Inspiring leaders act in service of others.

I sat down with Kath Carter from EY to talk about inspirational leadership, and couldn’t wait to share her insights with all of you.

We know that leaders show confidence, but Kath believes that true confidence allows a leader to put her ego aside and be fully present and invested in her team. I’m lucky to have Kath as a friend and mentor through EY’s Women in Sport and Business program and have felt her investment in me, which has encouraged me to set more ambitious goals. That’s the power of inspirational leadership.

If you want to show up this way for your team, Kath offered the following advice:

1. Figure out what your team needs to feel love, trust, and respect; everyone needs to feel this support to be in the best mindset to perform

2. Go beyond your 1:1 relationships and take responsibility for developing more connected teams; this creates an ecosystem that fosters growth and creativity

3. Be intentional about creating moments; punctuate each person’s experience with opportunities for team connection, individual achievement, and personalized recognition

My hope is that we can create more managers like Kath.

Kath's Bio

Kath has over 26 years of experience in mergers, acquisitions and divestiture activities, with another five years of experience as an auditor. As the Global Talent Leader for Strategy and Transactions for EY LLP, she develops the next generation of talent to achieve their aspirations and win in the market. Kath also serves as the Global Executive Sponsor for the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ program, championing women founders and connecting them to the many resources and networks necessary for their companies to achieve their growth ambitions.


Sarah: Kath, thank you so much for being here, my amazing mentor from EY. I’ve been so lucky to connect with Kath and get to learn from her brilliance, but today I want to talk about inspirational leadership and really get to know what is inspirational leadership to you, whether that’s character traits, a definition, what is inspiring leadership to you?

Kath Carter: First off, Sarah, thank you for having me. That’s the real kicker here is that I’m the one who’s honored to be here with you. I’ve said this before, I’m not sure who mentors whom in this situation because I learn so much from you. You, yourself, are an inspiring leader. There’s no doubt about that. I think about the journey that you had and the journey that you’re trying to take and your inspiration is just starting. You are going to impact the masses.

When I think about what is an inspiring leader, what is inspiring leadership, it really is someone who believes in themselves, leads by example, and has that ability to create the masses to follow them. Then, what they do with those masses is they really empower others to believe in themselves, to achieve all their dreams, goals, and aspirations. Interestingly, what they really do too is they motivate them to dream bigger, have larger goals, and higher aspirations than they ever thought possible.

Sarah: I mean you certainly do that for me, and I love that definition. When you say they believe in themselves, how does that show up? How does that manifest in their world? If an inspiring leader that you can like… You’re like, “Wow, that person believes in themselves and they inspire others to do that too,” what does that look like?

Kath Carter: I’m going to digress. I told you this, you might not like the answers that I give you all the time, so I’m going to digress for just a minute because I had a really long dialogue with a woman last night about confidence and what does confidence mean? I think true leaders, when you have true confidence, that leads to service to others. When I talk about that belief in themselves, it’s that belief that they’re here for a higher purpose, and that it becomes less about yourself and more about others, as I said, and how you do that.

I’m so fortunate. I get to work with so many colleagues who are inspiring leaders, colleagues, clients, I have roles related to entrepreneurs, as you know, women athletes, as you know, and communities that I’m involved in that really give me examples every day. The one that’s truly top of mind is I had the opportunity to be with a group of inspiring leaders this week in London where we are developing what we call Circles of Trust.

Those are truly being designed so that we can pay it forward to others to have them build their confidence in themselves to live their dreams, be all they can be, aspire higher. For me, that was real time purposeful, two days, two day sessions of coming up with this Circles of Trust to do just exactly what I said is to be inspiring leaders.

Sarah: Was there a moment that you remember in those conversations that you knew this was going to… Or was someone kind of taking charge and being that person while you were walking through this exercise, designing these circles? What did they do and how did that inspire the group?

Kath Carter: It’s a great question. I will tell you, these Circles of Trust have been in the making for myself for the last four years because I had an opportunity in 2017 to take 10 people, bring them together, create a psychologically safe environment so that they could be vulnerable with each other. I will tell you that any moment that I think that you can be vulnerable is that a-ha moment when you go, “Oh my gosh, we’re creating something really special because this is not superficial.”

This is not just about winning in the market. This is not about, right… This is about something way bigger than yourselves. I’ve had several of those a-ha moments when people are able to become vulnerable. That, to me, is what truly puts the cream on the top of the cake as it relates to being an inspiring leader is being vulnerable.

Sarah: You don’t have to say their name, but was there a moment where someone shared something that was like, “Wow?” You can give them a fake name or if there’s something that… Yeah.

Kath Carter: Yeah, absolutely. There was a moment when a gentleman who was in a room full of primarily gentleman shared something that was very personal to him that was going on with a client in a way that it had struck his heart and he started to cry. In that moment, when you have a male that’s crying in a group with 10 other people, to share themselves in a work environment is you go, “Oh my gosh, this is really special that we’ve created such a safe environment that someone can actually bare their soul and shed tears.”

Sarah: I love that. What did you think upon seeing that? What thoughts actually went through your brain?

Kath Carter: I remember this very… I’ve said this before, I’ve been with my firm for 24 years and this is probably my favorite memory and I’ve had a lot of awesome, awesome moments. It was October 2nd in 2017, which is my mother’s birthday, so I think that’s very fitting. We were sitting around a table also in London. We had this group of 10 people that I had brought together to form what has now… We’re now recreating as the Circles of Trust. One of the gentleman, when the gentleman cried, there was like an audible gasp in the room and we all looked at each other.

Without even saying the words we all said to each other, “We’ve created something special here.” That was probably the most impactful moment because silence can oftentimes say a lot more than words. In that moment, it really did and we are still together. That is a extremely strong group that is still together. We still connect. We still get on Zoom calls during the pandemic. It is one of those things when you create that bond, when you create a group of followers amongst a group of leaders, that’s pretty impactful because now we’re doing it and paying it forward to the rest of the masses.

Sarah: I love that. That’s really cool. I just love this idea of creating trust as kind of like something to aspire to as an inspirational leader. You need to be able to create trust in order to have people show up as their real selves to be able to inspire others by knowing that they can take a risk and maybe it goes wrong, or they can try something new and it goes really great or they fall flat on their face. Maybe building on that-

Kath Carter: Love, trust, respect. Love, trust, respect, Sarah. Those are the three things, love, trust, respect. If you can think about those, you can create high performing teams with love, trust and respect. You got to have all three.

Sarah: Say more about that.

Kath Carter: Again, it’s interesting. I was on a panel probably back in… Years ago with a gentleman who had lived abroad. We were talking about sort of… One of the questions was about culture and the differences in culture. His response was, and it stuck with me, is his response was, “Doesn’t matter where you go, yes, you’re going to have different cultures and different way of doing things, but at the end of the day, we’re all pretty much the same. We all want to have love, trust and respect. If we can bring those to the workplace, to our families, to our children, to our communities, to all that, we can do great things together with those commonalities.”

Sarah: How are you bringing those to your team? Maybe breaking down each one, how does love show up? How does trust show up and how’s respect show up with your teams that you’re leading?

Kath Carter: Well, I actually have a little tagline that says creating the right mix, mindset and moments for our people. Right? That is to think about everything that we go into, are we creating an opportunity and an experience for others, right? Again, it’s not about ourselves, it’s more about others and how do they experience us? What are we giving to them? How do they want to experience us?

I think it’s really having that focus or that self-orientation that you know that you’re there for others and not yourself so that when you are creating, when you’re having a discussion, when you’re having a dialogue, when you’re present, are you present or are you on the phone? Are you there or are you not? It’s every little thing that we do that can have an impact on others. As I said, it’s how do you show up? That can be in any way, shape or form if you want to create the right mix, mindset and moments for our people.

Sarah: I love mix, mindset and moments. I’ll just maybe even circle back of so is mix, mindset and moment, does that tackle two of the love, trust and respect or does that kind of cross all borders?

Kath Carter: I think it crosses all aspects, right? When you think about love, trust, and respect is how do you treat others? Right? When you’re creating the right mix, mindset and moments, are we giving the mindset for them an opportunity to grow in a safe, psychological environment, right? Are we creating an experience that they’re going to remember? How do they feel after they have spent time with you, right?

Our meetings, I always come away feeling way much better about life. I have so much more energy. Last night I got in from London, even if I’m completely jet lagged, I am so much more energized by being in your presence, being in your spirit. I think that’s part of what it does. The love part is like, we truly need to be there holistically. That doesn’t mean in love. That just means that you truly love others and treat them with that respect that they deserve.

Sometimes when we’re in environments that are very stressful, we might forget that, right? We go back to what we call our backup behaviors that aren’t always behaviors that we’d be pride to have. That’s why we try and keep that top of mind each and every time when you’re together, are you creating the right mix, mindset and moments for our people? You want them to grow, right? You want them to, like I said, dream bigger, have larger goals and have higher aspirations.

That’s sort of that mindset creating in a moment of time and thinking about that mix, are we diverse? Are we diverse in thought? Are we really focusing… Do we try and be inclusive? That’s sort of where the mix is. I want people to think about that from an inclusive perspective. Yes, that happens in… Love, trust and respect happens in every one of those.

Sarah: I love that. That’s brilliant. I’m certainly leaving here with two new slogans of mix, mindset and moments and love, trust and respect, which I think are incredibly powerful kind of like mantras or slogans that people can bring into their workplace and allow them to be more inspiring by the fact of removing themselves as the center and looking for others and putting on the lens of like, “Okay, if I’m here for others, what does that mix look like? If I’m here for others, what does that mindset look like? If I’m here for others, what do those moments look like? Then, how does love, trust and respect kind of infiltrate the entire experience?”

Thank you for your wisdom, Kath. You are absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to share with our audience all of your amazing nuggets here and looking forward to following you as you continue to inspire so many people. Thank you so much.

Kath Carter: Thank you, Sarah.

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