For a self-described perfectionist like Sarah Toulouse, it can be tough to stand back and allow professional projects to fall into place without micro-managing.
But during a career largely spent at Bayer Corp., she's learned to do just that.
She calls it "trusting in the process" and believes her ability to connect with colleagues and recognize their strengths and talents has been key to her landing the top job in philanthropy for Bayer's U.S. operations.
In January, Ms. Toulouse, 36, was named Bayer donations officer for the USA, which includes overseeing the company's giving and serving as executive director of the Bayer USA Foundation, which distributed about $6.5 million in 2012.
"I've never had ambition to make it to the top but I always wanted to be a leader in my everyday life," said Ms. Toulouse, who thought about becoming a lawyer while growing up in Cecil, Washington County.
She interned for Bayer's political action committee while earning a double major in journalism and political science at Duquesne University. In 1999, the company hired her full-time while she pursued a master's degree in communication at Duquesne.
As a staffer in Bayer's corporate communications department, she spent much of her time as a project manager for Making Science Make Sense, a Bayer program that promotes science in schools. That work got her hooked on education issues and laid the groundwork for a future stint at ASSET Inc. -- a nonprofit launched by Bayer to help schools implement science and math curriculums.
She also worked for just less than a year at American Eagle Outfitters, where she gained experience in philanthropy, community relations and corporate social responsibility issues but concluded, "Retail wasn't my passion."
In 2012, she rejoined Bayer as a program officer for the foundation.
Her current position is a newly defined role in which she is charged with viewing Bayer's philanthropy "in a more holistic way" that includes foundation grants, corporate gifts and disaster relief, said Ms. Toulouse.
Because it's a different approach, she's prepared to tap skills she believes contribute to good leadership such as "the ability to take on new challenges, not be afraid of what you don't know, acknowledge your weaknesses, and be willing to learn and open to new ideas."
"A good leader is motivated and inspiring to others through the good work they do and the impact that work has in the organization and outside the organization," she said.
-- Joyce Gannon: email@example.com or 412-263-1580