TIAA’s Kathie Andrade Talks Adaptability and Resiliency

After a noteworthy keynote address at the 26th Annual Stern Women in Business Conference, Kathie Andrade stopped by Stern Chats to share her insights on what makes a strong leader and the key moments that have made her career.

What has been instrumental within your career for getting you to where you are today?

When I think about the success I’ve had and what led to that, it’s a couple of different things. One, it’s confidence. I had a lot of confidence in my ability and in what I could do. I really understood what was most important to me. And so I kind of paved a different path and I did so because I really recognized that it’s important. I didn’t take “no” for an answer, and I wasn’t afraid to ask.

Are there any moments in your career that stick out to you as real key milestones?

I was part of a pretty large financial banking organization and we were just acquired by a very, very, very large bank. They asked me to take on the head of technology, and I wasn’t a technologist. And I thought, “Why are they asking me to do this?” And they said, “Because you’re a leader, and what this organization needs is a leader. They don’t need someone who understands the skillset. That’s what you hire talented people for.” It was a really scary moment for me, and it was pivotal because I recognize leadership isn’t about being the expert. It’s about knowing what questions to ask, hiring really talented people, and then enabling them and supporting them so that they can be the best that they can be. And so that experience lasted about two years. When I took over, our employee satisfaction rate was like 40% and when I ended it was 92. I recognize it is about leadership and really understanding how to motivate people and being authentic with them. So after that I’d take on anything anyone asked me to do.

A thread we talk about a lot here at Stern is the aspect of leadership that’s so much about courage.

I think it’s about courage. It’s about fortitude. It’s about resiliency. It’s about adaptability. I’m an incredibly adaptive person, and being adaptive means you can go with the flow. It happens when you go through 25 mergers. It happens. You become adaptive or you don’t survive. But the most important aspect of it is being—I’m a principle-based leader and so decision making became really simple for me. When I was faced with making a decision about something that was not in line with my principles, I always knew the right answer. And so all of that stress and anxiety, it evaporates. And so I’m really proud of the fact that I’ve led a principle-based leadership.

This interview has been edited for clarity. Check out the full conversation here for Andrade’s insights on the future of finance, the importance of sponsors, and more.

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