Leadership Series: The Value System

05-11-2012 6:28 AM

Carrie Adams, Mary Kay’s Vice President of Human ResourcesMary Kay Ash was a tremendous leader who carved out a unique niche in the business world for women. In honor of her, we are starting a new series on our blog about leadership. For the next few weeks, several of Mary Kay’s female vice presidents and C-level executives will share their thoughts on leadership. The inaugural leadership post is from Carrie Adams, Mary Kay’s Vice President of Human Resources.

One of our public relations managers asked me what I thought about having our female vice presidents and executives do a leadership series on the blog. I told her that I thought it was a great idea. Even gave her recommendations on a few people she should ask to write the post. Little did I know that she had already penciled me in to write the first post. So here we go …

As the vice president of human resources, I am fundamentally invested in developing leaders. Every leader must have certain skills to succeed, but it may surprise you that I think skills are actually secondary. Values are at the top of my list. The way people lead is based on what they value. And the way people follow is based on what they value. The values that a person treasures will be a part of that person’s career regardless of where he or she may work. You know why? Because these values are inherent to who that person is and strives to be.

This is my second time working for Mary Kay. I left Mary Kay in 1999 after working here for three years. While it was the right decision for my family and me at the time, I was so grateful to have the opportunity to return in 2006. Even though I had spent a relatively short amount of time with Mary Kay, it was the company that I always was most proud to be associated with. 

When I left in 1999, it never occurred to me that I would come back. So I made it a point to take a little piece of Mary Kay wisdom everywhere I went. If you were to ask someone at one of the other companies I worked for about the “Mary Kay Way,” they could tell you. And not just because I made them read the book, The Mary Kay Way. It wasn’t so much the book as it was the values represented in the book. The values emphasized in that book are some of the same values that a great leader should have - hard work, compassion, strategic thinking, helping others, solid judgment, treating people with respect and leading by example.

Mary Kay Ash always said, “The speed of the leader is the speed of the gang.” I’ll never forget the one time I actually met her in 1997. I believe this was her last public appearance at the Mary Kay office. She had suffered a stroke the previous year but wanted to come to the corporate building for her birthday so we could all celebrate with her. My supervisor asked me if I wanted to meet her and I felt so honored. I was a fairly new employee and still learning about the company. I was surprised that the owner and founder of a company would meet with any and all employees. She did not care about your title or level. She just cared about you.  

When I met her, she looked straight into my eyes, took my hands in hers and made me feel so important. The stroke had ended her ability to speak, but it did not end her ability to communicate and to lead. I also was amazed at how petite she was considering she was, and always will be, larger than life to me. She led by example by greeting each person warmly. She made every person feel special, unique and valued. The other thing I noticed is that she insisted on putting on her heels before taking a group photo. Once again she was leading by example because what woman doesn’t love her high heels!!!

The fact that Mary Kay took the time to make others feel appreciated has left a lasting impression on me. The fact that Mary Kay founded her company based on a certain set of values has influenced my approach to my job. I always want every person to know that their work is appreciated. It is one of the many attributes I value. And because I value it, it shapes how I lead.