Emily Hope Dobkin: First of all, can you tell us how you became an expert on failure?
Amy Savage: By practicing! Over and over again. You know the statistic that says it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master something? Well, I definitely have applied at least that much time to failing over the course of my life; thus, my title of failure expert. But honestly, failure used to completely derail me and send me down a shame spiral. It wasn’t until I separated my failure from my identity that I actually could face failure head-on and even be proud of it!
EHD: Do you think there are personality traits or similarities you’ve noticed in great leaders?
AS: Absolutely! I think the most important one is that great leaders leave their egos at the door. They know their primary role is to develop, support and champion the people on their team, creating a safe place for people to bring their best and whole selves to work. True leaders know it’s not about them, and yet, they recognize that their behavior and actions matter and have impact. I’ve also observed that the best leaders are open and curious (rather than defensive), and they also exercise empathy at every turn. At the end of the day, leaders are only as strong as their relationships with others!
EHD: I consider myself a possibilitarian and thrive on exploring the potential of all things. What new things — hobbies, goals, places, people — are you exploring this year?
AS: During Covid I have been mastering the art of a kick-butt charcuterie board! It has been so fun to experiment with—you literally can’t screw it up! Along the lines of amazing cheese, olives and bread, I’m also looking forward to getting lost in remote corners of Italy this summer with my daughter who is graduating from high school this year!
In terms of personal goals, I am being more intentional to follow and support Black female leaders. My commitment this year is to grow in my understanding of what being a true anti-racist is, and I know that in order to do that, I need to listen, unlearn and relearn from the Black community.
EHD: What’s the worst thing you’ve ever said/done in a professional setting, a scene that plays out over and over again in your head even if it happened years ago?
AS: Oh my goodness. I don’t even have to give this any thought—it comes to mind right away. I was facilitating a leadership session for about 20 people from different organizations and I specifically called out a participant and asked them to read a few paragraphs out loud from the book that everyone had a copy of. It turned out this person was dyslexic and felt humiliated as they accommodated my request. I have never made that mistake again. Now, I always ask for volunteers to read and never call someone out like that. I think that mistake stuck with me the most because I caused someone pain, regardless of my intentions.