“Early in my career, I had in my mind what an executive leader would do – lead a lot of meetings, sit in the big office, tell everyone what to do and make all of the decisions. What I’ve learned is leadership is not about me at all, it’s about everybody else, and the challenge is how to influence and empower those around you. It’s my job to create an environment in which everyone feels valued, motivated and inspired to make a difference every day.” –Darcy Horn Davenport, President Premier Nutrition Corporation
Leaders must be able to inspire, challenge and engage people to believe they can achieve their potential. They are great listeners who don’t feel like they need to have all of the answers, or have all of the plays figured out. They know how to ask the right questions and when to challenge their teams to think through solutions to find the best answers.
Darcy Horn Davenport is one of those people. Her passion, optimistic mindset and keen insight are helping to create a purpose-led, people first organization. Darcy is leading the Premier Nutrition Corporation (PNC) with her heart, not simply ROI. We recently sat down with Darcy to learn more about what it was like to work with Bulldog Drummond. Darcy’s humble approach to leadership and team-focused attitude inspired us. She’s an exceptional example of how a leader can positively impact a company when their actions and decisions are guided by a clear set of actionable values.
It is leadership’s responsibility to involve the entire organization, informing and inspiring them to live out the company’s purpose.
Whether you lead a nation, a sports team or a nutrition company, you can always learn new ways to lead people.
Over the course of three years, Darcy has found that she is still discovering her leadership style. Through her work with Bulldog, she continues to find new ways to evolve PNC into a company she both wants to be part of and is proud to lead.
“You spend so much time at work, it better be awesome! How often do you get to create a company culture? How often do you get to define a company’s values?”
Here are a few uncommon principles Darcy leads with that can be applied to life and business.
Put purpose before pride and values before greed
Darcy explained how being a ‘people pleaser’ – a characteristic not usually associated with leadership – has enhanced her ability to lead.
“I want working at PNC to be the best motivating experience for every employee. I want to maximize the good that comes out of each of us.”
Great leaders are empathetic and highly in tune with the needs of their team and the environment in which they are operating. They work in service of their team to solve problems, provide the needed resources and the environment in which their people can thrive and do their best work. Great leaders demonstrate a genuine concern for the people in their care, be it employees, consumers or shareholders, while instilling a sense that anything is possible for both the individual and the broader enterprise they lead.
Bold is admirable; humility motivates
Darcy does not like being the center of attention. She likes doing the work. It was an odd transition for her going from Marketing Manager, VP to President. She had in mind what an executive leader would do – tell everyone what to do and make all of the decisions. What she has learned is that leadership is not about her at all, it’s about everybody else, and the challenge is how to influence and empower those around her. It’s Darcy’s job to create an environment in which everyone feels valued, motivated and inspired to make a difference every day.
Treat others the way you want to be treated
Respect, honesty and accountability are the positive ingredients for building a culture of trust. Leaders must operate with the highest degree of integrity, authenticity and consistency to model behaviors that inspire and guide their teams. To lead is both a responsibility and a privilege that must be taken seriously.
Open your ears and shut your mouth
If people feel supported and comfortable, you get their best ideas and their best selves. It is when people are scared of looking dumb that they hold back and censor themselves. The goal is to know when to listen, give people the space to explain their ideas and their point of views without judgement, and ask questions to challenge them to take their ideas one or two steps further. At the end of the day, it isn’t just about the company’s leadership team, it’s about empowering the rest of the company to reach their potential.
Find people who are passionate about a project and let them loose
PNC employees are passionate people. The company has created an environment where people feel comfortable bringing new ideas to Darcy directly or to the leadership team. A year ago, Darcy was approached by a handful of dog lovers about allowing dogs in the office. Her gut reaction was, “Dogs at the office? No way!” However, the teams presented a compelling argument, sharing research that cited the good energy dogs can contribute to an office environment. Darcy took a step back and reevaluated their request based on its intent and how it could embody PNC’s office culture and company values. She asked the team to present the idea to the leadership team, and after presenting a well-thought-out policy and pilot program, the leadership team signed off on a test and three months later they had a new policy. PNC’s CFO, Paul Rode, joked that it was one of the most thorough policies ever implemented by the company. The decision to have dogs in the office has had an incredible impact on employee happiness. Today the PNC office has 15 dogs spreading good energy through the halls daily. This is a great example of how uncommon leadership can bring a company’s values to life through its company culture.