Defining Leadership and Finding Balance in Life 

People have conflicting opinions on what leadership is truly about. Some believe that leadership should involve tough love. Others think that it is about the leader and their capabilities. Today’s guest shows us a brand of leadership based on kindness and curiosity. 

In this episode, Abcam Director of Customer Services Karen Baker shows us how she manages colleagues of different backgrounds. She talks about her three proudest moments, one of which is getting a PhD. Furthermore, we delve into how she can balance life as a mother, manager and athlete. Karen also generously shares her secret to success.    

If you’re curious about what leadership is and how you can find balance in your life, this episode is for you!

Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Gain a deeper understanding of what leadership is.
  2. Learn to balance your time and priorities between your career and personal life.
  3. Discover Karen’s secret to success.


Episode Highlights

[02:53] Getting a PhD

  • One of Karen’s proudest moments is graduating from her doctorate program. 
  • During the process, she learned much about herself and built resilience.
  • What she enjoyed the most was getting to know new people from different backgrounds.
  • While fulfilling, a Ph.D. is something she won’t do again.
  • However, she would like to learn from a structured process again.

[07:55] Helping Others Grow

  • Karen takes pride in seeing other people, especially her workmates and her children, succeed. She also enjoys watching them learn.
  • For her, it’s not about her kids being the best in the world. It’s about being the best that they can be and trying as hard as they can.
  • Hearing and supporting others’ ideas and opinions is what leadership is about. 

[11:12] Transition from Research to Management

  • When Karen attended an event on what leadership is, she discovered her strength in managing people.
  • Karen started in a technical role in her company, then had the opportunity to manage people. She is now the director of customer operations. 
  • People management is not just something she is good at; it also brings her joy.
  • It took her over ten years to identify her strengths, know from where she gets satisfaction and what she enjoys doing.

[12:52] What Leadership Is 

  • Karen liked getting to know more about her colleagues outside of the workplace setting. 
  • When you naturally find people interesting, it’s easier to engage with them.
  • Often, other leaders think that what leadership is, is about their strengths. 
  • Karen shows that leadership is about having the humility to put other people first.

[15:21] Running a Marathon

  • Karen has been running for more than two decades. But what she’s proud of is finishing a 30-mile marathon.
  • At first, she was anxious about getting injured. So, she spent five months conditioning and training for both endurance and speed.
  • At the 20-mile mark in the marathon, she thought she would not be able to continue, but she did. 
  • Karen gained support from her best friend who was also doing the marathon.  
  • Neil Marsh’s fitness community also helped her stay accountable and motivated.

[20:43] Balancing Parenting, Work and Physical Fitness

  • Karen believes in planning and scheduling properly.
  • It also helps to have someone hold you accountable.
  • Guilt can sometimes sneak up on you when you’re spending time for yourself. But you can avoid this feeling by proper scheduling.
  • When you take time for yourself, you can be a better person for others as well.
  • No one does perfect parenting the right way the first time around. 

[24:59] Secret to Success

  • Karen’s key to success is kindness.
  • You don’t know what’s weighing on other people’s shoulders, so it’s important to be kind. 
  • Assuming others’ positive intent can help you to be kind.

5 Powerful Quotes from This Episode

[9:21] ‘And for me, it’s not about them being the best in the world, but it’s about being the best that they can be and trying as hard as they can.’

[13:24] ‘I think it’s just a case of really engaging with people, getting to know people. So that you understand a bit more about who they are, what they’re driven by what they like if they’re receptive to understanding.’

[19:41] “So, it’s really great to have that community and people around you that are going through the same experience because a lot of people were also doing it for the first time. So doing that together, that support really helps to keep you motivated.’

[24:19] ‘It’s all about strong messaging and leading by example.’  

[27:16] ‘If you force yourself to find out what the positive intent might be before you allow yourself to be offended, it then really helps with the response and helps us to be kind in that response.’ 

About Karen Baker 

Karen Baker is a mother, business leader and running enthusiast. She also holds a Ph.D. in Biology and was also an active researcher at the University of Cambridge. But what she truly takes pride in is her contribution to other people’s growth and development. She feels joy and pride the most in getting to know people and guiding them to success. Karen now works as Abcam’s Director of Global Customer Services.

Her curiosity and love for people and human relationships are what make her the proud parent and leader she is today. If you want more information about Karen, you can connect with her via LinkedIn.

Enjoy this Podcast?

Being a leader to a diverse set of people can be challenging. Luckily, Karen offers advice to help you excel in leadership positions. If you enjoyed today’s episode of The Mindset Mentor Meets…, then hit subscribe and share it with your friends!

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To meeting inspiration,