May 18, 2022 - Economy

Blunt advice from badass Axios women

Clockwise, from top left: Aja, Sara, Dominique, Mel

At Axios, women rule. Nearly 60% of Axions — yes, that's what we call each other — are women.

  • Oh, we also have a group of women leaders who meet monthly called "Women Who Kick Axios."

Why it matters: We're witnessing a surge of women's leadership in business. They're starting businesses and running boardrooms. And the same is true at Axios.

So I asked four women leaders at Axios to share a few thoughts on leadership: Editor-in-chief Sara Kehaulani Goo, Chief People Officer Dominique Taylor, Executive Editor Aja Whitaker-Moore and Chief Technology Officer Mel Colton.

Sara says: Surround yourself with people who share your values.

  • When I consider working at a new company, I always think about what kind of integrity the place has, what they stand for and what they tell the world they’re about.
  • Then I try to get to know the people who work there and see, do they know where they need to improve and what they’re doing well — are they self-aware?
  • I want to work with people who share my values of honesty, integrity, curiosity and humility.

Plus, quiet leadership: My Uncle Take (his Japanese name is pronounced Tah-kay) just died at age 96, and he was very influential in my life. He dedicated much of his life to the quiet service of others, or as locals would put it, he lived "aloha."

  • When he died, I was helping to go through his things and found all kinds of awards — from the mayor, the county, the governor of Hawaii — that he had received over the years for his community service.
  • It reminded me of how leadership can take so many different forms. His leadership was his quiet, selfless everyday work for his community and his culture. Now that’s an inspiration.

Dominique says: Approach your job as if you’re always interviewing.

  • You never know when you’ll cross paths with people you’ve worked with or for again.
  • You also never know who can open up new opportunities because they think of you fondly — and the opposite holds true too. 
  • Embrace your career as a roller coaster and not a through-line that goes up and to the right. Everyone experiences highs and lows and feels upside down at some point. Sometimes you even get off the ride for a bit and then get on a faster roller coaster (I did).

Aja says: Never do anything just for the money.

  • This includes career decisions (leaving or taking a job), hiring decisions (bringing someone on because they are the cheapest option or not hiring them because they are too expensive), and project decisions (don't start something just because someone will pay you a lot of money to do it).

Delegate. People have jokingly called me a delegator-in-chief. I take that as a compliment. Knowing what you shouldn't be doing — and what other people should — frees you up to focus on your goals and achieve them.

  • One surprising thing: I don't drink coffee. I haven't had a drop of caffeine in over a decade. I believe in listening to your mind and body. If you are tired, rest. If you can't focus, take a break. Removing the artificial crutch helps with all that. 

Mel says:

  • Be clear. Actively look for what feels murky and provide clarity. When folks don't know what's expected, who has ownership or how to get something across the finish line, they can't perform optimally.
  • Be human. Let others see you being human. It builds trust.
  • Be direct. Assumptions should be stated ahead of difficult or strategic conversations. You may align on the topic or the work, but it's the unsaid assumptions that can cause confusion and tension.
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