As a senior executive leading the Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products Group, Kathy Walters oversees the largest retail and commercial tissue and tabletop businesses in North America spanning more than 70 locations and 13,000 employees. Kathy is actively involved in succession planning across each of Georgia-Pacific’s businesses, and under her leadership, she ensures women and minorities are provided opportunities. The Women’s Foodservice Forum
recently presented her with its 2013 Leadership Award.
Here are a few of her personal perspectives on leadership:
Q. What are the most important qualities of a leader?
A. I believe a good leader has three qualities: First is the ability to develop a vision - and this doesn’t mean just setting a target or setting a goal. It means understanding how the business is going to add value in the marketplace and determining in what areas it can develop a competitive advantage.
A second important quality is the ability to attract and retain talent. A leader has to attract the best people they can, figure out each person’s comparative advantage, put them in roles that support the vision, and let them do what they do best. Then, leaders should try to get out of the way.
Lastly, a leader should be able to put a beneficial culture in place that enables a business to grow. This means building a culture that is principled - a culture that stands for something. Start first with the notion of integrity. There are some organizations that are so political that integrity can’t reign - you can’t have that in today’s world. If this exists, you’re failing as a leader.
Q. The Women’s Foodservice Forum recently presented you with its 2013 Leadership Award. What is your perspective on women leaders at Georgia-Pacific?
A. There are so many women at Georgia-Pacific who have achieved great results and who have helped create value for our customers, for suppliers, for employees and for our company. They’ve achieved those things because they are people who have made a decision about what is important to them, taken some risks and focused on creating real, long-term value.
Q. What advice would you give companies on developing leaders?
A. As a leadership group, one of your main responsibilities is to enable your organization. I believe companies should put the highest premium on servant leadership, developing people, and keeping an open atmosphere, and a low premium on those who believe in hierarchical leadership.