4A Ventures Founder & CEO, Alice Shade, shares her thoughts on leadership for Women’s History Month

Alice Shade

Q: What were some pivotal moments on your path to leadership?

Alice: Maybe it was because I was tall, or maybe because others respected me, but my earliest leadership role was in high school when my basketball team voted me captain. As a senior, I didn’t have much experience as a leader at the time, but I thought if I could get everyone going in the same direction, we’d win more games, and have more fun. This was one of my very first lessons in uniting people around a common purpose and goal—a key ability for any leader.

In my early work life, I was given a management position with no training—an unfortunately common occurrence at the time (and still is!). I made a lot of mistakes and didn’t always lead well. However, I learned not to be afraid to do the work of my team—that I could get in the trenches too, and even more importantly, take the hit if there was a problem. Taking responsibility for yourself, your attitude, your team, the results—that’s what leadership is.

Q: Have things changed for women in the workplace since you started your career?
Alice: In healthcare, I had many female leaders and mentors, so I didn’t feel as isolated. What I noticed most as a challenge was the work/life balance.

Being a mother and a high-performing leader can be incredibly demanding, as there are sacrifices that have to be made. Those sacrifices were for both the family and work, and I had to learn to give on both sides, but I noticed that I became stronger in both areas as I made smarter choices and set better boundaries. I learned from both male and female role models how to “stop work” at the front door and to be present.

Recently I saw the term “life presence” and that seems to really reflect my approach. I’m a work in progress for sure.

Q: What women in your life inspire you the most?
Alice: Carolyn Woo, the past CEO and President of Catholic Relief Services, is a big inspiration for me. I heard her speak on being authentic, and how being a steward of your talents as a businesswoman, can better the world.

I love her quote: “When we stand up and speak up, we shine a light in the world.”

A few other inspirations for me are Elizabeth Dole and Margaret Thatcher—these were women I saw on TV when I was growing up that I really admired. They were super smart, handled themselves with poise and class, and made sure you knew what they stood for.

There are also so many women that inspire me in day-to-day life. Observing a mom juggle two kids in the grocery store, seeing a female athlete reach a milestone, and noticing a daughter take care of her sick mother—these are all moments that strike me. I’ve learned you don’t have to be famous to inspire others.

Q: Do you have any advice for women starting their careers?
Alice: Be a life-long learner, be interested in others, and learn the art of asking good questions and seeing things others don’t see.

Grow as a leader

At 4A Ventures, we provide the advice, access, accountability, and action to turn your long-term goals into an actionable, offensive strategy.