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Kara Lindstrom
Kara Lindstrom Consulting
Leaders Do The Right Things
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A consultant, coach, and designer, Kara has a background in supporting and leading teams in the technology and non-profit sectors. She’s worked with a variety of organizations including Indy Hall, Code for Philly, Promptworks, Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Solutions Journalism Network. She is nerdy about public transit, urban design, and complex/emergent systems.

Moving individuals and organizations from reactive to proactive through intentional leadership and management design.

In this episode

"Managers Do Things Right While Leaders Do The Right Things", says Kara Lindstrom of Kara Lindstrom Consulting.

Kara observes that there isn't just one way to be a leader. Leadership is a skill that must be developed and it takes time to get good at it. She points out that leaders have great vision. You don't need a lot of people underneath you to be a leader. You first have to show you can lead yourself. People are leaders, positions within an organization don't make someone a leader. Karen points out that one attribute of good leadership is the ability to see how your work can move the rest of the organization forward.

Leaders Do The Right ThingsKara Lindstrom
00:00 / 30:46

A glimpse of what you'll hear

03:15 Leadership is a skill.

04:47 Developing vision and connection.

08:11 People are leaders or not no matter their formal role.

11:20 Different leadership styles in the same group can work if there is alignment on the vision.

14:04 Leadership versus management.

16:19 The case for doing leadership right.

21:32 Talking about leadership is the key first step in developing a leader.

24:08 Learn about Kara. Email Kara at

Episode Transcript
(Note: this was transcribed using transcription software and may not reflect the exact words used in the podcast.)

Centricity Introduction 0:04

Welcome to the Best Kept Secret videocast and podcast from Centricity. If you're a B2B service professional, use our five step process to go from the grind of chasing every sale. to keeping your pipeline full with prospects knocking on your door to buy from you. We give you the freedom of time and a life outside of your business. Each episode features an executive from a B2B services company sharing their provocative perspective on an opportunity that many of their clients are missing out on. It's how we teach our clients to get executive decision makers to buy without being salesy or spammy. Here's our host, the co founder and CEO of Centricity, Jay Kingley.

Jay Kingley 0:43

I'm Jay Kingly, Co founder and CEO of Centricity. Welcome to our show where our guests share their provocative perspective on what their target market is missing out on. I'm happy to welcome to the show Kara Lindstorm, founder of Kara Lindstrom Consulting, Kara moves individuals and organizations, from reactive to proactive through intentional leadership and management design. Kara is based in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, welcome to the show, Kara.

Kara Lindstrom 1:16

Thank you so much for having me, Jay.

Jay Kingley 1:18

Kara one of the things that if you read any business writing, business press, books, magazine articles, you name it, probably the topic that is written about more than any other is leadership. It seems like business executives, professionals can't get enough of leadership. And based on how much is written, you sort of wonder if they're really getting it at all. Now, there are some people out there that feel quite adamantly that leaders are born, they're not made, that the skills that true leaders have and I'm distinguishing leaders from managers are innate to their personality, and to how it is they popped out of the womb. There are others, of course, who might believe that there are just a set of skills that you can be taught. And with enough practice, you can become an effective leader. And then of course, we have a different dimension, which are companies themselves. And a lot of companies are particularly as they get to be larger, create their organization charts, and they will mark out specific positions on the organization chart that are designated as leadership roles. Now, of course, those positions have to be filled. And implicit in how they think about it, is I can take an individual, put them in a leadership role. And voila, they are leaders like magic. And if I take them out of that role, and reassign them to a role that is designated as not leadership, while they're no longer leaders, there seems to be a lot of confusion. There doesn't seem to be a really good consensus on what leadership really is, and how you if you will operationalize it. Kara, I am looking to you to set us straight would say you?

Kara Lindstrom 3:23

Well, leadership is a big topic, that's for sure. And the thing that I'm seeing the most common here is they think it's, as you say, fixed. There's one way to do this, and it's bestowed upon you. That's absolutely false. And the thing that I think really blows people's minds, when they understand what leadership truly looks like, is that it's a skill, anyone can develop it. And if you wait to develop that skill until you're in a role that requires it. Wow, the learning curve, it's really a slow roll to get what you want from your leaders. If you don't let them develop that skill until it they're told, now now you're a leader.

Jay Kingley 4:09

So Kara, how do you think about the roles which, as you say, a senior executive, you believe require leadership? And then how to fill those roles with people that have the skills? And, you know, should I be thinking that I need to wait until that's clearly mapped out? Or do I think about developing a bench that's just has leaders in waiting, that I have trained, that I've had opportunities to practice and get good at those basic skills, and then I can deploy them into those roles on an as needed basis? You know, how to you know, I guess I'm looking for the contrast here, how so many companies do it with how should they be thinking about this.

Kara Lindstrom 5:00

Sure. So the way that folks are typically thinking about it is, I will call you up into service for a very specific task. And the opportunity they're missing is to have people developing the leadership at each level, whether they're an independent contributor, a manager, or an executive. And that looks like practicing one of the core traits of leadership, which is vision, can I see what it is that I'm doing and how that relates to everything else going on around me. So if I'm an independent contributor, how that relates to my manager, if I'm a manager, how that relates to the executive, and that is just one example of what leadership at any level can start to look like. If you only call and response, then you don't get to practice that skill of vision. And that skill of connecting with all of the pieces, the moving parts, that are the work being done in an organization that has all of these different roles, and all of these different parts. So it's building a bench. And it's using that institutional knowledge that builds up over time. And whatever role you find yourself in.

Jay Kingley 6:11

I think that there is confusion around the idea that leadership is like management, you know, you can't be a manager, if you have no people, you can't be a leader if you're not responsible for people. And I thought I heard maybe someone a little bit different from you, where you could not be responsible for a specific team, and yet still develop, refine and hone your leadership skills. Can you elaborate a little bit on that?

Kara Lindstrom 6:40

Certainly, I mean, a lot of people have this misconception that leadership and management require a team to be able to exercise at the core, you who lead yourself, first and foremost, whether you're the top of the pile, or you're the entry role, if you're not able to see how you connect to all the other pieces that are around you, then you're not able to take on those leadership, responsibilities, even just for yourself that looks like you know, time management and all of those pieces, as well. But it's really about asking the questions, how can I contribute to those around me? Not? How can I just do what is asked of me.

Jay Kingley 7:24

So Leadership isn't necessarily a formal set of responsibilities. Leadership can be exercised, independent of where you are in the organization, which always brings up I think, another area of confusion. So I have someone who was in a leadership position, they were very effective in that role in the organization, embrace them, as someone who had good leadership skills and abilities. But for whatever the reason, they are now being redeployed in a role that the organization would say, is not a leadership role. So when that happens, are they just turning it off? Or in fact, in an organization, I have leaders that are in leadership roles? I have leaders that are not in leadership roles, but there's still leaders? And how do those with a formal role versus I don't have a formal role, but I still have those traits. How do they play nicely in the sandbox?

Kara Lindstrom 8:29

That's a really good question Jay. So part of it is when you have these different roles, you have those different roles, because you have different perspectives and different work that needs to be done. And the act of leadership is seeing how those parts work together. And so even if you have an independent contributor kind of role, now, you're not formally in charge of a bunch of people, you still are responsible for seeing how your work can advance that of others. And that's that system mind for seeing the opportunities that can come next, hey, if I'm able to deliver this, this will allow us to move past this, we can leapfrog here because I see how my skills can serve a void, right, and maybe that person that you referenced, they're taking out of a leader ship capacity formally, so that they can leverage unique skill set, just to serve that purpose of leapfrogging and that can be something that you see often. You will also see that the contrast to that which is someone who is very good as independent contributor, and they are asked to be a manager because they are so good at that individual work. But they get into that role of overseeing others, and they're like, oh, I don't know how to do this. I don't want to do this. Maybe they're not good at it. Because now they're like, all like, all I'm good at is the work and I'm not good at seeing how these parts can fit together. Right. So you'll see that contrast of someone who is really good at at system thinking being pulled aside, just so they can leverage specific skill sets without having to sacrifice some of their bandwidth. And vice versa. Wow, really great and independent contributor, but if we put them in a leadership role doesn't necessarily mean but they'll also be good at that.

Jay Kingley 10:20

Let's talk a second about what I'm gonna call alignment. And for me alignment, it comes about, because you will have leaders within the organization that are not designated as in formal leadership roles. But yeah, they are still leaders. And so you have a leader of a group, and by the way, it could be the company as a whole, the CEO, could be a business unit head could be a division could be a group, you know, whatever terminology you use, for your variety of units, and you have the designated leader. And then you have people on the team, some of which, who are also strong leaders. So how do you ensure that there is alignment between the different leaders that you have, and you don't get this? You know, I'm, let's say, I'm a non leader on the team. And I'm listening to the formal leader, say, this is the direction that we go in. And then I go out to a leader who's not in the formal role, and I say, What do you think of this, then that person says, Oh, my God, you know, this, this person is gonna march us off a cliff. And so now we have these people who both have the skills, both have the respect, but they're not in alignment. So how do you make that work?

Kara Lindstrom 11:45

That's a really interesting, you know, conundrum for many people. And what folks need to understand a little bit is, whoever is the highest role in the organization, whether it's the top of the, you know, the CEO, the founder, or the, you know, the manager on a larger team, whatever their style of leadership is, everyone will assume that is the style of leadership. And so when they see someone demonstrating a different way of approaching it, that can be really confusing. But what is really valuable and possible when you have these different styles is, as long as there is a collaborative understanding of the vision, hey, this is where we're going. This is the purpose of this organization, this team is to do this, this is where we're going, then you can have different leaders who have different styles, say, hey, for my team, that's really client facing, we have this sort of energy, this is how we practice. And that's because we understand the vision, we're just applying it through the lens of our organization, that has to be a collaborative process between those leaders. If that is conflict only, then there is something not right there. And the thing is, if it's a job, it means you can go find another one, you can't necessarily change the direction of the ship. If you're the only person or part of the organization that says like, No, we really have to lead this way. If that is a lot of conflict that an individual is experiencing, it may be that this is just not the right culture, the right organization, the right system, for your leadership practice, and that's okay. That's a good thing to know. It can be pushing each other back and forth those different leaders to a better way of activating on a vision. But if it's conflict all the time, then maybe it's just not the right fit. And that is something that people need to recognize. It's not I got to fight until the end of it. It's like, you can fight to realize whether or not you're compatible. Your Practice is compatible in the organization and where you are that you find yourself.

Jay Kingley 14:04

I have one more question before we move on. Let's talk about leadership versus management. Sometimes those terms are just thrown around, as if they're pure synonyms for each other. And there are others would say, oh, a leader and a manager are different things. They have different objectives, different purposes. And it's not that they couldn't be one in the same, but they aren't necessarily one in the same, nor do they need to be one of the same. So how do you see leaders versus management?

Kara Lindstrom 14:34

I go with the sort of idiomatic definition which is managers help, support doing things right. While leaders support doing the right things. So again, leadership is on that vision side, what are the right things to do to achieve our purpose? And then the manager side, whether that's a different hat you're wearing, different role in the organization is to say cool, that That's where we're going. Let's do that. Right? What supports? Do we need to do that? Right? And that gets a little more into the tools and all that stuff? Versus what are the right things to do.

Jay Kingley 15:10

You've covered an awful lot of ground actually on the right way to think about leadership, you just said a little contrast with how leaders different for a manager, how we all play nicely in the sandbox, and how that contrast with where so many organizations, and individuals are in terms of their thinking. So you've painted, I think, a very compelling picture on how to move forward. But I am not sure that the case has been made, that this is actually the best approach to solve the problem. So let's talk a little bit about the case for doing the things that you're laying out there when you have worked with organizations, which had that very dysfunctional view that we started with, and then move into the concept of talking about that, you know, leadership is a skill that it's the vision thing, that leaders aren't just formally designated, they can exist in different roles in different ways, throughout the organization, that cutting across an organization, based on what your objective is, may require different styles of leadership, but on a what I call a more vertical basis, you all have to be aligned in the direction that you're going into strategy for how you're going to get there, or else there's a separation, that as soon as they say all those things that you very eloquently talked about. If I looked at companies that did that, versus those that don't, what do you see in terms of the business itself? And how that business does better doing what you suggest?

Kara Lindstrom 16:51

So many factors improve? With that? I mean, first and foremost, I think there's just evidence of like the missed opportunity. So I've seen clients who struggled with this idea of like, well, if it's a skill, you know, then then I don't think that my people are capable of taking this on. And the research shows us that up to 70%, white collar, blue collar doesn't matter of workers are interested in developing new skills, interested in new training, if that's what's necessary. So there's a real hunger for development, and they just need support. And support can look like a variety of things depending on your organization. So when clients really are able to recognize like, Oh, my people are actually really interested in doing this. That is a reframe for those executives themselves, to recognize and bring people in, invite them into developing that leadership skill. And that itself, is transformative. Get across the industries I've worked with even just that little mind shift for the executive at the top to say, I didn't realize that might people wanted, that they had a hunger for new skills, that sets people going, and it empowers people across the organization to be like, what else can I do? How can I learn? What what do we need for me to be able to help us get to that next level. So that is one of those foundational pieces that I've seen both in the research and with my own clients, in terms of fundamental like business return, because then people are energized. And when you have happy employees, you have happy clients and customers, because they can pick up on the fact that oh, these people are excited to be here. They seem to be really looking to support what I need as a client, as a customer, because they seem really, like empowered and able to serve me and have clear purpose of when like, hey, maybe we're not the right organization to support you. Okay, wow, I didn't expect that, right. Like those types of core understanding of an employee, as someone who can lead the client comes from the top. It comes from being supported and being shown like I am capable of doing more and learning more and growing to support this organization that is supporting me.

Jay Kingley 19:22

So I think my audience will agree with me that you have articulated why this should be important to any organization. So because it's important, we want to engage, we want to learn, we want to understand, but importance in and of itself falls or stops short, I should say, of action. So in order to get the action component, we'll talk a little bit more about the emotional benefit that comes and let's imagine that you are an executive at a leadership role who's really into citing how the organization is going to be thinking about leadership and leadership development, and how all these pieces come together, and this is going to be a big step forward to get the benefits you have just talked about. So it's all about that individual and emotionally, how they are going to benefit from leading, leading the charge to make this happen.

Kara Lindstrom 20:26

For me, and the clients, I've worked directly with the biggest emotional benefit that the clients have told me they've experienced is, it's, they talk about it from the lens of frustration, but that can manifest in a variety of ways. And frustration at the leadership side level usually means frustration at the employee level, as well. And so when that person is feeling, as a leader, I'm just so frustrated, people aren't stepping up, and I need them to step up. I can almost 100% guarantee that people on the other side of that are feeling frustrated, because they're being asked to step up. But they're not told that this is how I want you to step up, this is what I can do to help you step up. And so, again, moving people into this framework of what leadership can look like and be practiced at these different levels, allows people to be like, Oh, it's not that they're holding back. It's that we're pushing each other apart. And so by reframing it as skill development, the leader who has been struggling with this frustration suddenly feels like they are a collaborator, with their team, as opposed to just a manager who's telling people what to do and being frustrated when they're not doing more than that.

Jay Kingley 21:47

You certainly I think you made the case, not just for importance, but for why we all should be acting to put this kind of leadership system and framework in place. This will lead me to my last question for you for our first section of our show. And that is okay. You made the case, Kara. Now, what do I need to do to actually make this happen?

Kara Lindstrom 22:12

First thing, first, talk about leadership. Now, if you want to go that extra mile, ask about leadership, what does your team think leadership looks like? What are their examples of good leadership? How do they want to feel when they are being led? These are the types of questions that this can be informal conversations. You know, through casual hangouts, this can be activities you do together, doesn't matter. Talk about leadership, talk about it with your team, this will surface the assumptions that are holding both sides back there. That's the first step. And it is really powerful. And there's so many different ways to do that. There are tools abound for this, whether it's leadership, Taro, or the braving methodology, you'll find the thing that resonates with your organization. But if you don't talk about it, then you're not going to go anywhere.

Jay Kingley 23:11

Kara, you have I think, brought a lot of clarity into something that gets so much attention. But at the end of the day, I think confuses people more than it helps people you I think have cleared away all the debris and all the things that have been clouding our view on leadership and have given us a very compelling way to move forward and think about this. We're going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we're gonna learn a bit more about Kara.

Centricity Introduction 23:42

Wondering how much longer you have to grind and chase after every lead conversation and client, Wondering how much longer you have to grind and chase after every lead conversation and client, would you like clients to knock on your door so you no longer have to pitch follow up and spam decision makers. Well Centricity's The Tipping Point program uses a proven five step process that will help you get in front of the decision makers you need by spending less time on doing all of the things you hate. It's not cold, calling cold email, cold outreach on LinkedIn or any other social media platform, or spending money on ads. But it has a 35 times higher ROI than any of those things, leveraging your expertise and insights that your prospects and network value. The best part even though you'll see results in 90 days, you get to work with the Centricity team for an entire year to make sure you have all the pieces in place and working. So you can start having freedom of time and a life outside of your business. So email to schedule an 18 minute call to learn more.

Jay Kingley 24:41

Welcome back. We're talking to Kara Lindstrom of Kara Lindstrom Consulting scarer. I'd like to find out a bit more about you. Let's start with talk to us about the pain points that you get rid of for your target market. And why do they need you to get rid of that pain?

Kara Lindstrom 24:59

Well, let's I work with a lot of creative organizations. And what I mean by creative organizations can look pretty wide, right? But those are typically organizations that have developed a strong relationship with their customers and clients over the years. And at a certain point, they realize that there was a lot of luck that allowed them to get to where they are. And they are recognizing that they can no longer just wing it the way they have up to this point. And it's almost like they woke up one day and went, Oh, my gosh, I'm a leader. I'm a CEO, I'm a VP. And they recognize that they need to change their practice as a leader, they say, Can you help me do this, because I'm sure I could figure it out. But I don't want to take a decade to figure out how to do it better. And it took me a decade to get this business, you know, to this point, that's so successful. And so that's where I come in. And I really help them reframe, and learn to embrace their leadership identity, and support their team, and identify how they are leaders and what that practice can look like on a day to day basis,

Jay Kingley 26:09

Implicit in wanting to work with you, so that you can accelerate their process of learning and make far fewer mistakes along the way, must mean that you're pretty good at what you do. So less articulate that, quite specifically. So share why you think, or what makes you great at what you

Kara Lindstrom 26:33

Well, I've always been fascinated by the adaptability of humans, right? I, myself saw how I could adapt myself into the shape of a pretzel to work in various organizations. And at a certain point, you have to recognize that if you get yourself into that shape, it's possible to get yourself back out. But what I realized is that people often can't see that once they're in it, right. And so I think my unique fascination with these skills that we have as humans to be adaptable, helps me to come in with empathy, to see people and understand how they twisted themselves in that way, and support them in recognizing the way out of that contortion.

Jay Kingley 27:18

Kara, I'm gonna encourage our audience to check you out on LinkedIn. So they get a sense of your career progression, your education and some of your background. But I want to just put that aside, let people do that on their own, I have a different question for you. I'd like to understand what happened in your life that would most explain why you do what you do?

Kara Lindstrom 27:43

I think when I reflect back, both of my parents were in the sort of knowledge industries, right. So my mom was in the public education side, and my father was in the research and science side. So it was very much curiosity driven, learning driven. And I brought this lens of my fascination with people and finding myself in design school and said, Wow, what if we take this curiosity that I was sort of incubated in and use it to help people through this sort of design practice that I was educated in, and it's been real fun,

Jay Kingley 28:24

I am sure that many people in our audience are going to want to reach out to you continue this very informative discussion, on leadership and what they need to do to create an environment that's going to nurture and develop both the existing leaders they have in the next generation to follow so that they can actually have a sustainable business. So what would be the best way for them to reach out to you

Kara Lindstrom 28:49

probably the best way would be my website, which is just You can also email me, kara@ But again, the website is best.

Jay Kingley 28:59

We will put that along with Kara's LinkedIn address into the show notes as an insert into the video make that easy for folks. Kara before we wrap up, I just want to say, this has been one of the more insightful conversations that I have been party to on the subject of leadership and leadership, development. You know, if I were just like everybody else, I'd be declaring victory. I'd be doing the happy dance and celebrating how awesome this is. But if I did that, I think my audience would come after me and say, Come on, come on, you set a higher standard than that. And that means I am going to raise the bar for you. Indeed, let's call this Leadership 201. Yeah, I like that a little bit, a little bit, upper level here. So this is what I'm going to challenge you. As great as your content and your insights. Were Let's do a little bit more. Let's give a little thank you gift I think to our audience in return for their engagement with you today we what can you do?

Kara Lindstrom 30:13

Let's think about this. What can I do for those those graduate level students that listen to this podcast and are really like, Okay, what's next? How can I do more? I'm gonna have a discount code, BESTKEPTSECRETPOD. You use that You'll save $5 off of the new deck, Leadership Taro. So this is only available to the the audience of this podcast. So BESTKEPTSECRETPOD will be your discount code. And that's how I'll know that you heard about me through this episode. And that will get you a tool to support your leadership and your team's leadership development. For a bit of costing me some money, but it's given you an advantage.

Jay Kingley 31:02

And I encourage everyone to check out these set of Tarot cards. I think they're really interesting. I think it's a way to in a fun and engaging way. Learn a bit more about leadership and you and others in your organization. So definitely check out that tool, Kara again. Thank you. Thank you for being such a great guest on our show to our audience. Let's continue to crush it. Until next time.

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