We’re heading to San Francisco this September and we wanted to profile five women doing incredible things in the San Francisco/Oakland community. This series, SF LEADERS, will celebrate the work of trailblazing women and showcase how they’ve inspired others in their community and ours. First up, Ashleigh Reddy, Photographer & Owner of stayreddy photography.
What does being a good leader mean to you?
A good leader is self-aware. They know when to lead and when to step back. They don’t always have the answer, but will ask for help when needed. They have strong intuition, but don’t make rash decisions. Good leaders care about their community and are empathetic to the concerns of those they lead. They have a solid sense of self and a set of tools to decompress.
For you personally, have you found that leadership is innate, learned, or both?
I think it’s both! Some people have more outgoing and assertive personalities, but may not know how to translate that into leadership, and vice versa. It’s important to use your innate strengths and refine them through experience and education.
What is some advice that has helped you get to where you are?
Keep going. It’s something I have to constantly remind myself and something that my friends remind me when times are hard. I’ve hit the lowest of lows where I felt like time stopped. I still hit rough patches, as an entrepreneur. When you make the decision to work for yourself, you have to figure out ways to make it work. For me, when I ask for help, it’s comforting to get that support from friends. I’ve learned to have bigger goals, but ultimately, take it day by day. Life is all one step at a time.
What do you admire most in others?
Tenacity. Drive. Confidence. Fearlessness. Discipline. Risk-taking. Empathy. Humility. Warmth.
How do you balance drive and ambition with gratitude and being happy with where you’re at?
I have check-in conversations with friends. I’ve shared a lot of my fears and accomplishments with a dear friend of mine, Seher, who I also share a business with. We have frequent check-ins and help to keep each other grounded. We remind ourselves of where we started and how far we’ve come, which can be hard to see when you’re in the thick of it. Spiritual practices and mindfulness help to maintain balance too.
How do you measure success?
Goal-setting is one way to measure success, but ultimately, it’s based on how I feel. Am I happy? Is my life joyful? I’ve been dead broke and ecstatic about life. While there were times where I was coasting financially, but my spirit was broken. Success is a journey, it’s a feeling. It’s also leaving a positive impact on your communities and the world around you.
What are you still working on that you haven’t quite nailed yet?
What are three things in life you need in order to thrive?
Human interaction and hugs. A safe space to lay my head. My camera.
Words you live by?
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
“Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it, but it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.”
“Each one has to find their peace from within. Peace, to be real, must be unaffected by outside circumstances.”
Wisdom for other women striving to be leaders in life?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! As women, we are often told from a young age to be strong, and toughen up. You can be both kind and firm. It’s OK to show vulnerability! That’s where some of my biggest breakthroughs have come from. It’s been incredibly helpful for me to have a supportive network of friends to share in dreams, struggles, setbacks and goals. It’s important to keep your eye on the prize, but be honest in your path. Network as much as possible. Who you know really can help! But be mindful not to use people - make relationships mutually beneficial. Be open to bartering. Speak your dreams into existence. Write it down as in the present moment. Instead of “I WANT to be a leader in X,” how about “I AM a leader in X.” When times get tough, do things to raise your vibration. Learn to laugh at your mistakes. Practice gratitude and acts of kindness. Aim to work smarter, not harder. Delegate. Be strategic in how you move. Not everyone needs to know everything all time time. Hold space for yourself. Hold space for others. Don’t be afraid to sacrifice if it’s genuinely helping you on your path.