Leading a team can be equal parts rewarding and challenging, especially for newly minted leaders. In our monthly series, In the Lead, we speak to female leaders to understand how they motivate their teams, what barriers they’ve overcome in their industries, and pick their brains to get their best advice for new female leaders.
This month, I sat down with Emely Virta of Ampersand Studios to find out how she builds community and what it means to lead with integrity.
Emely has been involved with coworking spaces since 2012. As an action-oriented and social Sagittarius (all of her major signs and houses are ruled by Sagittarius), running collaborative spaces is right in her wheelhouse.
“I’ve seen it all!” She says when I ask her about Ampersand’s diverse clientele. As a venue space, they host events for shows like Art Basel, accommodate launch parties for studios and provide space for music videos. In short, it’s a hub of creatives and Emely is the heart and soul of the community.
Communication is Key
She explains that communication is one of her greatest strengths and it has helped her build an incredible network of creative minds. She gives me an example of some of the magic that can happen at one of the Happy Hour events she hosts. Recently, a client on a production team mentioned they needed branding help. Emely accessed her mental rolodex to think of the perfect client, who also happened to be at the event, and made the introduction right then and there. They are now working together on a project.
“So, you’re a bit of a matchmaker?” I asked her.
“A little bit!” She laughs. She goes on to explain that she loves making introductions and helping people achieve their goals. I’m impressed with her willingness to create connections and share her contacts. In some industries, people hold on to contacts with a white knuckled grip, fearing that sharing access somehow takes away their own access. Emely has experienced this phenomenon too which just makes her more intentional about sharing.
“The way I move through business is very mindful and intentional of what I saw growing up. And I grew up believing that there is enough for everyone to eat. For you to accomplish a company’s short-term or long-term goals, you need to be open, and you need to be ready to assist. That’s always what it’s about, asking the question: How can I help? Sometimes people lead with too much ego.”
Assisting can mean anything from making an introduction, defusing a volatile situation, or mentoring a new member of the team.
The Coach is in
For Emely, leadership is a wholistic experience that includes the mind, body and soul. In order to get the best results, she recommends a coaching approach to empower people to trust themselves to find solutions.
“Coaching is the most effective leadership style. Micromanaging is not only the most ineffective way to lead, but also emotionally debilitating. If you micromanage instead of coach, you lose the opportunity to help this person grow.”
In addition to coaching, she speaks about humility and empathy as essential leadership traits. Emely has had some negative experiences with past managers and wants to make sure her team is shielded from any sort of mistreatment and feel safe to make mistakes.
“It’s important for your team to see you as a human being and allow them to see you make mistakes. Part of the human experience is to drop the ball on occasion. I’m a big believer in the golden rule.”
She makes sure she’s always in a good headspace when she’s talking to her team. “Communication is so much more than the words coming out of my mouth. Its my body language, what my face looks like. If you want to elevate your team, they have to feel safe around you.”
Crushing Imposter Syndrome
Emely exudes a calm, assured confidence and I want to know if she’s always felt confident or if she’s ever struggled with Imposter Syndrome.
She nods “I struggled with that for some years.”
She explains that she’s had points in her career where she logically knew she was qualified for the job, but would have intrusive and cinematic thoughts of “an almost Tarantino-like movie scene in my head where someone was going to bust into my workplace and drag me out because I don’t belong there. Anxiety was telling me all the wrong information.”
She was able to work through Imposter Syndrome by challenging her anxious thoughts. She likens it to “having luggage crazy glued to your hands. The luggage holds all trauma from past events that made you feel incapable and weighs down future opportunities.” Through a lot of work, Emely was able to let go of her luggage. “I was able to climb out by doing therapy and making mental health a priority.”
Protecting Mental Health
I am elated to hear this. Protecting mental health in the workplace is a topic of conversation that’s gained more traction in recent years, but I’ve rarely seen a manager make this a core tenant of their leadership style. Emely is very serious about protecting the mental health of her team and herself. “If I see someone having a bad day, I call them in and give them the opportunity to talk about it.”
Emely also has some really interesting tips on how she protects her own mental health. Quarterly, Emely does an inventory of what she is consuming, including social media, tv and her social circle. The goal of this review is to ensure all the major parts of her life are aligned with her goals.
Nourishment on All Levels
“When I do a social media cleanse, I stop on every account and ask, “How is this nourishing me?”
This nourishment is essential for Emely to lead at a high level. She spends most of her weekend recharging by going to the farmer’s market and taking long walks with her husband and her dog, Miles Davis.
“The reason I’m able to perform at my job at my level, is because I take the time I need time to rest and recharge. You can’t pour from an empty cup. In order to show up for my team, I need to show up for me first. I need to nourish myself and my soul.”
Emely has learned a lot over the course of her career and I’m curious, knowing what she does now, what advice would she give to her 25 year old self?
“I would tell myself three things: First of all, stop messing with your eyebrows. Second, not to believe what people are projecting onto me. Especially in our 20’s, the opinions of our peers are right here” she says as she points to her head. “Our decisions are very influenced by them. The third is, slow down. Society puts deadlines on everything, you need to finish your degree by a certain time, get married by a certain time etc. I’m a proud late bloomer myself. I wish I would’ve had someone to tell me to slow down and go at your own pace. Sometimes the best lessons are learned in retrospect.”
As our time together winds down, I ask Emely my favourite question: What is her favorite pump-up song?
“Alameda by Solange makes me feel pumped and empowered. Formation by Beyonce is in a close second place.”
Emely’s cool confidence and wholistic view of leadership is inspiring. She leaves me with one last thought to get through periods of disappointment or stress when it comes to reaching goals in life.
“Whatever is meant for us will never miss us. I’m a true believer in that.”
We’ll be back next month to chat with another inspiring female leader. In the meantime, make sure to check out all the amazing content on Bosstrack!
Lisa Stanton is a Toronto based writer and entrepreneur. She loves to explore the intersection of the worlds of business and the metaphysical through writing