This profile is published as part of Pledge 1%’s Women Who Lead series, which celebrates women in the Pledge 1% community who are creating change within their workplace and communities.
Kriss Deiglmeier is CEO of Tides, a philanthropic partner and nonprofit accelerator working with innovative partners to solve society’s toughest problems. Kriss has more than 20 years of senior executive experience that spans business, social enterprise, nonprofit, academic and philanthropic sectors. She is recognized as a pioneer in the field of social innovation and has presented nationally and internationally on social innovation, social entrepreneurship, design thinking and public-private partnerships as well as guest-lectured at universities around the world.
In 2016, Pledge 1% joined forces with Tides as a special initiative.
What inspired you to work in this industry?
I started in the corporate sector with a traditional business background. What moved me into social change work was, first, I wanted to do something with impact that pushed the boundaries around innovation. I also was really drawn to the people and performance side. I wanted to work with an organization that cared about people, impact and performance, in a field that tends to care about one or two of those things but not all three.
I also love messiness! I love working at the intersection of business, government and civil society. I’ve worked in a number of organizations that are at that nexus, because I feel like it pushes me – and all of us – to think differently. If you’re always working with the same folks who think like you, it just reinforces your thinking and doesn’t push you as much.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received to help you in your career?
Find a great boss! Especially when you are starting your career, don’t get so caught up in what the company is, or what the job title is. When you’re taking a bold step in your career, it’s all about who your boss is. You’ve got to believe you can learn from them, and that they are a role model.
I had great bosses and mentors that wouldn’t micromanage, but they also wouldn’t let me go over a cliff. There’s a balance there – you want someone who will give you just the right amount of autonomy.
Do you serve as a mentor to women in your field?
I have served as both a formal and an informal mentor, and I have a strong preference for informal mentor relationships. I believe that every boss you have should be a mentor, and if you are a manager, you should be a mentor. When we come to work, it’s personal and professional. The best thing to do is find somebody who will commit to your development as an individual.
What’s the advice you’d give yourself 5 years ago?
As an older professional now, I don’t have mentors, I have networks of women that have my back and inspire me. In your younger career days you think about mentorship, but as you grow, what you really need are peers that can support you.
I wish someone had told me about 10 years ago to focus on building networks of support more consciously and earlier. I think it’s hard – you’ve got a family, you’ve got work, you’ve got kids. But in hindsight I wish I had had those support networks when I was younger – they could have helped with transitions differently. Mentorship is an older model – I think we should focus on networks that can provide emotional support.
What other thoughts do you want to share with women in the social sector?
I believe that women in social change fields are particularly suited to be successful. The field is messier, and change doesn’t happen in quarters – it takes time. By and large, it takes collaboration and deeper listening skills. Women leaders are inherently suited to take on those challenges.
As a field right now, hopefully we are learning the consequences of traditional male leadership. An “I know everything” leadership style will never work in the social change field.
My big takeaway from this past election is that we need to redefine what leadership looks like. We wholeheartedly need to embrace women leaders and a woman’s style of leadership. Sharing power, collaboration, integrity, listening is as important as being smart and doing the hard work. We still have only about 20% women in elected positions and on Fortune 500 boards. We are finally starting to get more women in CEO positions but we have a long way to go.