Whether it was through dreams of heading a classroom or taking charge of an activity with a local Girl Scout troop, Catherine Mott has always gravitated toward leadership roles. However, the founder and CEO of Wexford-based investment firms Blue Tree Capital Group and Blue Tree Allied Angels said her natural inclination to take charge is only part of the reason she's made a successful transition from corporate banking to running her own business.
To the contrary, an encounter during her banking years with a corporate development manager helped her realize it takes much more than a desire to lead to build effective business relationships.
"I went to him and said, 'I have over 500 employees and I want to get the best out of them and make our projections. What do I need to do?' He handed me a mirror and said, 'We're going to start with you,'" she said.
Ms. Mott said the incident forced her to become more aware of her actions during the course of a business day and how they might impact employees and potential partners. She said it also helped her recognize the key strengths that she brings to every interaction and how she can use those qualities to work toward the best outcome.
"I see myself every once in a while getting caught up with all of the activity around me and feeling tense and stressed. Now I ask myself if, am I using my best voice or am I using my best behaviors right now? I tell myself, 'I'm being a terrible boss right now, so I'm going to stop, I'm going to correct myself right this moment and I'm going to find the right way.'"
The advice has helped her build a national reputation as a highly effective leader and collaborator. In 2010, Ms. Mott was named chairman of the Overland Park, Kansas-based Angel Capital Association, the trade association that represents professional Angel Networks and Angel Funds in the United States. In 2011, she was one of 21 industry experts named to the Securities and Exchange Commission's advisory committee on small and emerging companies.
Although she learned one of her biggest lessons early in her career, Ms. Mott said she continues to grow and learn as a leader with each new interaction. One of her biggest regrets, in fact, is the idea that she didn't jump into the learning experience of entrepreneurship earlier.
Regardless of when she got started or what she brought to the table naturally, she acknowledges that the work she puts in beyond her inherent talents will ultimately define her legacy as a leader.
"Some leaders are risk takers and that's an innate part of character. But in order to be a good leader, that comes from development, making mistakes, education and growth," she said.
-- Deborah M. Todd: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1652