Founder & Partner, Southside Creative Group
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
What is your favorite aspect of being a leader?
When I have the opportunity to inspire others to do more or accomplish more than they thought they were capable of accomplishing.
What advice do you have for women aspiring to be leaders in their field?
- Believe that you can do anything you set your heart and mind to do.
- Make sure you have a good circle of encouragers, people who believe in you and often offer you words of encouragement.
- Follow posts and blogs of several industry influencers, local and national people who are successful in your field.
- Identify a role model or someone very successful in your field as early as possible in your career (mine was Cindy Todd my senior year of college) and ask them questions if you can, study their accomplishments, find out the best advice they were given and ask them about the one thing they would never do again.
- Develop a personal marketing plan, setting goals for yourself, including small ones like making a list of people to take to lunch or the number of educational/professional events you will attend the next year.
- Always give back! Make sure you take time to help others reach their potential!
Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
I have been blessed with many people who have shaped me as a leader. My parents always taught me I could do anything I set my mind to, have believed in me, prayed for me and encouraged me every single day of my life. My mom, who is my best friend, always taught me by example as she successfully juggled her teaching career, having breakfast and dinner on the table daily no matter what was going on, being there for all our ballgames, countless church responsibilities, and constantly encouraging others and writing them hand written notes. My aunt, Sherry Hoppe, was the first female President of a community college in the state of Tennessee and I had a front row seat to her incredible career. My grandmother, Louise Fleming, taught me early on to show love to everyone and no matter what is happening in your life, the show must go on!
Outside my family, Marcia Kling had the biggest impact on me as a person and leader. I was on Channel 9’s FunTime when I was in kindergarten. Miss Marcia was the host. She kept up with me throughout my career and always offered words of encouragement along the way. She always remembered my name each time our paths crossed throughout my high school and college journey, that alone, because of the thousands of people she met, had a tremendous impact on me! She is one of the most caring, genuine, generous, humble, graceful and accomplished women I know. I wanted to treat others in the same caring and genuine way as she treated everyone around her.
In the last 10 years, the local leaders who have most influenced me in how they carry themselves and help others include Rowena Belcher, Rae Bond, Patti Frierson, Paula Henderson, Betsy McCright, Ladell McCullough, Pam Morris, Carol Newton, Ricki Pierce, and Edna Varner.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing female leaders today?
While the biggest challenge is often opportunities, I believe we need to work on confidence in ourselves, believing we can accomplish anything. I have met more and more women who doubt themselves. Either they are just reentering the workforce after having children or they have been sitting passively on the sidelines. Women juggle so much on a daily basis. Each of us should look at what makes us unique, even things that felt like setbacks in our lives. We must remind ourselves of our unique strengths and abilities. We have to believe we are capable of stepping up and embracing, or even creating, opportunities. One of my favorite quotes by Sara Blakely, CEO and Founder of Spanx is, “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.”
Approximately how many years have you been involved with CWLI and in what committees do you participate?
Impact Committee, 10 years
Marketing Committee, 5 years
Marketing Committee Chair
Board Member, 5 years
Secretary, Vice Chair, Chair
What changes do you hope to see in the organization as it grows?
We are establishing Listening Fridays (one Friday each month) so members can tell us what they like, what they would like to see, and what isn’t working. We want our members to help us narrow our many program offerings to the things that most benefit them. We also want to make sure every person feels connected and included! We are going to work even harder in 2018 on connectedness!
What strides do you think members can take to make more of a difference in women’s leadership issues in the local community?
Get involved and give back! Never before have there been so many opportunities to lend your time and talents. If you have a unique strength or skillset, make sure you share it!
How would you best describe the benefit found in joining this organization?
CWLI has always been the one thing I do for me! I have met so many amazing women leaders who have given freely of their knowledge and wisdom. I have grown personally and professionally beyond any expectation I would have had. I have developed so many friends over the years, wonderful ladies my path would not have crossed with otherwise. Most importantly, I have met countless women who understand the challenges of juggling a career, faith and family, who are constantly supportive and offer encouragement on a daily basis.
Want to get to know Ronelle? Read her feature here.