Home Concepts Concepts of Leadership Community Engagement Senior Sage Leadership: Interview of Barbara Thomas

Senior Sage Leadership: Interview of Barbara Thomas

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My having been fired was the best thing that could have happened to me because it catapulted me into the next arena. While on my own, I met a woman who wanted to partner with me in creating a new San Francisco start-up. We decided that she would manage the firm and I would hire employees for it and take on training of our new hires. Our new firm then merged with a huge company in Chicago. I became part of the marketing/public relations operation, which was based in Salt Lake City, but worked in San Francisco. Eventually, due to my partner’s departure, I found the work too stressful because I was managing both the operations and the hiring, training, and firing of staff. I resigned in favor of another person assuming my responsibilities, but I remained there as a consultant. Shortly thereafter the parent company went bankrupt, and my husband and I decided to retire to the Redding area. Then five years ago we moved here.

4. Is there a history of community service in your family background? Briefly, how would you describe it?

My mother was very involved in PTA, but her main focus was Stanford Children’s Hospital, which is now called Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital. She raised funds and led special events. Her main motivation was not so much wanting to give something back to the community as it was doing something for herself, something that was personally satisfying. This became a model for my own volunteer work. Also, my father was very active in both the Masons and Shriners in San Francisco for many years.

5. What do you consider to be the principal strengths and capabilities that have made you an effective civic community leader? Are they rooted in action, in your personal style, in your organizational, political, and personal relationships, or in something else?

I have the ability to be a quick study of people and decide whether to connect with them or not. I can immediately determine whether I’d like to get to know the person, or if the person possesses something important that I’d like to learn. I guess this came from all of the hiring I did in one of my early Bay Area jobs. I got to be very good at assessing people’s strengths and weaknesses and at making “yes” or “no” decisions on whether to hire.

In thinking about my principal leadership strengths, I believe I have a good balance among personal style, ability to build relationships, and political capability. And all of this is rooted in action. Of these, building personal relationships is most important to me and probably best defines my leadership style.

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