OMAHA, Neb.—Leadership isn’t about having power, it’s far more about certain relationship traits. That observation and others are shared below by Kate Knudsen, who offers her thoughts on leadership and management as part of CUToday.info’s The Corner.
CUToday.info: What intangible of leadership is most difficult to convey or prepare for?
Knudsen: The most difficult intangible of leadership for me is conveying presence. Leaders with presence seize your attention not just because they have power, but also because they know how to use it. You can't learn presence from reading a book; it comes from trusting your own abilities, and being confident in vocalizing your thoughts and ideas. My sense of presence is sufficient but it is still evolving.
CUToday.info: Are you a fan of a management book or books? If not, why not? If so, which have resonated with you and why?
Knudsen: The latest management book that I’ve read and that truly resonated with me is The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership by James Hunter. Spoiler alert to those of you who haven’t read it: According to Hunter the true foundation of leadership is not power, but authority, which is built upon relationships, love, service, and sacrifice. These leadership traits have historically been viewed as feminine and have traditionally been undervalued. These are the traits I try to cultivate. It is good validation that others recognize them as beneficial, effective and desirable.
CUToday.info: Innovation: four syllables getting all the attention. Deservedly so? If so, can you really drive innovation? Or is it coming at the cost of implementation and delivery?
Knudsen: Innovation should not be confused with creativity. Innovation is the process of bringing new products to market that drive differentiation and measurable business value. Creativity definitely plays a role in innovation, but creativity in and of itself has minimal value to a company.
At Prairie Cloudware, an innovative mindset is woven into the fabric of who we are as individuals and as a company. We would not have been able to attract the incredibly talented team of payments professionals we have on our team without it.
More than a company goal or ideal, innovation is demonstrated day in and day out in the behavior of both our leaders and the teams. It’s a fundamental organizational commitment, and is evident in our processes, norms, and ongoing, everyday intentional actions.
If you could go back and talk to You On The First Day On The Job, what advice do you share?
Knudsen: Prairie Cloudware is a startup. I am employee #2. So my first day was vastly different than what most folks in corporate America are used to. No orientation, no HR department, no desk, no ropes! It was a total white canvas experience. What do you do when presented with an opportunity like that? Push up your sleeves, grab a brush and start painting. Or in my case, grab a Macbook Pro and start writing a patent application!
My Keeps-Me-Up-At-Night concern is? Why? And My-Let’s-Me-Sleep-At-Night optimism is?
Knudsen: Prairie Cloudware is building a solution for financial institutions to provide secure, convenient, easy to use digital payments to their customers and members. We believe they should own, brand and control the digital wallet while enabling consumers to use any card type on any technology in any digital channel with all transactions secured by tokenization.
One of our first use cases is to enable banks to offer their Android users an Apple Pay-like digital payment service with access to token service providers, including Visa, MasterCard and American Express, as well as connectivity to the financial institution for delivery of relevant consumer information.
So, what keeps me up at night? Within every startup there is huge risk on a number of fronts. You can be too early to market, too late to market, overwhelmed by other companies with smart people doing what you do and run out of money.
We formed Prairie Cloudware a year before the EMVCo released its tokenization framework, a year before Visa and MasterCard announced their support for Host Card Emulation (HCE), and a year and a half before the associations launched their token provisioning services and NFC was given renewed life by Apple Pay.
What if none of that had happened? You can say we've been remarkably visionary or just plain lucky that everything fell into place to enable our vision. And, P.S., luck has a lot to do with it. Nerve-racking? Absolutely, but I believe we are on the right path, in the right market, with the right message and product offering, at the right time with the right team to deliver on our vision.