Alexandria Economic Development Partnership’s Stephanie Landrum on reestablishing a team dynamic during the pandemic.
This interview is part of Visit Alexandria’s series, Leadership Insights During COVID-19: How 7 Alexandria Leaders Navigated a Global Crisis. Read more interviews in this series here.
President and CEO, Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP)
Q: How would you describe your leadership style, and what leadership principles did you practice that led you to where you are in your professional career today? What is your core philosophy to leadership?
A: My entire work-life experience has been team-focused—going back to my first job as part of a swim team coaching staff—so I have always been very aware that a collection of “best performances” by individuals leads to a win by the whole team. I think that in order to lead a team of top performers, you have to understand that all team members are not the same and give them the tools and resources they need to thrive. I want the leaders within my organization to feel empowered to make decisions and to feel confident in their role contributing to AEDP’s success. I often say, “I would rather have to pull you back than have to push you,” so I try to make sure our team understands that along with the empowerment comes ownership and responsibility.
Q: Has that changed during the pandemic crisis?
A: While most of our organization’s leadership principles have served us well during this crisis, one new expectation we have put in place is that when a member of our leadership team brings forth a problem or challenge, they must also offer a recommended course of action or solution. We have watched so many businesses pivot and make quick changes to survive, and I want to make sure our team is following that great example – encouraging innovation and problem solving as much as possible.
Q: What tested your methods this year?
A: The physical separation the pandemic has required has challenged the relationship-based nature of our work. It eliminated almost all our organic conversations. Though we’ve made efforts to replace that virtually, it is definitely not the same. It is very hard to stay connected to each other through our computer screens!
Q: What new skills/lessons learned will you implement as we move toward recovery?
A: Not unlike other employers, one of our challenges in “getting back to normal” will be striking the right balance of flexible place-of-work (home vs. in office) with reestablishing our team dynamic that has been so instrumental for a lot of the work we do. We will certainly take full advantage of the technology and tools we’ve onboarded in recent months to give our team options, but will also focus on creating a compelling, energizing and healthy workplace where people actually want to spend time—even if it isn’t every day.
Q: Benjamin Franklin once said, “Well done is better than well said.” Is there a certain historical leader or phrase/quote/mantra that you relate to?
A: “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford
2020 was not kind to those with analysis paralysis!
Q: How did you personally recharge during those moments?
A: Prioritizing exercise is a lesson I learned a few years ago: None of us are any good to our company, organization, clients or customers if we are not healthy!