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The Stakeholders: Perspectives on Leadership and Excellence. The stakeholders series features seasoned professionals sharing their perspectives on leadership, factors that led to their success, and what drives them to excel in life and career.

Photo of Adriana DawsonAdriana Dawson
Director of Community Engagement

Adriana Dawson is the Director of Community Engagement for Verizon, where she is responsible for leading and expanding Verizon’s partnership network and community footprint.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I would say my leadership style is both conscious and participatory. I’m self-aware and I lean on my emotional intelligence. I’m big on body language, and conscious of energy, culture, other peoples’ feelings, as well as my own. I’m conscious of how I’m showing up, and what I’m giving off. My style is also participatory because leadership shifts depending on the project. You don’t always have to lead; you sometimes want to take a step back to allow someone on the team who brings a different talent to step up and take on that leadership role.

What was the most difficult decision you’ve had to make as a leader?

A photo of Adriana with her husband and daughter

Adriana with her husband, Will and daughter, Veronica.

Putting my career on pause. There have been different stages of my life that dictated what my leadership path looked like. Early on in my career, I subscribed to a linear path — upward mobility. The first time I dealt with a life event, the birth of my daughter, I had to make a decision to pause my leadership journey, and to shift my energy, efforts and time in another area of my life. I’ve had to shift and pivot, and that has been one of the more challenging decisions.

How do you motivate and inspire a team?

My goal for inspiring and motivating a team is to recognize and amplify their strengths. We often get so caught up in the day to day, and sometimes the great work can go unrecognized, or be taken for granted. I’m mindful to help team members go deeper into their talents and strengths to make sure they’re activating them, challenging folks, asking what they want to do next. My approach is also to engage in conversations and ask people how they’re feeling, where do they want to apply their gifts. I make sure to stay close and understand what inspires them.

What’s one challenge – internal or external – that you’re anticipating and preparing for in the next year?

The challenge I’m anticipating is growing my portfolio and taking on new additive responsibilities, and figuring out how to manage my time, my resources, and doing all of that while ensuring sure that the quality of the work and the integrity of the work stays the same. It’s stepping into more responsibility and managing outputs and expectations.

What advice would you offer someone just starting out in your field?

Be really curious. Stay curious and engage in a lot of self-discovery. What I mean by that is for anyone starting a career or shifting into a new career, there’s a lot of excitement to dig into the work, but I suggest taking the time to lift your head and be curious about the intersection of other activities adjacent to your work. That creates a distinguisher, when you understand how your work intersects with other areas of the company — internally, or externally – or across other industries. Be curious about how your role is part of a larger ecosystem.

Do you have any daily practices that help you be your best personal and/or professional self?

I read a lot. I read and I love TEDx talks, I lean into LinkedIn learning lounges. There are a lot of free resources out there. I subscribe to the curiosity factor, and I thrive on wanting to learn best practices that have nothing to do with the work I’m in, because I might glean something important from them. I introduce myself to different learning spaces to challenge my thinking and introduce new perspectives on strategy, relationships and business.

Do you have a personal philosophy or mantra that has been a through line of your career?

My philosophy is shoot your shot every time. What that has meant for me is you’re always going to miss all the shots you never take, so go for it. What’s the worst that could happen? Just shoot your shot.

What so far has been the proudest moment or achievement of your career?

I can point to many outcomes, but my proudest achievement has been my transition as a leader, and my self-awareness and growth mindset, and how it’s evolved over the years. The evolution has taken me from dimming my light and dealing with raging impostor syndrome to where I am today. As a woman of color, I’ve defied other people’s biases and stereotypes, instead believing in myself and saying yes to opportunity.

What’s one book you’ve read that changed your life?

One book that helped me step into the world of work and my career and leadership was Getting to Yes, Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher. It helped me figure out how to navigate around the nos: “not yet, you’re a great candidate but not right now, or that’s a great project but it doesn’t fit yet.” It helped me create a framework for myself on how to be resourceful and make things happen regardless of the nos.

What was the most valuable lesson you learned from a teacher or mentor?

That time is my most important currency. How I choose to spend my time or where I spend my energy is part of that leadership path. Being mindful and assessing whether I’m spending too much time in an area that isn’t having any impact. Then redirecting that currency into an area that produces the results I’m looking for. Time is precious.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a flight attendant. I wanted to travel. My parents were factory workers, and in the household that I grew up in, having conversations about professional careers wasn’t normalized. I didn’t have access to that other than what I saw on TV or in the movies. It seemed very glamorous to me and that’s what I aspired to be when I was young.

If you could spend one week vacationing anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I would go back to Curacao. I was there in November and it was my first solo trip ever. I spent ten days as a solo traveler, and it was magical. I would go back there in a heartbeat.

What was the first concert you attended?

It was Kiss and I was 12 years old. I had no business being at a Kiss concert as a 12-year-old!

What was your first job, and what lessons did you learn in that role?

My first job was through a program called SER Jobs for Progress that introduced “at-risk” youth to part time employment over the summer. At 14, I was placed in an administrative role at Brooks Pharmacy headquarters in Pawtucket. That was very eye opening for me. It was the first time I understood what a “professional” job was because I had never been exposed to that. Getting dressed up to go to work was so foreign to me.

If you could have dinner with anyone, alive today or a historic figure, who would you choose?

I was just watching Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates. I’m so fascinated by individuals like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, how they transformed society. They changed how we communicate, think, and move through the world. I would love to have dinner with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates to understand where all of that came from.

What’s your favorite place on earth?

My family is originally from Colombia and I travel there often and hope to retire there. That’s my favorite place on earth.

What’s one invention you think we would be better off if it didn’t exist?

It’s a conundrum because I’m a Gen Xer and I grew up without smart phone technology. I appreciate having real conversations, but I’m also employed by the telecom and tech industry. I often wonder what it would be like if we had the ability to dial back just a little bit on technology as it relates to human connection.

Sweet or savory?

Sweet all day! No question. I have the biggest sweet tooth ever.