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Name: Nikki Kiss        

Business Title: Executive Director

Company: Inspire Sheboygan County

Favorite Musician: Tom Petty

Favorite Vacation: Caribbean Cruise

Favorite Restaurant: Twisted Willow, Port Washington Wisconsin

BILL MARKLEIN: What is in the DNA of a servant leader?

NIKKI KISS: At their core, a servant leader is empathetic, a good listener, innovative and has the ability to read people. A servant leader understands that the success of their role is interconnected with the success of their team. Helping the team grow in their goals overall helps the organization. This means that a servant leader also has to inspire (no pun intended). Inspiring others to believe in the work they are doing and the impact they will have by doing their job well.


BILL MARKLEIN: What has been the most important factor(s) in your leadership development journey?

NIKKI KISS: One of the biggest factors in my leadership development journey was to learn to always accept new challenges. While I have had to learn to say “no” throughout my journey (which is difficult to do), I often learned the most when I said “yes” to projects, activities, and new roles. I think too often people learn to feel comfortable with what is most familiar to them, what comes easiest, or what they know they are good at. Real growth occurs when you are learning new things, taking on new challenges and growing from those challenges. With anything that I have said “yes” to, I gained new relationships, new skills, new abilities, and confidence in myself.

"A servant leader is empathetic, a good listener, innovative
and has the ability to read people."


BILL MARKLEIN: How does Emotional Intelligence, the awareness and management of your own emotions and the emotions of others, play a role in your leadership?

NIKKI KISS: It has been my experience that one of the most crucial elements of becoming a leader is understanding emotional intelligence. In reality it starts with knowing yourself. Being introspective and understanding how your emotions impact the environment around you is critical to building a sense of trust and understanding with your team. I do my best to be open about how I am reading a situation, conversation, or person with the intention to help the people around me feel open about sharing their thoughts as well. I have been fortunate in my career to be in roles that allowed me to build relationships with people across my organization and in other organizations as well. I’ve been exposed to a variety of leadership styles, personality styles, and inspiring professionals. With each relationship gained, I learned a lot about the person and also a lot about myself. It sounds counter-intuitive to this blog but a really great nugget I learned over the years is when to put your own emotions/feelings aside. Balancing work and life is extremely stressful and sometimes you have to learn when it is important to let someone else’s emotions set precedence over your own.


BILL MARKLEIN: Who has made the most positive impact on your life and what is this individual’s attributes?

NIKKI KISS: Hands down my parents have been key role models in showcasing to me what leading and helping others looks like. They both display the true characteristics of a servant leader as they always put others needs before their own. Throughout my entire existence they have helped me, my siblings, and my family whenever it is needed.  I could call them at 3:00 am asking for help and they would show up in a heartbeat with smiles on their faces. Well maybe not smiles at 3:00 am, but I think you understand! What makes them true servant leaders is that they don’t expect anything in return and find true fulfillment in helping others.