Jan. 12, 2022

Learn, Lead, Lift and Inspire Your Way to Greatness | Wendy Ryan

Learn, Lead, Lift and Inspire Your Way to Greatness | Wendy Ryan

Learn lead, lift how to think at and inspire your way to greatness is for those:
🧭 who are curious to learn more about how to have an empowering mindset as a leader?
🧭 who are interested in unique insights?
🧭 who make a positive impact through leadership?
What Inspired Me:
Wendy Ryan’s book: Learn lead, lift how to think at and inspire your way to greatness.

Learn, Lead and Lift: How to Think, Act and Inspire Your Way to Greatness is for those:

  • who is curious to learn more about how to have an empowering mindset as a leader? 
  • who is interested in unique insights?
  • who is ready to make a positive impact through leadership?

What Inspired Me?

Wendy Ryan’s book: Learn, Lead and Lift: How to Think, Act and Inspire Your Way to Greatness.

  • I was intrigued by the deepening of my understanding of engaging cultural humility.

Knowledge Bomb

The touchpoints: From PTSD's post-traumatic growth to personal transformation as one of the outcomes of trauma.

Everyone has experienced some level of 🚩 trauma that can range beyond:

  • intergenerational trauma 
  • ancestral trauma
  • adverse childhood events
  • adult trauma 


About the Guest

Wendy Ryan (she/her), Kadabra CEO, leads an interdisciplinary team of leadership and change experts based in Silicon Valley. An advocate for expanding diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the investor and business ecosystem, she is a mentor and angel investor in early-stage women-led companies.

About the Show

Podcast Host: Life & Leadership: A Conscious Journey with Dr. Michelle St Jane

A podcast for Global and Re-Emerging Leadership creating community/tribe, a circle of influence, transcendency of compassionate leadership in the world and wider universe. A unique destination for learning about Leadership + Conscious Stewardship + Legacy.

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Intro: You're listening to Life and Leadership: A Conscious Journey. The podcast that shares wisdom and strength. Join your host, Dr. Michelle St Jane's weekly conversation on how to have a positive impact for people, the planet, and the wider world. If you want to live a life of intention, to be proactive with your time and bring your vision for the future to live one today at a time, you’re in the right place at the right time. Let's get started. 

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:00:33] ✨Wendy Ryan ✨ is on a mission, prepared to be vulnerable and inspirational.  All of these good intentions are wrapped in good information, insightful key takeaways and questions that take your thinking deeper and deeper. She is the 📚 author of Learn, Lead, Lift: How to Think, Act and Inspire Your Way to Greatness.

🧭 What Intrigued Me

  • Deepening my understanding and engaging of cultural humility

🧭 What Inspired Me

  • How Wendy uses his skills to effect change rather than keep the status quo. 

Wendy is the CEO of Kadabra, a future focus, leadership, and change consulting firm that's grounded in experience or insight, that has inclusivity at the core of its values. The mission is to grow exceptional leaders and teams.

Kadabra's aim:

To facilitate an unprecedented surge of positive change and beginning in and around every organization that Kadabra serves.

Wendy is an angel😇 investor, equity, and inclusion advocate, Wendy Ryan is passionate about: 

🧭 women-led companies,

🧭 an advocate for expansion, diversity, equality, and inclusion, and 

🧭 accessibility in investor business ecosystems.

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:01:56] Do we not need more of that? I say yes! 

Wendy, you show up in this multidisciplinary way across a number of fronts in your life and leadership. My first question has to be, who is Wendy? 

Wendy Ryan: [00:02:09] Michelle. It's wonderful to be here with you. 

😇 I am a white hetero cis-gendered woman. 

😇 I live in Silicon Valley, California, Capitol of startups and technology, and 

😇 I am a mom of three and a wife.

Wendy Ryan: [00:02:30] In some ways I am just your typical ordinary average. Middle-aged person. In other ways, I've had a life and a career that has been rather interesting and extraordinary. 

It's fun to kind of be holding space in both of those. 

Dr. Michelle St Jane: Give us an idea of your leadership journey because you now are the CEO of Kadabra. Where did you start? Just a little bit of a synopsis so people can actually see your journey. 

Wendy Ryan: For me, leadership started very early. It's something I was always been naturally drawn to. Any organization that I joined, as a young person or later as an adult, I usually end up leading the organization somehow.

Wendy Ryan: [00:03:16] Whether it's a volunteer or a paid arrangement. There's something about leadership that naturally I gravitate toward. Whether it's an opportunity for me to lead or throughout my career, helping other people figure out how to lead in a way that is more beneficial for them and for others.  

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:03:38] What has made you smile this summer? 

Wendy Ryan: First of all, I have two of my children in college, and having them home, seeing them even in one case for just a week or two was such a joy. 

We forget sometimes when we're in the thick of parenting and family life and all the drama and the challenge around that, just how much we love our kids and miss them. Having them back was just a joy.

Dr. Michelle St Jane: That's wonderful. Anything exciting that you've managed to do? Are you an adventurous mum or are you an engaged mum? 

Wendy Ryan: I would say I'm an adventurous person. I'm not physically one that takes a lot of risks. When I was younger, I was a ballet dancer and I think my body took a lot of wear and tear from that, which now I'm paying for as an adult.

Wendy Ryan: [00:04:38] I will never be the one to run a marathon at this point or climb a mountain or anything like that. 

I like to be spontaneous. I like to hike. I like to go to the beach. I like to do things that are active and have a nice blend of active time and reflection time.

Wendy Ryan: [00:05:05] This summer, the big highlight in terms of adventure, was discovering a place called The Sea Ranch, which is on the Northern coast of California. One of the few places in the world where there are about 10 miles of contiguous trail right on the bluff of the ocean. You literally can walk on a flat trail for almost 10 miles and see incredible views of the ocean and cliffs.

Wendy Ryan: [00:05:32] It's very quiet and beautiful. A very nice place to reconnect with the natural world and the ocean in particular, if you're an ocean person as I am. 

Dr. Michelle St Jane: Me too. I had my swim in the ocean today. April and October, the whales come to visit and they're so close. You can see them breaching there. It's just like magic. 

Dr. Michelle St Jane: Wendy, you are the author of a bestselling book, Learn, Lead, Lift: How to Think, Act and Inspire Your Way to Greatness that came out in 2021. The reviews are calling this book brave, well organized, a strategic read, compelling, thoroughly, original.

I concur with all of it. In fact, I too had to write a testimonial. I was very inspired. 

Wendy, why did you write this book, and why now? 

Wendy Ryan: There were two, two main reasons. One was really a personal one, which is that I, in 2018, was starting to think about my 50th birthday.  I'm now 52. 

I had a sense that we should do something to mark this occasion. Half a century of life is something. 

I thought about all the different ways I could celebrate and am privileged to be able to entertain different things, like: 

🛫 take a trip, 

🎉 have a party. 

What kept coming up for me is this real desire to:

🤔   reflect on and honor the opportunities that I've been given,

🤔 the learnings that I've had, 

🤔 the people that have really challenged me, supported me, shaped my thinking along the way. 

I've always been a writer. I've always liked writing and reading. 

I thought, what if I wrote a book, something I had thought about for a long time? I thought this might just be the moment to do that.

Wendy Ryan: [00:07:35] It was kind of a mix of all of that on the personal side. Then I think professionally, I'm a person who likes to be on a learning curve all the time. I was ready for the next learning curve. So never having published a book before I thought this is a curve. This is a little intimidating. It's a little scary. What if this book sucks and nobody likes it? Right, because I was a little scared, intimidated, I knew that that was probably something I needed to lean into and do. I am so glad I did.

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:08:08] I'm so grateful that you did. I celebrate your book. One of the areas that most impressed me was how you spoke to post-traumatic growth and turning that into personal transformation.

You leaned into the vulnerability and had the courage to put that out in the leadership book. I have a leadership podcast. I made a personal commitment to share secret thoughts and secret confessions. 

The reason I did that was that I've reached this pinnacle and I've had these experiences. Now have a philosophy, fail fast and quietly, but always share the learning, the growth of what you've gone through, and the challenges so that people coming behind you are ready to appreciate or take your learning and translate it into their own. I just feel really responsible for doing that.  

I really appreciate you touching on PTSD's post-traumatic growth and personal transformation because it needs to be in leadership.

Wendy Ryan: [00:09:12] I strongly agree. I think we use the term trauma-informed a lot at Kadabra to talk about both leadership and how we want to help people show up. 

Whether they are a leader or an individual contributor it is such an important thing for all of us to become educated about whether we identify as someone who has experienced trauma or not.

Wendy Ryan: [00:09:36] The reality is, especially the last year and a half with the pandemic, with our racial reckoning, everyone has experienced some level of trauma.

Some people have intergenerational trauma, or they've had adverse childhood events. Then later adult trauma like experiencing this pandemic. Our racial reckoning in ways that are profoundly different and more challenging than people who haven't.

Wendy Ryan: [00:10:06] Then on the flip side, you mentioned post-traumatic growth, which, is both a hopeful perspective we can hold and keep in mind is that one of the outcomes of trauma is sometimes people do grow and are able to reach a different way of experiencing life. They ultimately say, “Hey, I feel like this is better than, than where I was before.”

Wendy Ryan: [00:10:33] We can't ever take that for granted or look at that as a failure to experience that growth is somehow a personal failure. I don't know that anyone has really figured out what is magic that has to happen. That allows for post-traumatic growth. I think we have a lot of good theories and ideas, but there's no guarantee and it's not necessarily something even to aspire to.

Wendy Ryan: [00:10:57] When we recognize that we've experienced trauma, what we want, and need is support and a path to recover from that. That really is sufficient by itself. 

Dr. Michelle St Jane: Absolutely. I'm a grandmother. I feel that grandmothers have this wonderful skill of listening to conversations. We don't have to be like showing and talking. 

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:11:19] We can actually be the ears that listen to other generations talk. Hopefully, other people listen to us as well, but it's very valuable what you said because I was widowed at 27. I had to go into the work world to support my children. You know, issues with addictions, like alcoholism in the family. I still had to function, you know, and I can either go through it or I could grow through it for me, I'm a growth through it, type person.

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:11:45] In fact, I really appreciate the resources you had in your book. Like the one by Ryan Gottfredson on mind mindset. 

I have probably lived four lifetimes and when I did the quiz, it was very beneficial for me. A reality check, like, I was in actually the right place in mindset, growth, and the other areas. Well, it was actually quite a surprise. There's not really a lot else I need to do, although I know with the mindset that stuff can change. I have the resource now to go and check again.

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:12:29] Why didn't you put mind set in and resources like that. 

Wendy Ryan:  You're talking about my colleague, Ryan Gottfredson, a professor at California State Fullerton, who has been doing some incredible research and thinking in the area of mindsets.

Wendy Ryan: [00:12:53] I had come across Ryan a few years ago. When we met, I was so impressed with his framework for mindsets. I knew it had to be part of my book. 

I'm really delighted, Michelle, you got to take the free assessment. We included that link in the book. I'm so glad you availed yourself of that and were able to benefit.

[00:13:19] Wendy Ryan: I know me and everyone on my team has taken it and yeah, it's absolutely the same. We've had many rich conversations about learning and insight. We like to provide that to our clients as well. 

To your question about why is, that's a key component of the book? It's a key component of the Learn, Lead and Lift framework.

Wendy Ryan: [00:13:41] One way to think about the book is it's a collection of stories and lessons learned about leadership. The organizing principle around that is Learn, Lead and Lift framework, which is that great leadership depends on three elements working together: 

🧭 One is mindsets, which is how we think, it's awareness of how we think, and it's being able to adjust our thinking as we need them.

🧭 The second area is skillsets, which is about what we know or know how to do. Sometimes that looks like emotional intelligence. Sometimes it looks like the skills we need to master carpenters. Things that we can learn, the knowledge we can acquire. 

🧭 The third element is behaviors. The acronym we use for that is called FIDAH - focus, integrity, decisiveness, authenticity, and humility. These are the ways great leaders show up to others.

[00:14:36] Wendy Ryan: I did a lot of interviews for the book because I wanted to challenge my own assumptions about leadership. When I would ask people, “what does great leadership look like to you? How do you experience leaders that are great?” 

FIDAH is what really came out of that.

Wendy Ryan: [00:15:01] Very universal, no matter what the sector is or the industry or the geography that you're operating in. Over and over, people will say that humility in a leader is very important and that it distinguishes the great leaders from the not so great to me. That's fascinating because our cultural narrative in the United States and a lot of other British colonial-type legacy countries and cultures is we don't put humility forward as the key leadership quality that we necessarily tell people about or encourage people to develop. When you ask a person on the street, “what does great leadership look like?” Nine times out of 10 humility will be part of the conversation.

Dr. Michelle St Jane:  We have five generations in the workforce now with Gen Z joining in 2018. Let me tell you organizations have to pass the smell test. 

I really liked your said concept of cultural competency. I was very pleased to see that.

I'm based on a multinational little island. We have hundreds from different countries resident here. 

I originate from New Zealand. We have an indigenous group that was recognized very early, last century in ways that were different from how native Indian people and Aborigines are recognized. Cultural humility is introduced early to Kiwi children in New Zealand. 

Cultural competency. I was really pleased to see that. What was the driver behind that? 

Wendy Ryan: That to me, when I think about leadership and what is required for great leadership, what became really clear to me in the course of writing the book, doing the interviews, and on reflecting on what does leadership need to look like now and into the future. 

Wendy Ryan: [00:17:01] Cultural competence was very high on the list and cultural humility as well. And they're actually two different things. 

Cultural competence is knowing about other cultures, knowing about other identities, and having the ability to interact with people who hold different identities and do that in a way that, again, you're not offending people.

Wendy Ryan: [00:17:25] You’re not denigrating people you're making it comfortable to interact and work together. 

Cultural humility goes a little bit deeper. Then it's about recognizing that my culture. 

I can be a very strong Patriot; I can think that my country is the ideal country. However, I recognize that it's not the only way to think.  It's not the only way to do things. 

I need to, if I really want to have the kinds of deep, meaningful, and productive interactions with other people from other places that I want to have, I have to not center my identity. I have to not make everything about my identity. I need to actively center identities that are traditionally residing more at the margins.

Wendy Ryan: [00:18:13] Both of those things are important. I really look at it now as a mindset. In the learn lead lift framework, we talk about the mindset that identity matters. 

The reason that I choose to describe it that way is deliberate. It's about the fact that when I was coming up in my career, we were taught and we were expected to behave, I was in human resources as if we did not see color.  We did not notice that people were different. We were just supposed to all put our blinders on and ignore this because the assumption is that we live and work and compete in a meritocracy. Everybody's starting from the same place. Therefore, it would be rude to acknowledge differences.

Wendy Ryan: [00:18:57] We know better now. I know better now. 

The fact is we do have systemic oppression. We do have people whose experience is vastly different from my own. They hold different levels of privilege than I do. It's really important in leadership now and going into the future that we center identity, not our own identity, other people's identity. 

We learn how to think in ways that are going to inform our interactions because we're aware of those other identities. What other people need and what they experience. That is 180 degrees different from what many of us were taught.

Dr. Michelle St Jane:  I think one of your keynotes that caught my attention was future proof, your company by building brave cultures, that is just wonderful. Clearly, you use your skills to effect change rather than keep the status quo. 

I really appreciate your sharing with my global community, your unique contributions to life and leadership. It's all about a conscious journey. 

Are there any other last words you'd like to share with my audience? 

Please speak to the work that you do.

Wendy Ryan: [00:20:09] I think that all of us are on a journey indeed all the time. There's no such thing as arriving at a finish line in leadership and being done.  Holding that growth mindset always serves us well. There's always going to be more to learn. There's always going to be an opportunity for growth.

Wendy Ryan: [00:20:31] For a lot of us, that means adjusting to the changes that are going on in the world around us. 

🧭 We need to step back and retool. 

🧭 We need to unlearn something. 

🧭 We need to learn some new things. 

I would just say to people, whether you're picking up a copy of Learn, Lead Lift, or you're looking at other resources that this is absolutely a critically important time to be doing it.

Wendy Ryan: [00:21:00] Be prepared that this won't be the last time you need to do that. We can do a lot of that work ourselves by using the great resources that are out there. Some of that work really happens more effectively when we have support from a coach, a mentor, somebody who can help us hold up the mirror and reflect because it's really hard to see the water we're swimming in.

Wendy Ryan: [00:21:23] It's really hard to see ourselves the way other people see us. So, I would just encourage everyone listening to say, how can I enter into intention around being a great leader, if that's of interest to you with some reflection time, and also who am I going to work with? That's going to help me get there.

[00:21:43] Wendy Ryan: Who can be a partner for me, or who can be some partners for me in that journey. I think both are really important.

Dr. Michelle St Jane:  Kadabra up shows up in that space. I will make sure that there are links in the show notes. 

Wendy, thank you so much for your contributions. I appreciate all that you do to serve this world leadership and keep us on a conscious journey.

Wendy Ryan: [00:22:07] Michelle, it's such a pleasure to be here.

Outro:  Dr. Michelle St Jane is a conscious steward of meaningful leadership in the world and the wider cosmos. Tune in every Thursday for real talk around life, leadership, and your conscious journey. Be ready to create and cultivate your dreams and wholehearted desires. Your support is valued. Please follow, subscribe, leave a review and a rating. More importantly, share with your connections.

Reach out.  I am interested to hear from you. Do you have a topic you'd like to explore? It would be great to have your feedback.

Dr. Michelle St Jane

TEDxWoman Speaker |  Author  | Video, Podcast Host: Life & Leadership: A Conscious Journey 

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Wendy Ryan


Wendy Ryan (she/her) Kadabra CEO, leads an interdisciplinary team of leadership and change experts based in Silicon Valley. An advocate for expanding diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in the investor and business ecosystem, she is a mentor and angel investor in early stage womxn-led companies.