Executive Director of Center for Puppetry Arts, Beth Schiavo, Awarded 2021 Women of Influence Award

Beth Schiavo joined the Center for Puppetry Arts in August 2019, helping the organization get on track to close fiscal year 2020-2021 with a modest surplus. Then in March 2020, less than a year after she became its executive director, the Center closed in response to the Covid pandemic. Museum tours, hundreds of performances and workshops were cancelled through the end of June 2020, nullifying the organization’s fourth-quarter revenue forecasts. Today, Schiavo and staff are working to bring the Center back, welcoming visitors with Covid protocols in place.

Before taking her position at the Center, Schiavo spent more than 25 years in corporate positions. She also currently serves on the board for the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta and the Woodruff Arts Center. 

 Here is an email interview Schiavo did with Atlanta Business Chronicle after being named a 2021 Women of Influence honoree:

Q: What does leadership and being a leader mean to you? 

A: There is almost an endless number of attributes to describe leadership: accountability, authority, strong decision-making are just a few examples. My idea of leadership includes other characteristics that are harder to measure. For one, leadership is about empathy. There are a lot of people both inside and outside of the organization that are depending on you to provide the path, to take the hits when they inevitably come, and to motivate strong performance by meeting people where they are. Leadership is also about silent observation. Who on your team is engaged and “all in” and which team members are not? Is everyone on your team being heard when it is most relevant for that person to have input? Finally, leadership is about managing fear, your own and that of your team. Many speak of leaders as being fearless and I don’t believe a leader should ever be without fear.  Fear is what pushes you to evolve and to grow the organization. It is the management of fear, having resilience, that provides a soft place to land when your team takes a risk and it doesn’t work as planned.  A true leader doesn’t blink, but rather uses that fear to support their team, especially during those most stressful times. 

Q: Who has most influenced your thinking about leadership and why? 

A: There are so many but, as a group, my partners at EY provided the best environment and opportunity for my leadership development.  Both challenging and nurturing, the partners at EY were focused on my future as a well-rounded leader from year one. The best partners were the ones that always had a Plan B when things didn’t go as planned and delivered that plan without skipping a beat to best serve our clients. My father was also an extraordinary leader. He taught me the value of listening to learn, and to show respect to everyone in the organization, no matter the influence they may have on you personally.  

Q: As a prominent woman who is being honored for accomplishment and blazing a trail for others, how would you advise other woman leaders who want to help their peers forge a path to success?  

A: Show up for other women and do so with great intention. I believe all women have experienced some version of gender bias. When we see it happening to others, we need to use our personal equity to identify it and make it right. It is part of the legacy we leave behind. 

Q: What past challenge has most shaped your current thinking? 

A: Both a past and present challenge is managing personal and career responsibilities in a manner that brings value to both. My two children inspire me every day to be a good leader and an engaged parent. I am proud that my children see a strong mother and father achieving success in life as partners to each other. Being a strong role model for them is important to me and guides the decisions I have made about career and community involvement. I want my children to inherit a future that allows them to be successful in life regardless of gender. 

 Q: What do you do to recharge?

A: I have learned that surrounding myself with strong women outside of the office brings me incredible energy. Going for a walk on the BeltLine, meeting a friend for a glass of wine, these are opportunities to listen and to be heard by women I respect as human beings just trying to be their best selves.

Q: What books are you currently recommending to others and why?  

A:I am all over the place with my reading, but I do recommend the Armchair Expert podcast with Dax Shepard and Monica Padman, a Georgia native. I love the vulnerability and realness of the human experience, and this podcast captures it beautifully. 

Q: What are you most looking forward to in the coming year and why?  

A: I look forward to more children laughing in the halls of the Center for Puppetry Arts. Our children need a magical place to decompress after such a life-altering experience this past year and a half. Just knowing that children are going to experience a few moments of wonder when they visit us at the Center or participate in our online programming provides the fuel I need to motivate me every day.

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