We’re continuing our profiles on leadership series with Barbara Springer, Vice President of Administration and General Counsel; Executive Director Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation.
Bringing people together and inviting them to brainstorm out-of-the-box ideas seem to work best.
What is the biggest challenge facing young leaders today?
I think upward mobility for young people is somewhat difficult today as many older people are choosing to stay on in their roles. I also think that today’s corporate culture is somewhat out-of-sync with what young people care about. The millennial generation cares more about having meaningful work where they can make a positive impact. They’re not willing to be patient and wait the many years it can take in today’s corporate culture to reach a position of influence. I think we need to allow young people to take on more important roles early on in their careers to keep them interested and engaged, and also so they can help us stay in touch with what’s going on in the world.
What do you do to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
Attending conferences where top-level speakers are talking about what’s important in today’s world. I also pay close attention to what I’m told in my performance evaluations and try to work on those areas in which I need improvement.
Has a person had a tremendous impact on you as a leader or mentor? Tell us how they impacted your career or life.
I’ve had great bosses throughout my career and each of them has impacted my career positively. Kate Paul [President and CEO of Delta Dental of Colorado] has been a tremendous boss who has allowed me to take on new responsibilities. That’s meant a great deal to my career growth.
What is your leadership style and how do you think it has worked best for you?
I hire the smartest people I can find, spend time working with them closely to give them my high-level vision for their work, then let them work independently. I don’t worry as much about finding people with specific experience. Smart people with good values can do almost anything.
What’s one lesson you learned the hard way that you will never forget?
I learned early on to not be threatened by people who are smarter that work for me. My ideal team is a group of people who are all smarter than me, which is what I have!
Have you taken a professional risk that paid off? Please explain.
I took on the role of executive director of the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation, even though I knew I didn’t have the background and education you’d typically want to see in a person in this position. It’s been a real joy to lead this great organization and I have learned so much.
What keeps you positive and motivated on a daily basis?
I am so grateful to work for an organization that is here to bring better oral health to the people of Colorado, especially our littlest people. I feel like I’m working for much more than a paycheck.