To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Diane Najm from Seattle, Washington, and invited her to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A discussion about leadership and the employee experience. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.
Diane Najm, who previously worked in social work, is the CEO/Founder of two tech platforms in the photo and digital content marketing space (PhotoPad, a consumer photo app on Facebook in 2010; and PhotoPad for Business in 2016). She is also a keynote speaker, an advocate for women, a mentor in the startup community, and advisor to youth groups and women's organizations. She is the recipient of Women of The Year and Mom in Business Awards; and has also received nominations for Innovative Startup and Startup of the Year. She was named Top 101 Marketing Startups In Seattle, Philanthropist with Nonprofits for Foster Kids, and Educational and Scholarship Nonprofits Benefiting Women. She regularly speaks about entrepreneurship and leadership.
QUESTION: You are a CEO and founder of your own company. How did that happen?
DIANE NAJM: Being Greek, I am a lifelong storyteller and loved taking photos. I accidentally fell into the entrepreneurial world after launching a photo sharing app on Facebook and grew it to over 250K users while being a Social Worker. As photos and storytelling became popular on social media, I moved our software to the web to reach a larger audience as I forecasted small businesses would need to use storytelling as a way to increase engagement and trust with their audiences, which would drive sales. As a small business owner myself, I knew we didn't have the budget and resources like big companies did, and this is why PhotoPad is a turnkey solution, so small businesses could have digital presence on all social media and marketing platforms without breaking the bank or taking too much of their time.
QUESTION: Janet Yellen, the current and first female Secretary of the Treasury, has been described as, "A proven leader who knows how to build consensus, the kind of person who makes everybody around her better." What three characteristics are necessary to create a consensus-builder?
DIANE NAJM: As a leader, it's important to have listening, empathy, and authentic skills to build a culture of trust and openness. In addition, I strongly believe in empowering everyone around me to be a part of the team and that THEIR contribution is important to the success of the company.
QUESTION: You are an advocate for women in leadership roles, so on a related topic, what is your favorite RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) quote, and why?
DIANE NAJM: This is my favorite RBG quote: "I am a very strong believer in listening and learning from others."
I believe that nothing is absolute without change, there is no growth! Listening and learning advocates for change and growth. I am a lifelong learner personally and professionally and want to evolve in my knowledge as a leader and encourage this with those around me. In addition, we become more creative, innovative, competitive, productive, and empower others by fostering a culture for everyone to reach their full potential. We all benefit from this.
Furthemore, when I demonstrate the value of learning as a leader to others on my team, in my circle or people around me, I conveying that learning is valuable and will encourage people whether its my team or those around me to share their ideas. They understand the importance of diversity and different
perspectives, and we all gain from this.
Finally, with the challenges of COVID in the past couple of years, effective leaders who continue to listen and learn throughout the pandemic were able to adapt to the crisis and lead more effectively.
TWEET THIS: We become more creative, innovative, competitive...by fostering a culture for everyone to reach their full potential. ~@dianenajm #DebbieLaskeysBlog
QUESTION: If you could have dinner with any three people from history or the current era, who would you choose, and why?
DIANE NAJM: This was a hard question to answer, there are so many people that I would want to have dinner with from historical figures, fashion icons, musical geniuses, women leaders, and more. The three people I find truly inspiring all have contributed to change in our world, pushed the limits, in our thought process to be better leaders, started the crack in the ceiling for women like me today to be who we want, follow our passion and be advocates for change. I would be curious how they see the world today.
(1) Ruth Bader Ginsburg represented change and showed all of us how her leadership by entering into an outdated industry would bring the change needed in an outdated system. As a social worker, I wanted to be about change, to make change in the world, and Ginsburg strived for justice despite what others said or thought and showed how how it was done. Even in her last few days, she was listening and learning.
(2) Marie Curie was a scientist and won the Nobel Prize twice! This was a time when women were not respected, and science was not a place for women. I think she is amazing and an inspiration to all women.
(3) Mother Teresa also received the Nobel Prize, and devoted her life to working among the poorest of the poor in the slums with dying children. I admire her work as it relates to my background in social work and philanthropy to help children heal from abuse, advocate for change, and give back so children can have a better life.
QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does this quote mean to you?
DIANE NAJM: I always believed that if you feel like you are the smartest person in the room, then you
are not a good leader. I believe that when you surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, then you learn, grow, and become a better leader, and your team feels empowered to become leaders themselves. In addition, your employees understand that their input and strategies are important. When people around you have that sense, then you are an effective leader. Fostering a culture that everyone is a part of and equally important is a great morale booster for everyone; and it maintains longevity and loyalty with your team.
TWEET THIS: When you surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, then you learn, grow, and become a better leader. ~@dianenajm #DebbieLaskeysBlog
My thanks to Diane for sharing her leadership insights and for appearing here on my Blog.
Image Credit: Hannah Busing via Unsplash.
Connect with Diane using these links: