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Unleashed E70: Karina Birch - How Authentic Leadership Grows your Business

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Expectations on leaders to drive their companies toward greatness are higher than ever. The path to achieving organizational goals is often fraught with challenges that demand innovative and adaptable leadership approaches. In this environment, an authentic - and sometimes naive - approach to leadership help propel you to success.

Gone are the days when a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter strategy could effectively steer a company to success in our rapidly evolving landscape. In today's environment, authenticity emerges as a crucial ingredient for effective leadership. By embracing authenticity, leaders can forge genuine connections with their teams, inspire trust and loyalty, and navigate the complexities of the modern business world with integrity and purpose. 

Karina Birch, the co-owner and CEO of Rocky Mountain Soap Co., epitomizes this need for innovation and adaptability through her transformative journey from a modest shop to a flourishing enterprise. With over 25 years of experience, Karina has evolved her leadership style, emphasizing authenticity and resilience. Her narrative highlights the profound value of embracing naivety as a catalyst for growth and achievement. 

Actions You Can Take Right Now

  1. Learn, not rely on, pre-made leadership approaches. While learning about popular leadership styles and working with mentors are genuinely helpful, it's better to treat these as stepping stones toward self-discovery. This discovery is what will lead to a leadership style that is unique, genuine, and works best for you and the organization, specifically. 
  2. Don't hold your team accountable with a stick. Accountability promotes authenticity in the workplace but needs a foundation of support and encouragement. This approach also helps companies handle failures that don't put everyone in a negative space, but as an opportunity for growth and learning.  

  3. Get everyone involved in setting goals. Authentic leadership means that people matter. Make your team feel like they are a part of something great by letting them take part in it. 
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View or listen to this and other past episodes on the Unleashed Podcast Library

Episode Highlights and Excerpts

  • Starting a business doesn't guarantee a profit in the first year or even a few years. You keep on going because there's love for your product. This is a form of authenticity built from the ground up, a head-down approach of evolving, learning new things, until finally, finding a system that fits just right.

  • “We need one throat to choke” is the approach of holding people accountable with a stick. There's going to be a defining moment for you when other leadership styles won't work. 

  • What worked was a more "feminine" approach that was both soft, focusing on empathy, and firm, being direct and clear.
    • For instance, if a project is not being done on time or going to plan, the first thing is to be very direct and clear. It's important that others get a say, a back-and-forth conversation where everyone is heard. Say, "Hey, here's what I observed," then turn it around and get perspective by being willing to listen to what is really happening. 
  • Being disingenuous wastes energy. "What would it be like to come home at the end of the day and not have an empty tank?" It pays to know what leadership style will work for you. Self-discovery takes time and reflection. But, once you do, you feel energized and whole rather than exhausted.  

  • There's power in finding your "tribe." In this case, a room full of strong female leaders helped "let my guard down, and I felt very, very curious." Finding the right people strengthens focus in a team, as well as builds expertise in handling mixed leadership groups. 

  • Authentic leadership creates growth opportunities for your team. Female employees started reaching out, feeling drawn to Karina, “wanting to spend time one-on-one, wanting support for their own leadership journey." As you learn from the 'tribe' of powerful women, and as female employees reach out, it's almost like reciprocity.  

  • Goal setting should be a team effort. Teams share their biggest goals, and, through a bottom-up approach, combine them into one big idea. This way, team members know that they're a part of the big picture. 

  • Town halls provide feedback on goals. While some people are excited to be part of the journey, others want to know more and share their what-about-ifs. Leaders need to hear these to know where their teams' mindsets are, and if more work is needed. Build bridges, connecting their experience to what we're achieving. 

  • The peak of your leadership team takes time (and continues to develop). We believe that it takes over two years of learning while the team is in place, as well as bringing up junior leaders to make succession easier. 
  • Failure is necessary for success. It's hard not to go to a negative place when so much is on the line, but authentic leadership means believing in the team. It gives a really positive context to what teamwork is all about. 

  • Keep a vision in mind. Business is driven by this core principle. Having a vision keeps leaders going and excited about what's to come. 

  • There's so much value in naivety. Take a chance without knowing how to get there or what the outcome will be. You are most responsive and curious when you are not an expert. This lets leaders become their best, and "I think that is gold, like that is absolutely gold." 

Take Your Business to the Next Level

At Results we care about your success, we understand how overwhelming it can feel to run a business, and we’re here to help. Reach out to Nicole through our contact form for ways to unleash the potential of your business. 

Visit the Unleashed Podcast Library where you’ll find exclusive conversations with world-class thought leaders, authors, and leadership experts. 

Each episode of Unleashed is hosted by Results’ CEO Jeff Tetz who spends most of his day exploring what makes high performers tick and helping build a community of leaders who want to learn and grow together. Follow Jeff (Twitter; LinkedIn; Instagram) for more great leadership insights.

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Karina Birch

Karina b

Karina Birch is a dedicated and passionate individual, bringing a wealth of experience in business. With a deep commitment to making a positive impact in the community.  

Throughout her professional career, Karina has demonstrated exceptional leadership, strategic thinking and an ability to navigate rapid growth. Over 25 years, as Co-Owner and CEO, Karina has built Rocky Mountain Soap, into a successful nationally recognized brand with 12 retail stores and a 25,000  sq.ft. workshop in Canmore. She has a proven track record of developing and implementing effective solutions in challenging situations and a passion for nature and the outdoors.