AEM Women Leaders Discuss the Path to Success, Advice for the Next Generation



Everyone has their own unique leadership style informed by past experience, business goals and personal ideals. Leadership is a constant work in progress, but all leaders strive to facilitate innovation and employee growth. As more women rise into C-suite positions, it is important to make their thoughts on leadership heard and to amplify their experiences climbing the ladder of success.



“Work hard, stay calm and build relationships with leadership. Raise your hand for work that contributes significantly to what your company is measured by.” -- Nicole Hallada



“Personally, I focus on the opportunity to coach, guide and share my experience and knowledge.” -- Sara Truesdale-Mooney



“One lesson that sticks with me is that everyone has different needs. The management style I use for one team member may need to be changed for another.” -- Kathy Barke


Earlier this month, in recognition of Women’s Equality Day, AEM sat down with three members of the association’s senior leadership team to discuss their leadership styles, the challenges and successes they have encountered in the workplace and advice for the next generation of aspiring female leaders. Nicole Hallada, senior vice president of exhibitions and marketing, Sara Truesdale-Mooney, senior vice president of membership, business development and data, and Kathy Barke, chief financial officer, spoke on the importance of having a support network, speaking up for yourself and working hard.

AEM: How would you describe your leadership or management style?

Hallada: I would describe my leadership style as a work in progress – but at this point in my career I am focused on developing the next generation of leaders at AEM. I focus on spending time with others, to impart the lessons that I’ve learned throughout my career. It's important to me to focus on removing obstacles so that employees can focus on their work and do what they do best. Finally, I put a lot of trust in those on our team and like to be there in the beginning, check in on them throughout and celebrate their wins, but ultimately stay out of their way.

Truesdale-Mooney: Personally, I focus on the opportunity to coach, guide and share my experience and knowledge. I enjoy helping individuals build on their unique strengths.

Barke: I know it is cliché, but I try to lead by example and focus on teamwork to accomplish our goals. I am thankful AEM continues to support me as I learn and grow as a leader. One lesson that sticks with me is that everyone has different needs. The management style I use for one team member may need to be changed for another. I continue to work on being flexible and learning the needs of my team members.

AEM: Describe a moment in your career in which you doubted yourself – and a moment you knew you were in the right place.

Hallada: I had doubts when coming back to work after the birth of my first child. If you know me, you know that I did want to come back to work – but the first few weeks were rough. Someone even asked me if I loved my daughter, and others would ask me who was watching her when I was traveling (I am married, by the way!). Doris Sims at Louisville Tourism gave me a serious pep talk to keep my head in the game. I know that I am in the right place now, because my two independent teen daughters have great attributes that I know in part came from my working outside the home. The lesson I learned is to pause, ask for advice and never quit on a bad day.

Barke: Before I left public accounting, I was starting to doubt if I was cut out to be a CPA in the long term. I asked myself, did I have the intelligence, and the skills?  Fortunately, shortly after that doubt crept in, I accepted a job at a not-for-profit with an amazing leader that helped me re-gain my confidence. Ever since, I know I am in the right place as long as I have a leader that believes in me and supports me.

AEM: How do you think that other businesses can work to foster a more inclusive environment for underrepresented individuals?

Truesdale-Mooney: My colleague, Lydia Riesch, recently wrote an excellent article on this topic for the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives. I recommend reading it here.

Barke: That is hard, since every business does what they believe is best to be inclusive. That being said, I appreciate when an organization can acknowledge people’s biases and give those individuals opportunities to overcome those biases without judgment. Of course, it is a two-way street, and employees need to be engaged in helping create an inclusive environment as well.

AEM: Do you have any advice to pass along to young women about the pathway to leadership?

Hallada: My advice is to assume noble intent. Work hard, stay calm and build relationships with leadership. Raise your hand for work that contributes significantly to what your company is measured by.

Truesdale-Mooney: I want to start by saying that the future is in great hands! This next generation has great emotional intelligence as well as teamwork, communication and collaboration skills. They’re confident in speaking up and advocating for themselves in a way that most of my generation was not earlier in our careers. While there are many keys to success and advancement as you progress in your career, I believe that a strong work ethic and coachability are two essential traits of stand-out performers. I also strongly recommend being a lifelong learner and continuously tackling new projects and challenges for both personal and professional growth.

Barke: Believe in yourself and own your career! Also, be kind and remember the golden rule – treat others as you want to be treated.

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