Kathryn Hall is a Meridian Trustee and the owner of Hall Vineyards. This blog post is part of a series highlighting and celebrating women leaders in Meridian’s network during Women’s History Month.
Who is or was a female inspiration, mentor and/or hero figure to you?
It has been my good fortune to have many mentors over the course of my career. My first mentor was a man, Milt Kegley, a senior executive at the first company I worked for. He understood the nuances of sexism long before these were widely recognized , and certainly far better than I as a 25 year old lawyer did. As I look back I think his greatest gift to me was simply opening my eyes.
Another wonderful mentor years later was Ann Richards, whom I met when she was running for governor of Texas and I was running for Dallas County Judge. She won, obviously. I lost. But what I gained in that process was political wisdom, perhaps most important of which was the understanding that one can be vulnerable and still tough. Further, that vulnerability is a true asset.
What does ‘leadership’ mean to you?
Leadership requires confidence in your own judgment. It means recognizing that the people you work with have many dimensions in addition to the abilities you expect of them at work. It means listening to your team and recognizing that factors outside the office can influence performance as much as those inside. This became profoundly clear to me weeks after I first arrived at post to assume the position of U.S. Ambassador to Austria. The daughter of my Deputy Chief of Mission, who had been at post years before me, tragically and suddenly died. All our officers felt suddenly alone, isolated and afraid. The role of the Ambassador was not at that point about representation of our country or carrying out mission objectives. It was leading and supporting the healing of the people who comprised our team.
How do you give back to and/or build pathways for future women leaders?
When I started my career there were few women in “non-traditional“ positions. I longed to see more women in successful professional roles, and I had so many questions I wanted to ask. So, I first try to be visible about the role I play today in business. In addition I advocate for and try to support women in my business and in my field. In addition, my husband and I support entrepreneur startups with a focus on startups by women and people of color.