As a leader, you want to practice intentionality. You want to give women or people of color a chance to speak. You don’t want to get money from people who don’t share the same beliefs as you. You want to invite everyone to have a seat in the room. You want to get intentional with everything you do, especially as a woman. Join Elizabeth Bachman as she talks with the Chief Growth Officer at Goodlight Capital, Kate Byrne about intentional leadership. Learn how you can bring diversity and inclusion into your business. Discover how to get your power back as a woman. And find out what Goodlight Capital does for people who want to start their own businesses. Start being intentional today!
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Bringing Diversity And Inclusion Through Intentional Leadership With Kate Byrne
Before I go into the fascinating conversation with Kate Byrne, I’d like to invite you to see how your presentation skills are doing by taking our free four-minute assessment at SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. That’s where you can see where your presentation skills are strong and that you are showing up as a leader and where perhaps a little bit of support could get you the results you need and the recognition that you deserve.
My guest is my dear friend, Kate Byrne, whom I’ve known for several years. We’ve worked together on various projects. I have finally tracked her down to ask her about intentional leadership, which is something that she’s been demonstrating for many years and the work she is doing, getting funding for diverse founders and people with ideas.
Kate’s official bio is that Kate Byrne grows things, people, companies and movements. Kate is the Chief Growth Officer of GoodLight Capital, creating the future of venture capital to be more equitable, scalable and impactful by providing capital and more for underrepresented founders. As a Senior Advisor to Plus Media Solutions and Emerge, as well as the podcast host for WomenAdvancing.org, Rebels with a Purpose and African Tech Conversations, Kate is a leader in digital media, social impact and intentional leadership.
She has married her interest in media technology and its ability to advance social good and has been recognized as 1 of the 40 most influential people in media. She’s held executive positions at SOCAP Global, KatapultX, Fast Company, Businessweek, Inc. and many others. Her areas of expertise include trust social impact, women and power, stakeholder capitalism and intentional leadership development. She sits on the boards of IX Park and the Tom Tom Foundation.
She’s the Former President of the board for UN Women USA in the San Francisco chapter and a Former Board Member of Coro Northern California. She’s a Coro Women in Leadership Cohort alum, as well as a member of the International Women’s Forum and the Former Commissioner of the Marin Womens Commission. Kate is a fascinating, fun and interesting leader. I’m so happy to have had a conversation with her. You’ll enjoy it. Here is Kate Byrne.
Kate Byrne, I’m so glad I finally got you on the show. Welcome.
Thank you so much, Elizabeth. I too have been waiting.
I had to wait for you to be in one place so that I could get to you. As people know, we’ve known each other for several years and I’m a huge fan of yours. Before I get into the intentional leadership thing, which is something that you could talk about a lot, let me ask you if you were to interview someone who’s no longer with us, whom would it be? What would you ask them? Who should be listening?
It’s interesting in this time of such diversity and diversion between so many different belief systems, I always come up with two. The ones who come up to mind are female leaders who were standing beside their men as it were at the time but who I believe were driving their men. First, that would be Eleanor Roosevelt for a lot of reasons. Also, honestly, way back was Abigail Adams.
That would’ve been fun. I was thinking about Abigail Adams as you were talking about her. The phrase from the musical Hamilton popped into my mind which is, “Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?” Eleanor Roosevelt, a lot of people want to interview her. Why Abigail Adams?
Abigail Adams was the first of our kind in a lot of ways on record whom John Adams, her husband, respected so much and kept sending so many notes as into, “Abigail helped me make the decision. What do I do? Cut through the clutter. Help me see clearly not from a place of intelligence rather than ego,” which could happen way back when.
Not people don’t have egos, male or female.
No kidding but I will also say that to me, she personifies that line in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where the mother explains to the daughter, “Yes, the man may be the head but the woman is the neck.” I believe that she owned that role and was such a servant leader in that sense. She knew what she needed to get done. She said, “This is how it’s got to get done so I’m going to make sure it does get done.”
For our international readers, Abigail Adams was the wife of John Adams during the founding of the US. If you’ve ever seen the musical 1776, she’s a big character and they’re always singing back and forth to her where he says, “Make me salt Peter for gunpowder,” and she says, “Yes if you send me pins.” I do remember that. That would be fun. I wanted to ask you about intentional leadership and owning the room, which was two phrases that you mentioned and I went, “Good. Yes.” Let’s talk about that. What do you mean by intentional leadership? You’ve done so many things.
Oddly, all those many things ended up quite intentional because I realized where I was going and what I wanted to do didn’t exist. I was a millennial before it was a thing. What I did was I chose whom I worked with, why, what I wanted to get out of it and what I was willing to put into it. Some of these decisions were great and some of them were seemingly externally not great but they gave me a lot of learning. They frankly forced me to go inside where I started to work on what is intentionality in the first place, which is a rabbit hole that we could go down and I won’t.
It made me recognize that oftentimes as women’s early days and as we’re going and growing, seeking and climbing the ladder, when something bad happens, the first inclination is to go into victimhood. I then recognized, “I made the choice or I said yes.” In some of the situations I allowed, I made the outcome happen the way that it did. What I soon quickly learned was it was up to me to respond the way I wanted to respond intentionally and get my power back in a situation that looked like my power had been taken away. I left or drove and owned the situation with my power in place.
Give us some examples. What do we think about this?
I’ll think about it in terms of a lot of your readers where many are senior leaders and in executive positions. One easy way to do that is when someone asks me to speak, I will do my best to encourage that another person who doesn’t look like me, a Black or Brown woman is invited to the table and oftentimes takes my place as speaking. I don’t have to do that. One of my desires is to make the world a more equitable place so that we get the wisdom of the full crowd, not just the ones that look like us.
Intentionality is saying no to money while I may be in the need of funds. If they’re funds that are from a group organization or country that does not treat women or people in general, the way that I believe people should be, I will say, “No, thank you.” I don’t want to take blood money. Some may say that’s a privileged place to be in. Yes, I worked hard. For those of us who have that opportunity, do it. Take it. That’s intentionality. It’s also intentionally calling on the people who are quiet in your meetings. I’m a believer that it’s so easy to answer all those extroverts in the room.
Those introverts have incredible pearls of wisdom. They’re great observers. They see or hear the world differently. It’s important to take in what they hear. I will intentionally choose them. I will intentionally not take something on and I will lead from the bench as opposed to leading from the field all the time. I will intentionally delegate and keep my hands off.
How did you get to many positions of leadership? You’ve been a leader for a long time.
It’s funny because I was often chosen as the leader of the team, even though I may not have had the title. I was the person who would go and have the courage for the hard conversations or I would speak up because I didn’t know how to do it any other way. Call me unmanageable. It was just that I wanted the best for the entire company. Oftentimes those who aren’t in senior positions have a different site and viewing of what is going on so then it helps a senior leader brings up and become the speaker of the people.An idea is just air until you actually execute it. Click To Tweet
A lot of it too was choosing those careers and opportunities very intentionally. What happened was I got started in media and then when I was at Fast Company magazine, I was a publisher of my then editor-in-chief, now husband. I learned a lot about social capital. It’s that whole notion of triple bottom line people, profit and the planet. There’s a different way of measuring success and for a company to operate that’s more equitable, regenerative and sustainable.There's a different way for companies to operate that's more equitable, regenerative, and sustainable. Click To Tweet
I put myself to work at that. I knew that was what I was supposed to be doing. As a community node, business translator and alchemist, I have the ability to then translate for people what each other is saying, what other divisions and verticals they’re saying. In belief systems so often we’re meaning and saying the same thing, we’re just using different words.
You’ve described 90% of the work I do.
If we can get everyone to understand, “Here’s the outcome we’re all looking for. You get there by saying this or calling this. I get there by going this. How can we do that together? What’s the medium ground? How can we then build together?” It’s something that I believe women are quite good at. I should not genderize it in the first place because there’s more than male and female in this world but it’s having the empathy and intuition to understand that in the end, we all do want one thing and that’s people can succeed and we don’t cause harm.
Talk about a little bit more what you wanted to do didn’t exist so you had to create it.What I wanted to do didn't exist, so I had to invent it. Click To Tweet
I was forever the round peg and they were surrounded by many squares.
The round peg in the square hole doesn’t exactly fit. I’m always trying to translate English idioms for our international audience.
I also had big dreams. I was in the business of publishing like Inked magazine, Fast Company and more. There were some women but certainly not at the top. Everyone seemed to always be headquartered in New York where so much of the innovation and activity was going on on the West Coast where I was living, at the time, in the San Francisco Bay area down in Silicon Valley.
Also, extraordinary shifts and changes taking place being driven by Asia at the time. That’s not to say, “You’ve been very busy too,” an African content, I’m a huge believer. To me, in the end, the African content is going to have the last word because they’re the true innovators. I wanted to be the first female publisher of a business magazine that was headquartered on the West Coast. What ended up happening was I did get the spot for a Fast Company.
I decided as I was building out my little this gem of a job or career what I wanted it to be, I took a look at where are my gaps, what do I need to do, where do I need to go and where would be the best places for me to jump into. The key piece is I had to ask questions a lot and unapologetically. Be the one who would ask the question that others have been dying to ask. I’m sure we’ve all been there where you’ve gone into a company and asked people, “How does this get done?” They’ll say, “I don’t know. No one knows.”Ask a lot of questions unapologetically. Because asking questions demonstrates extraordinary confidence. Click To Tweet
“People would think that I don’t know what I’m doing.” Asking questions demonstrates extraordinary confidence. I will say generosity of spirit because you’re willing to put yourself out there on the line and make sure that everyone then understands what’s going on. Everything was either a publisher and there was a set vertical track that you had to take. I’m more of a zigzag gal. I always have been. As a result, I have found myself that I’ve never actively had to seek a job. I’ve always been tapped. I believe that’s part of that because there was a willingness to take on a project or a job. Knowing it was going to succeed or not was okay.
I was competitive with myself and wondered, “I wonder if I could do this.” It was more than lightness. That’s not to say I didn’t have a fear of failing or anything but I was willing to take things on that other people weren’t. What I then did is I shared all along the way, good news and bad news or learnings. I no longer use the word failure. I do believe in business alchemy. Everything is learning. It helps you get closer to where you need to be and helps the group overall because it saves someone from making the same mistake.Don't say failure, say Learning. Click To Tweet
In all the many things that you have done, you are working with a company called GoodLight Capital. Talk to me about what you are doing with GoodLight Capital and why is it important.
I’m a proud member of GoodLight Capital. It’s essentially diversifying the cap table and what that means is widening the scope, diversifying and democratizing who is getting funded when you’re starting a business and who is able to do the funding. Meaning we support those who historically have not received funding. Sadly, that usually has to do with Black, Brown, LGBTQ, women, you name it.
Geographically, we’re looking to expand those who are receiving funding as well because 97% of all venture capital goes pretty much to three states, California, New York and Massachusetts. I don’t have to tell you with all of the different issues that we’re facing, there are so many brilliant folks in the center of the country who are doing amazing work with regenerative agriculture.
There are so many different people down in the Southeast who are doing amazing work with education. It’s the energy. There’s so much. GoodLight believes in technology. We’re looking for those founders who are utilizing technology to help build solutions that solve problems within healthcare, wellness, education, climate and then FinTech as opportunities.
Let’s go back a little step further. One of the statistics that had proven over and over again is that men, especially White men are hired or funded on their potential and women and people of color are funded on performance, instead of potential. Do you have any thoughts about why that is?
It’s because of who’s making the hiring. People have long been mistaking confidence for competence.People have long been mistaking confidence for competence. Click To Tweet
Confidence is not necessarily the same thing as competence. You could see examples of that all over our society.
I will pull one which still gets my blood boiling. How is it that the founder of WeWork fettered away billions of dollars? WeWork is a global company. It’s an open working space. It’s a fabulous idea. It got a gazillion dollars and blew it all away. How is it that he then got funding for his new real estate idea? He got $325 million. That’s ludicrous.
Do you know the other founders who are doing amazing work who could use that $325 million in one bulk, even divided it up? Sadly, seeing is believing in the old investment world. There is not a long track record of those who do not look like the majority and of those who are making investment decisions, you’re going to go more for the person who looks like them because they’ve got a feeling.
It’s an unconscious bias. Women will make those biased decisions too. If there are women on the venture capital panel, they will still ask tougher questions of the other women. They then will ask of the men.
This is one of the things that we are realizing. That’s why I alluded to not all money being equal. We don’t want blood money because at GoodLight, our ethos is so much about diversity all the way through, we have to be pristine.
Do you mean clean?
Yes. Our thinking and choices have to be pristine. There can be no negative or bad surprises that come out at the last minute because we watched very closely. We truly are disrupting a long-time system. In the end, some people say, “You want to make it better.” It was never good in the first place. It’s such a small amount of the big overall investment pie in the first place.
It’s critical because this is a way that we can elevate the voices, the thinking and the ideas of not only the founders but their teams, which also tend to be more diverse as well as ensure that products are being built that frankly are what the greater audience of consumers want so that they can relate to and solve their problems, not just from a surface level.
It makes me think about one of the examples I use all the time when I talk about single-focus versus multi-focused people. It’s not necessarily masculine and feminine, although single focus tends to be more men and multi-focus tends to be more women. What happens so often is that single-focused people will get excited by an idea and move forward, which is great. The single focus gets things done. It’s the multi-focus people who will say, “Yes, but has anybody asked the client if they want this?” That happened to one of my clients who watched her company spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a product that nobody wanted because nobody was listening to her.
I almost joined a company that wanted to make a website go live. They’re like, “What should be on it?” “I’m not going to be joining you but who is it for?” There are statistics with regards to women on boards and the performance of women who make it on boards. There have been statistics that demonstrate that those companies that have women on their boards tend to have a higher ROI or Return On Investment. One of the reasons why is exactly the point you brought up.
Women have a tendency not to be risk-averse but take a beat and ask more questions, think and look at it as opposed to doing it on a handshake deal. “We got to have first mover advantage. We’ve got to do it,” and not even thinking about the long-term implication. With that, they tend to be the ones on the boards who will do the same thinking, discernment and temperance at strategic decisions like acquisitions, selloffs, partnerships or those who are being brought into the company are being made. I agree. This has a lot to do with thinking.
It has been starting with White women because that’s an easier pill to swallow. As a woman, if you get into a position of power, it is your job and privilege to turn around and hold out a hand for someone else who doesn’t look like you.
One more thing. This whole notion too of pulling up seats at the table is like bringing in employees, increasing diversity at the company level as well and making sure they’re great. You brought somebody in so they’re included but you have to make sure that they belong and that means that their ideas are heard respectfully. Even in the boardroom, people feel that they matter and their insights don’t always have to be followed but they do at least have to be respected and heard.
Hopefully, you think of it as opening or expanding your borders, which isn’t always comfortable.
It also expands your borders, empathy and understanding of the world and where it is. Also, the fact that you are privileged at times. That’s also uncomfortable to think of oneself, especially if you’re down to earth, “I’m not that way,” but it doesn’t even matter. You show up that way because of who you are, how you were born and sadly the color of your skin.
Let me ask you a little bit about people who are interested in GoodLight Capital. How do you find the visionaries? What do they have to do to prove that they’re visionary? Not all ideas are good ideas.
That’s very true. I’m a big one because as an ideator, I like to brainstorm with the rest of them but an idea is an error until you execute it. Some ideas are great but maybe not now. Other ideas are plain old not ever, at least at this given time. If you’re a founder and you have an idea, you go to the Goodlife Capital homepage and there’ll be an area for founders. Click on that and it’ll describe what we’re looking for and then there’s the submission area.An idea is just air until you execute it. Click To Tweet
I encourage you to become a member of the community. There’s no charge for that. What that does is it gives you access to over 1,000 to 1,200 different members. Who’s in that membership are founders, funders and thought leaders. Other entrepreneurs are successful and there are some corporations. We have monthly community calls and we’ll get you on the monthly newsletter. In both, we often do a spotlight on a community member and/or a founder.
If you’re looking for funding, there’s an area where you can submit and share your idea of why you think it’s good. There are several different questions so you submit that and we receive them in a portal, which is called our Bright Portal. We then think, “That’s terrific.” We would set up an initial conversation with some members of the team.
We would run you through our first round of diligence, which is pretty basic. It’s like getting to know your team. We crowdsource what people think. “Should we give this a chance? Should we go to the next level?” People say yes. We would then arrange a broader-based conversation with more of the community. All things being equal, you’ll get funding.
What if it’s not a good idea or if it’s not ready?
The way we look at it is not ready for prime time or not ready yet. We set up a call where we provide feedback and specific pointers as to what could be improved and what didn’t make sense and then also a window on when we get back to us, we’d love to see this continue to be a part of the community. We then would consider it again once those changes are back, corrected, adjusted or rethought.
I’m a Chief Growth Officer so I’m helping it grow. I’m growing the community and then I am also building out partnerships. I’m securing partnerships with folks like Accenture’s Black Founders Acceleration Program. I’m working with Microsoft’s nonprofit tech founders and development program. I’m working with Google and their VC and startup program. I’m working with Pharrell Williams and his Black Ambition Prize.
We’ve got conversations with Angel Capital Association in helping us build out a whole library of best practices, workshops, videos and such. We are talking to an interesting group, CAA, one of the largest talent groups in the world where we’re going to be working with some former sports stars and also current stars who are looking to create their funds, support companies and founders and make investments that they believe in.
It’s been a lot of fun. We’re also working with Forbes and talking to the World Economic Forums. Agencies or organizations such as the Black US Chamber of Commerce and others, please, I would love to hear them. If there’s a group that you think is interesting and doing work that needs to be elevated and supported, I would love to learn more because this is one of the ways that I learn more about all that is out there.
That is intentional leadership if I’ve ever heard it. Kate Byrne, it’s been such a delight to have you on the show. I’ve been trying to track you down for a while so I’m so glad we made this happen. One question is if someone is not necessarily a founder but someone who wants to be more intentional about her or his leadership, what would be the first thing to do?
This is going to sound obvious but it’s not. I would have a values audit first and foremost and figure out things like freedom and integrity. Get clear on that. I would look to how you see yourself best serving and both of those change throughout your career. The value’s not as much. There might be some at different stages in the game that might change but the latter part, how you serve does. I say this to your younger readers as well. Somebody else is trying to get into college or trying to get their first job and you all went through that.If you want to be intentional, you have to be clear on your values and how you see yourself best serving. Click To Tweet
Those of you who are going to university, trade school or a specific program, be open and realize that you can help someone else do the same. You too are valuable. Often younger generations feel like, “I’m not relevant. I won’t be listened to.” You are relevant more than you know. You have ideas and see the world in different ways than we do. I encourage you to also look behind your shoulder, put an arm out and see whom you can bring up because that’s key.
I finish with a little story for you then of a time when I was in a very dark part of my life. I was trying to do everything by myself. Someone had said speaking the 23rd Psalm. I believe in a universal spirit but I never was part of a formal religion. You can always find the 23rd Psalm which starts with, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
I was on a walk in a terrible mood charging up the hill going, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” I suddenly thought, “What if goodness and mercy are like sisters or friends and they’re following me all this time? I have to remember to reach back and ask for help.” What has taken me through many dark times in my life is that goodness and mercy are always following me. I have to slow down enough to ask for help.
I would also add that which is yours will find you. That is a universal law. It may not happen as quickly as you wanted to because oftentimes you’re not ready yet or if you got it, you’d mess it up. Believe me, I have done that. I’m a big believer in divine timing. When something doesn’t happen the way I thought it should, the first thing I always ask myself is, “How can I look at this differently? Things happen for me, not to me. What’s the good thing that happened? What am I gaining because of this?”
It goes back to what you said at the very beginning. Don’t think of it as a failure. Think of it as learning.
Everything is serious and doesn’t feel that way but I’m not kidding you. I did not get this lovely treasure trove of lifelines in my head without making some missteps. I’ve been in those dark places too. It’s no fun. If I remember, “It’s all my best. It doesn’t feel that way but it will be.” It comes out on the other side.
Thank you. That’s a wonderful way to end. I hope everybody’s reading the last bits because it was very much worth reading. Kate Byrne, it’s been such a delight to have you as a guest. I will hope to have you again to ask you about some of the many other topics that you suggested. If you enjoyed this conversation, please tell your friends, subscribe to us, rate us on Apple Podcasts and give us a good review. That’s the one that matters. Subscribe to us on YouTube. Tell your friends. I’ll see you at the next one.
- GoodLight Capital
- Plus Media Solutions
- Rebels with a Purpose
- African Tech Conversations
- IX Park
- Tom Tom Foundation
- Coro Women in Leadership
- International Women’s Forum
- Apple Podcasts – Speakers Who Get Results
- YouTube – Elizabeth Bachman, Strategic Speaking for Results
- @KBS2cents – Twitter
About Kate Byrne
Kate Byrne grows things, people, companies and movements. She is the Chief Growth Officer at Goodlight Capital, creating the future of Venture Capital to be more equitable, scalable, and impactful by providing capital and more for under represented Founders. Kate is a Senior Advisor to PlusMedia Solutions and Emerge, as well as the podcast host for WomenAdvancing.org, Rebels with a Purpose and African Tech Conversations.
A leader in digital media and social impact and intentional leadership, Kate has married her interest in media, technology and its ability to advance social good and has been recognized as one of the 40 Most Influential People in Media. She has held executive positions at SOCAP Global, Katapult X, Fast Company,BusinessWeek, INC., The Tides Foundation, The George Lucas Education Foundation, and Watermark.
Kate is a contributor for Authority Magazine, MarketWatch, Conscious Company Magazine, and frequent global speaker (SOCAP, The WellBeing Summit, Sustainable Brands, Future Fest, Rotary Club, Watermark Innovation, Leadership Summit, Shift Summit). Areas of expertise include Trust, Social Impact, Women and Power, Stakeholder Capitalism, and Intentional Leadership Development.
She currently sits on the Boards of IX
Park and the Tom Tom Foundation. She is the former President of the Board for the UN Women USA SF Chapter; and Former Board member of CORO of Northern California. Kate is a Coro Women’ Leadership Cohort alum, a member of the International Women’s Forum, and Former Commissioner on the Marin Commission for Women and Girls.She graduated from Stanford with a B.A. in Psychology. Kate lives in Charlottesville, VA with her wonderful husband and is the proud mom of two amazing young women.