On the modern day professional woman: I think you are fearless, which I appreciate. You just go in there and do stuff that we might not have done before. I love that. I love seeing women taking over. Designing offices, running offices, starting offices…I think it’s really great. You’re not waiting to be hired by men.

On leadership: 

  1. My leadership philosophy is inspired by a horse trainer who said, “When there’s slack in the lead you know you have a good relationship with your horse because you’re not tugging that lead.” Is that just the best management lesson ever? If you have to tug on people to get them to do what you want, something’s not working. If you find yourself pulling back on the lead with your boss, something’s not right there either.
  2. Build up the skills and confidence of the people you work with. Develop other people around you because that automatically makes you a leader.
  3. Leadership is a huge thing, there isn’t enough of it. Usually when things go wrong it’s because someone isn’t acting like a leader.
  4. It doesn’t take long once you scratch the surface to realize we all want the same things. We want to be happy, we want the best for our children… Look for something to appreciate and learn from everyone you meet. Everyone has something to offer. If you look for that in a person, you’ll be enriched, and they’ll be enriched too.

On professional growth: Take a little time to sharpen the axe along the way. Don’t be in such a rush that you blow past the opportunities to develop yourself in a different way.

Advice that stuck with me: My dad, who was a childhood hero of mine, used to ask me to remember who I am. When I went out the door to a date or to school he would say, “Karen know who you are”. He said it at a time when you’re young and don’t yet know who you are – you’re still figuring it out – but that comes back to me all the time. Figuring out what’s really in your heart is so important…you have to be true to yourself, know what you’re about and go after that.

On leaving a legacy: I founded WorldDenver at age 60. My friends were retiring, traveling, playing with grandchildren, and I was starting a non-profit and working 14 hr days.  Yet, I felt Colorado deserved this and I knew I had the skills to do it. Find an opportunity to build something that will outlive you.

Who inspires you? I heard Madeline Albright do a talk last night. She’s 80 years old and says “Don’t call me old. I’m a perennial”. She was so sharp, so right on, clear thinking and inspiring. I admire her energy, thinking, clarity and sense of humor.