Women in Business Q&A: The one thing every leader needs

Influential Women in Business
(Photography by Collin Richie)

Integrity.

That was a common response when this year’s Influential Women in Business were asked what trait every leader should possess.

The 2022 Influential Women in Business luncheon featured a Q&A session with questions ranging from how they are able to gain confidence to how they balance work and family to what is the worst advice young women entering the workforce are getting.

This year’s honorees are: Karen Breaux, human resources director of Postlethwaite and Netterville; Lauren McCall Fitch, chief operating officer of Hannis T. Bourgeois; Beverly Haydel, president and CEO of Sequitur Consulting; Ginger Laurent, CEO of the Louisiana Bankers Association; Kim Mulkey, LSU’s women’s basketball coach; Catherine O’Neal, chief medical officer at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center; Kim Hunter Reed, commissioner of higher education for the Board of Regents; Renita Williams Thomas, principal and CEO of In Loving Arms Healthcare for Kids; and Jane Verret, president and CEO of Campus Federal Credit Union.

All leaders should have integrity, Haydel said. The leader title is earned over time and doesn’t come without integrity.

Empathy, kindness and integrity all go into making a leader, Breaux believes. They care about their people and their work environment.

On balancing work and family life:

  • It’s something O’Neal says she’s still figuring out. Louisiana’s communities are family oriented, she says, and women need support from their extended families along with child care providers to allow moms to work. There is an effort by families and communities to allow women to achieve while creating balance. 

On dubious advice young women entering the workforce are hearing:

  • Female 20-somethings are being told they don’t have a voice or seat at the table, Reed says, and that they must follow the status quo. But all they need to bring is their passion and creativity. This generation cares about issues larger than themselves, and older generations must encourage leadership, courage and commitment in young people.

On how to find strength and confidence as a working woman:

  • Fitch finds confidence by knowing her strengths and weaknesses. Once you identify a weakness, you have to follow through and make that weakness stronger, she says. Confidence over arrogance always, and you have to know your weakness, set a goal and get to where you want to be. “Fake it until you make it.”