Ask the Expert: Mary Olson
This month we sat down with Mary Olson, the club manager of Little Rock Athletic Club, to discuss leadership.
How would you describe your leadership style?
MO: If I had to reduce it to one word, I would say humble. I did not plot this destination as club manager. After the sudden passing of our general manager, my mentor told me I was placed in the position because I “just kept showing up.”
In your opinion, what is one characteristic you believe every leader should possess?
MO: I actually have two that are intertwined. I think every leader should be open-minded and accepting.
What are tips you can share for developing leaders within an organization?
MO: I have had the pleasure of working closely with many people through my 26 years. What works well for me is to be open-minded, present and to listen. It is important to be self-aware when life gets in the way and you aren’t following those tips. However, the most gratifying relationships are those where I find I have become a better person from what my coworkers have taught me.
What is your favorite leadership book and why?
MO: I recently ordered David Cote’s book, “Winning Now, Winning Later.” I will keep you posted.
What’s the best piece of leadership advice you’ve ever received?
MO: A great weight was lifted when I gave myself permission not to always have to know the answer to every question or situation immediately. Early on I made several mistakes when answering too quickly or not thinking through my phrasing when answering. I am now not afraid to say, “I would like to think about that for a bit. I will be back in touch with you.”
What are three tips you have for leadership?
MO: 1. Be clear when talking with someone. Sometimes it feels better to dance around the subject, or there are times you find yourself too cutting because someone isn’t responding how you would like. Your phrasing doesn’t have to be antagonistic to be clear.
2. If you see a situation where someone can’t seem to get out of their own way, ask them for permission to help. Someone did that for me and while it was an incredibly painful conversation, it came from the heart and I am a better human because of it.
3. Keep your sense of humor. I tell people all the time I am the funniest girl I know.