Get to Know Annie
Transition From Math Teacher to Corporate America
After a two years as a math teacher she transitioned into a global CPG company where she held positions as a retail coordinator, assistant product development manager, associate product development manager, and associate merchandise manager. After working there for five years, she became a retail and digital marketing consultant.
The Start of Style Collective
This diverse background led to her founding Style Collective and the Becoming Fearless podcast. Style Collective is a platform for female influencers to connect, grow, and learn how to be successful bloggers and entrepreneurs. The Becoming Fearless podcast is about finding your authentic self and living your values to become the person that you were meant to be. She connects women from all over the world through community and empowers them to do what they love through leadership and influencer education.
How We Connected!
I heard our guest on another podcast and was so impressed by her knowledge, leadership growth, and experience that I thought she would be a great guest for the Leadership Done Right community. I am honored and humbled to have her on the show. Our guest today is Annie Spano. Annie, welcome to the show!
Lessons Learned From a Toxic Leader
Annie’s leadership journey started when she was 17 years old and her mom passed away from cancer. That led her to adopt a growth mindset. She began seeking new opportunities and challenges to honor her mom and make her proud.
Her senior year of high school she took pre-calculus and physics which led to a love of math and science. She went on to earn her BS in mathematics education and became a math teacher. From that tragedy, she learned that you can always find ways to grow from your experiences.
She began teaching high school math. Unfortunately, since it was during the economic downturn, the school had to let her go.
The Turning Point
After being unemployed for a year, she moved and decided to start a new corporate career. She kept her love for learning and went back to school to earn her master’s of business administration (MBA). While in the MBA program, she took courses in leadership and organizational behavior.
She took the one very transformational course: “Leadership in the 21st Century” with Dr. Carole K. Barnett. That class had a profound impact on Annie. Dr. Barnett helped her realize she was experiencing a toxic leader in her current day job.
Annie’s leader was a toxic leader, not a transformational leader. She made Annie feel worthless by locking Annie in her glass office and telling her every way she was inadequate. She went through long lists of things she felt were wrong with Annie in a way that caused public humiliation.
This behavior was not isolated to a single event one time. Annie’s leader did her best for five years to tear Annie down. She bullied Annie and told her to be complacent and know her place. She was an extreme workplace bully.
While going through this experience, Annie chose to become an informal leader. She chose to positively influencing others in her day-to-day actions. She did her best to influence in a positive way with the idea of spreading positivity forward. Annie’s goal was to influence how everyone treated each other by setting a good example. Unfortunately, the culture was too engrained to have a significant impact, but it changed her and how she presented herself.
Annie’s resiliency did not allow this experience to determine what her success would be long term. Instead, she used this experience for learning and personal growth. This experience was transformational and taught Annie everything she did not want to do or be. She also learned the importance of treating others with respect and dignity. She vowed to never make anyone ever feel the way she felt in that glass office.
Through Annie’s experience, she learned valuable lessons about what it means to be a transformational leader. She explained that going through the workplace bullying experience has made her a better leader today and all transformational leaders go through refining as they become a great leader. Sometimes that refining comes through good experiences, while other times it comes through bad experiences.
To be a transformational leader, it is important to write down the story that you want people to tell about you and your life. Write down your values and why they are important to you. As you write down your values and think about them, you will realize how important they are to you being a great leader.
The Speed Round
- Who is the one leader you look up to most and why? Dr. Carole Barnett because she was Annie’s mentor and leader through a challenging time in her life. Dr. Barnett gave Annie the tools she needed to break out of the toxic leadership cycle so she could become the person she was meant to be.
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? It’s not about resources, it’s about resourcefulness.
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? Annie is very disciplined in her life. Annie has a morning routine, always works out everyday, and is very disciplined to take care of herself and her body. She takes care of herself so she can always always show up to her followers and community. She is very disciplined in everything that she does.
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? True North by Bill George because it helps you discover your authentic leadership with a framework that you can follow. It also has exercises you can follow to figure out your authentic life so you can be true to yourself and values.
- On a light-hearted note, what is your favorite hobby? Interior design. She loves using the app Houzz to see what other people are doing with their houses.
Connect With Annie Spano
What’s the best way to connect with Annie?
One Final Question
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice when you first started your leadership journey, what would it be and why?
Everything happens for a reason. It is something that I still believe in to this day. For everyone listening, whatever happens in your journey or your story, that is unique to you. You’re the only person on this earth who has that story and can be you. Own your story. Know where the learnings are and grow from them, learn from them.
If you go through a challenging experience, maybe you will want to change the status quo and communicate a vision of a world that does not yet exist. Know that everything happens for a reason and if you are going through something difficult, know that there is a bigger purpose for why you are going through this. You will get through this and it will be worth it.
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Thanks again for listening! My goal is to help you become a great leader, now go be the best leader you can be!