Erica Arias is the founder of Elysian Consulting, a leadership development agency. Strong believer that great leaders build great companies, Erica makes it her mission to help entrepreneurs in becoming better leaders. Through development programs and constant support, Erica has built herself a strong reputation as being the leadership guru. This week, we were lucky enough to have her sit down and answer some of our questions about what inspires her and what it takes to be a good leader. #Leadership
BWR: What was the inspiration behind Elysian Consulting?
Erica: The inspiration behind creating Elysian Consulting was a long road of experiencing poor leadership. Either I had exemplary or poor leaders. However, I was blessed to have some strong bosses that recognized my strengths (thanks Abe, Greg, Debra, Dianna and Nick!). I was an Assistant Director in an executive academic office. From day one, I regretted leaving my previous employer. My position largely depended on my boss – the VP. Three years in, a new VP came in. Without having more than two conversations with me, he threatened to fire me. He was clueless and abrasive. He took a shot at my character and work ethic. Made me feel invaluable. Which was surprising because everyone else saw that I was one hell of a contributor.
I quit and developed Elysian Consulting. My mission was clear. Helping leaders become strong pillars in their organizations and ensuring that employees never encounter what I did. No employee should feel less than on account of their boss. I experienced it, and I work every day to prevent that. Having great leadership can only positively impact the overall health of the organization. It’s my mission to ensure organizations experience an amazing work culture with active and engaged leadership.
BWR: What strategies do you use when it comes to helping people develop their leadership skills?
Erica: I have several strategies when it comes to developing leadership skills. I take custom assessments of my clients to gauge their internal business culture and daily approaches to their long term and immediate work goals. I also love the CLEAR method by Peter Hawkins. However, my best strategy always begins by digging into core issues when it comes to the holistic perception of their employees.
Firstly, I ask my clients whom their number one “problem employee” is. From there we discuss why they believe that and how they are “deficient”. I use questions to show them how their trapped perceptions are blocking their ability to recognize organizational strengths. 100% of the time, it unveils underlying personal issues that affect their leadership qualities. I also use my own method called BEARR – Belief, Expectation, Awareness, Reality, Reciprocity. From there, we build interpersonal communication, project management and development. Once I get a leader to let go of underlying issues with their leadership skills, I can begin to develop their talents. They become more open and vulnerable when they realize that the true transformation in their organization begins with them!
BWR: In your expert opinion, what are the top 3 main characteristics of a great leader?
- Communication (can I list that 3 times? LOL). This is a basic concept but so important. Leaders must possess excellent writing, speaking and listening skills. All of these dynamics can motivate employees and create workplace loyalty. Maintaining healthy communication with work teams sparks motivation and demonstrates transparency.
- Ownership. Own it and step up! When a leader believes they are 100% accountable for their company’s success and failures, including that of their employees, it demonstrates a high level of integrity.
- Passion. A passion for leading others and creating new leaders is an absolute essential. Not only that, maintaining a passion for your craft is crucial. If you are not passionate about what you are doing, then why are you doing it?
BWR: Do you believe that entrepreneurship and leadership go hand in hand? Why?
Erica: This is a resounding HELL YES! You can’t have one without the other. The very basis of taking the leap into entrepreneurship is the ability to lead yourself down this risky road. Leadership is about making decisions every day that impact you and those around you. It’s about enlisting others to become part of your journey and vision. Your ability to build and execute a mission and a strategic vision for your future, crush your goals, and the skills to lead in any situation impacts the success of your business. Take this into a structured work context and you have leadership teams working to achieve the mission of their companies. The qualities of great leaders is equal with the qualities of an entrepreneur.
BWR: What is the most challenging part of your job?
Erica: I have to be 100% real here. ALL OF IT. I’ve told people that I’m the CEO and the Administrative Assistant. I’m the CFO and the custodial staff. I’m the head of marketing and conduct client research and outreach …you get the picture. I do all of it and I am a one woman show. Some days are tougher than others. When I find myself out of sync or coming up on a task I don’t enjoy, it can have an effect on my motivation. I cannot tell you how much internal pushing I do on a daily basis. Some days, running this business impedes on my natural talents and why I started this firm to begin with. But it is so worth the daily challenges. I have learned so much about myself and what I can handle as an individual and as a business owner.
BWR: Do you believe that gender plays a crucial role when it comes to being a good leader?
Erica: Quite frankly, it should not play a role. Solid and cohesive leadership skills do not absorb gender roles. As fluid as they can be in the theoretical context, leadership skills can be learned by anyone, regardless of gender. Either you can do it, or you can’t. Both great and bad leadership are blind to whether we are male or female. Do I believe females are in an amazing position to prove that we are just as capable to lead an organization? Absolutely! Our time for equitable representation in the C-Suite and beyond is now.
BWR: What has been your biggest accomplishment to date? What are you most proud of?
Erica: I am so very blessed to have achieved many things – I earned both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, spoken at conferences, served on Advisory Boards, mentored amazing people, am an active member of many organizations and the Latinx community, and I am a published author. But hands down, my greatest accomplishment is creating Elysian Consulting. I have a stake in the economic impact of this country based on my ability to build an organization that can hire employees and contribute back to the economy. There is only a small percentage of people in this world that have the honor to claim that. I am blessed to be in that small percentage.
BWR: Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What is your main goal?
Erica: Every day I say affirmations that help me stay fixed on my goals. I see Elysian Consulting scaling in a very special and unique way. My goal is for my work to have an enormous global impact. I know I will be speaking and leading others to achieve greatness! However, what I desire the most is to start a family. Although my entrepreneurial goals are quite lofty, my personal goals are simple: settle down, start a family, and create a lasting legacy that my family and children will be proud of.