Effective Communication–As a leader, it is your role to be in the know and to be able to bridge all the gaps within the collective. Clearly understanding how to absorb information and translate it based on the personality of the individuals being communicated to will go a long way.

We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Shavonne Reed.

Shavonne Reed is a world-traveled marketing and communications executive with more than 20 years of multi-media, marketing, and communications expertise. She uses emotional intelligence and the happiness advantage principles to facilitate communication skills to develop effective leaders. Shavonne runs a successful marketing agency with a focus on making healthier choices more desirable accessible, and obtainable through awareness campaigns designed to inform, empower and mobilize behavior change.

She is an unapologetic leader who shows up authentically and is impactful through her vulnerable storytelling style. She helps organizations develop effective marketing and communications strategies to support a healthier next generation. Shavonne is a native of Atlanta and lives in Atlanta, GA, with her husband and two daughters.

Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?

Right now, personally, I’m in the middle of college prep for my senior, who will graduate in May of this year. She is a brilliant scholar, and I am extremely proud of her. I am looking forward to helping her make this transition into adulthood.

Professionally, I have just launched my first book–Ugly Duckling–which is an interesting parable about a young woman who is full of ambition. As she takes on the world, she realizes everything is not what it seems, and there are inequities that exist in the workplace, and sometimes you go through some very tough and difficult lessons. However, she holds on to her dream and finds a way to take the bitter with sweetness and propel herself toward her wildest dreams. Many of the events in the story were inspired by real events that are my lived experiences.

We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?

My husband Dante’ is my best friend. He has been extremely influential throughout this journey and right by my side. From day one, he believed I could achieve anything I set out to do. He has been my everything, my confidant, my critic, my sounding board, the shoulder I cry on, the one who gives me the tough reality checks, and the one who sings my greatest praises. He is a brilliant mind and has a unique way of looking at things. If I need perspective, he can give it 360 degrees. He is very well respected by all who know him. I could not have asked God for a better life partner.

Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?

My biggest mistake was that I always had to prove myself. I’ve learned my work ethic is enough. I am committed to excellence, and the mere fact that I am trusted to do the job should give me the wherewithal to be confident that I can get the job done. There is no need to overthink it–we all have experience and great ideas, and not being afraid to share them openly and receive constructive feedback will allow for alternative ideas that will only allow you to be that much greater.

How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?

Earlier in my career, I saw a leader as someone who was the boss and a person who was in charge. Now, I very much see the leader as a guide, someone people want to follow and who sets an example for how to enrich every room they are in, contribute at every table they sit at, and impact every community they encounter. A leader is influential and makes their presence felt with a servant’s heart, I like to call them to change agents.

Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?

I had to learn to say “NO.” I was labeled as the “Yes girl” for so long and learned that boundaries are actually healthy. If a leader over extends themselves beyond their capabilities, then they are not able to effectively show up for others, let alone themselves. It has taken a while to discover effective ways to protect my time when I am such a people pleaser. As I have grown in this area, I have become more energized and able to enjoy and indulge in the moments that matter. There is a Fear of Missing Out and also a Joy of Missing Out.

What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?

One of the most valuable leadership skills is effective communication. I have always prided myself on being a good communicator, having studied journalism in college. However, self-awareness is the critical underlying skill that breeds effective communication. A lot of people know how to structure sentences eloquently, whether in written or verbal form. However, the ability to remain level-headed in the most stressful times is a critical component of being an outstanding leader. Developing this skill alone will allow you to be a confident and well-respected leader who handles adversity and has a distinguished ability to build community and mobilize others toward a common goal, whether directly or indirectly.

What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?

Today is a new day. If your actions do not inspire others to do more, learn more, and dream more, then it’s time to evolve. There is a reason why phone booths no longer exist–they really aren’t needed as everyone is walking around with a phone in their pockets. You don’t want to be the phone booth, you have to stay relevant.

Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?

As an emerging leader, it is not important that you know everything. Instead, embrace the diversity of your team. Each individual has a unique perspective to lend to the collective group’s mission. Focusing on hearing everyone and ensuring everyone feels heard will help breed more ideas. One skill as a new leader that will carry you a long way is the ability to listen and discern. Many decisions and support will be afforded to the leader who recognizes weak points and reaches out for guidance whether from the team or a mentor you admire. Embrace the experience, and don’t be too hard on yourself. We are always evolving and learning, be confident even though you are new. Wisdom comes with experience.

Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now?

  1. Effective Communication–As a leader, it is your role to be in the know and to be able to bridge all the gaps within the collective. Clearly understanding how to absorb information and translate it based on the personality of the individuals being communicated to will go a long way.
  2. Intent Listener–Having the ability to hear and understand what might not be implicitly stated and knowing which questions to ask for clarification can make all the difference in your response and how you mitigate your group’s response to information shared.
  3. Positive Attitude–Everyone needs a little happy vibe. The energy you exude will be reciprocated, and the more you can look at things from a positive posture will help to create a positive environment. I always assume positive intent–this has helped me eliminate the need to overthink and overreact in many instances where things might not have seemed.
  4. Worldview Thinker–Thinking more broadly about any situation allows you to open your creative mind up to new opportunities. There is always an alternative. Having the flexibility to think of things from a 360-degree view is an attractive trait as a leader because you will, more often than not, spark ideas in others and bring out the best in your team. Everyone wants to feel appreciated. This is one practice that will go a long way as a leader.
  5. Negotiation–There are times when others might not be on the same page. Having the ability to negotiate, so everyone feels heard can yield greater results and minimize time wasted on circular discussions that do not contribute to a situation. By being able to negotiate, you enable the group to be more effective and to ultimately achieve more together. It will also allow you to re-energize your team when there are times when things get off track.

American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.

After going through the disruption of the pandemic, I began to adopt more of a deliberate approach to each day. My husband has always instilled in me that tomorrow is not promised. So as we approach each day, we try to maximize it with love–we never leave one another’s presence without showing love, a smile, and a gesture, if not a hug. Each day I start with prayer, meditation, and self-care. I make efforts to do something nice for someone else that will make them feel special and spend time connecting with my daughters and hubby. We usually enjoy dinner together and find time to exchange happy and positive energy and find as many opportunities to laugh as I am a firm believer that laughter is the best medicine.

What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?

I aspire to leave the world a healthier place than I found it. I want to leave a legacy of love, laughter, and harmony. My childhood was riddled with adverse experiences, and I watched my mother suffer from several preventable chronic diseases on a journey of survival. As a result, I would love to be able to influence the next generation of leaders to pursue their passions while preserving their self-dignity and health. I would love to see better health outcomes, especially for marginalized communities. Each choice determines our future health, so I want everyone to start honoring the mantra future health now.

How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!