your life?

When I was in the sixth grade, I had an Autograph Book. You could say it was a precursor to social networking – we asked all of our friends and teachers to write something and sign it. When I asked my dad, he wrote “Aim high and persevere.” I have always tried to follow that advice.

4. What is your advice for those who want to lead?

Aim high and persevere, of course. Learn from other leaders. And, don’t be afraid to take on leadership roles. One of the best ways is to get involved in a nonprofit that pursues a cause you care about. Volunteer to be on a committee and when you are ready, volunteer to chair it.

One of the best lessons I ever had in leadership was when I was on the board of my congregation and ultimately asked to be chair of the board. The month I accepted the role of chair-elect, our beloved, founding Rabbi announced he was leaving. The next two years were the best leadership lesson I ever had.

Our interim Rabbi, Michael Remson, who specialized in helping congregations in transition, taught me much. One of the best lessons was not to triangulate. If there is a problem, approach it directly.

5. What books, web sites or blogs on leadership do you recommend?

I can’t name a specific source. It is more experiential.

6. If you had to choose between no longer being able to lead or losing those leaders you follow, which would you choose and why?

I’m sure there is a time that I will no longer be able to lead (and will not want to) and I have already lost a number of leaders and mentors that I follow. Note to Joel: One of the key points we make when conducting media and crisis training is not to answer speculative questions so that’s the best you’re going to get from me on that one. (Note to Aileen: =))

7. What is your favorite food and place at which to eat it?

Those who know me well, know I am a Lifetime Weight Watcher. So, I try not to focus on specific foods, especially chocolate, not that it’s a favorite.

With regard to place, two come to mind. One is the Red Bar in Grayton Beach, Florida. Terrific seafood and vegetarian food in a funky, eclectic setting with good jazz. And, at home, the Yellow Porch, where there is great food, great service and great art by my friend Shon Hudspeth.

If you liked what Aileen had to say, you may also enjoy her contributions to a two-part blog series about running a PR business.  Aileen was featured along with Gayle Falkenthal, Sarah Evans and Heather Whaling. The posts are found here and here.

Thanks for reading! I encourage you to subscribe and follow me on Twitter.


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