'No one can have success alone’
Executive cites relationships as key to being a good leader
Karen Pautz is a little uncomfortable in the limelight. At the heart of her personal philosophy is the belief that everyone in a community is equally important, no matter what their job or social status. So, when her work as a leader in early childhood education draws praise, she is quick to credit others.
“People say you do amazing work, etc., but the thing is — leadership is a ‘we,’” she explains. “Anytime a person has a success, there are all the people around them. No one can have success alone.”
leadership is a 'we'
She attributes her value system to her family and the culture of her country of birth. A native of Armenia, Pautz came to the United States with her parents when she was 14. “I grew up in the former Soviet Union in a culture where people are your most important resource,” she says. “It was instilled in me that we must honor people as individuals and realize that the collective power of human beings is more powerful than anything else you have in society.”
Pautz is executive director of First 5 Siskiyou Children and Families Commission. She works to create collaborative partnerships that serve young children and
their families during the critical years of childhood. She has been a preschool teacher, parent educator, national trainer and consultant. In 2003, her advocacy for children and families was recognized by the nationally prominent Children’s Defense Fund with a fellowship in the Emerging Leaders Project.
Each year, more than 80 percent of Siskiyou County’s children benefit from First 5-funded programs and services, which include family support programs, family fun events, literacy promotion activities, oral health education services, and a childcare education and quality improvement initiative.
Education is important to her success, Pautz says, but even more important are the opportunities she’s had to learn leadership skills. “In my opinion, academia is a very small piece of who you are and what you are able to do,” Pautz says. “What is more important are the leadership opportunities you have through non-academia.”
She credits OSU’s Center for Leadership Development for helping her develop those critical skills. “At a very early stage of my leadership development, the women at OSU played such a critical role,” she says. “In addition, I was surrounded by incredible women in Oregon who were my mentors and supporters.”
Learning through reading
Pautz also recognizes the importance of reading leadership books and other publications such as Community Vitality. “I have learned a lot from reading about others’ successes and experiences.”
True change needs relationships at its core, Pautz says. “Everyone has a story and we can always learn from them. That’s my approach to being a leader.”
Pautz also offers this advice:
- Take the time to invest in relationship and trust building.
- Assume positive intent.
- Take initiative; be realistic.
- Be kind to all. Take the time to smile and say hello — especially to children, the elderly and those whom you may want to judge.
- Create shared vision and goals through collaborative interactions.
- Be accountable. Invest in effective, fiscal, programmatic and evaluation systems.
- Celebrate and have fun every day.