I recently chatted with one of my favorite people and truly an amazing woman in the world, Stacey Padova! I have known Stacey for over 15 years, and I can tell you firsthand that she always lives and leads from her heart, and she is as authentic as people come. An award-winning, creative communications executive, Stacey is the Chief Creative Officer at HudsonLake. Prior to that, she co-owned Hudson Studio, which was a small but mighty women-owned design firm in Alexandria, VA. In our conversation, Stacey shared several incredible insights into what it means for her to live and lead from her heart and make value-driven decisions.
Stacey holds empathy as a key attribute to heart-centered leadership This is rooted in listening to and understanding your team, respecting where they’re coming from, and who they are as people. Being unto others as you would have them be to you. In her opinion, a good leader must allow for uncomfortable conversations to take place and then create the space for them to be generative and transformative. This also means allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and let your passion and emotions be exposed.
Stacey’s own previous negative work experiences have had a positive impact on how she leads today. She worked under bosses that were clear-cut examples of what not to do. Whether that was in how people were treated or when reporting structures where ambiguous, she refuses to create a space where anyone feels they exist on an island. Leaders and teams cannot advance in isolation.
Stacey, along with her husband and business partner, Fulvio have cultivated a positive and caring culture in the workplace where people feel like they are part of a family. Having grown up in a tight family unit and a close-knit community herself, this same type of working environment is just natural to them.
Being the daughter of a Marine, honor and respect are top of mind for Stacey’s core values. To her, this means honoring the people you work with and taking them where they’re at — seeing them as whole people and giving them the space and support to be their best selves.
Stacey also believes passion is critical. If you’re passionate about your work, then it won’t feel like work. She started a company with a partner some years ago whose personal values did not align with her own. This made it impossible to create and enjoy a positive environment. The business relationship was draining and had a negative impact on her physically, mentally, and emotionally. Stacey’s heart was out of alignment with her own values, and she no longer enjoyed her work. Her passion disappeared.
Stacey admits now that she should have left the company much sooner than the seven years she endured. For too long, her misguided thinking led her to believe she could change the other person. By reconnecting with her own core values of honor and respect, Stacey was able to appreciate her partner for who she was and realized the obligation to make a change rested on her. That’s when Stacey knew she had to move on. That whole experience, while discouraging, allowed Stacey to take responsibility for where she was and empowered her to make decisions driven by her internal compass.
Women need to walk more in their truth! Stacey works to empower the women in her life to be their best selves.
At work, this means cultivating an environment where newcomers can feel the difference, feel the support. Her team members applaud one another and celebrate each other’s wins. That starts with the leadership and trickles down.
Stacey also has a strong desire to see other women succeed and showcase their strengths. She advises to surround yourself with better women. Stop seeing weaknesses as a negative and leverage them as an opportunity for growth.
When Stacey stayed too long in a business partnership, it’s because she was ignoring her deep inner knowing. She suppressed her true feelings out of obligation to see the company succeed. Too often, women find it difficult to make decisions that are better for them personally because they feel duty-bound to honor their responsibilities and just press on. When you’re able to step back, recognize the underlying cause of your distress, it’s easier to decide based on your own values.
Stacey is the type of decision-maker that jumps off a cliff. She just knows things are going to work out and her attitude is always infectiously positive. She doesn’t second guess her decisions but rather looks forward with optimism. Once Stacey makes a commitment, she’s all in and is always moving forward instead of struggling with the past. She describes her decision-making process as 75 percent heartfelt intuition and only 25 percent technical data. Surprisingly, she doesn’t feel this requires her to convince other people to get on board with her decisions.
This also doesn’t mean everything has been easy, but from her perspective, the answer is to simply think positively and move on to the next thing. You can crush yourself asking endless “what if” questions, always looking back and agonizing over the past. Stacey doesn’t ask “what if” but rather lives her life knowing anything is possible when you open yourself up to it! You never know what’s around the corner. And if you don’t like it, then step up and change it!
She also doesn’t believe sacrifice is a negative word. Making decisions based on your intuition means you are allowing your story to evolve. As your story evolves, aspirations change.
As a self-professed workaholic, Stacey doesn’t have a line in the sand where work ends, and life begins. She loves what she does and puts her whole heart into her work. Stacey married late in life and didn’t have her own children. Their family grew in other, non-traditional ways and because she was open to possibility, they were able to fulfill that dream. By default, her life took a different path than she imagined when she was younger, and she evolved to match. Stacey doesn’t believe this was a sacrifice, it’s simply growth in a new direction.
Stacey doesn’t consider herself a creative person, at least not in the traditional sense most people would define creativity. Often “artsy people” are put in a box, off to the side, and creativity is “their thing.” It’s not meant for everyone.
Stacey believes everybody can create! Everyone is a creator in their own unique way, it simply depends on your definition of creativity. That inner critic can sometimes creep in and dismiss where you are creative and devalue your impact in that space.
As an invested leader, developing companies and flourishing teams is Stacey’s channel for creativity. She has carefully crafted what she believes the best future will look like for her team. She operates as the bridge between leadership and creative to produce the desired outcome or product.
Stacey often finds it difficult to unplug from her work and simply rest. However, her inner voice tells her to refocus her energy where it truly needs to be, to stop the constant churn and burn. Stop trying to find more hours in the day to work and simply rest. Stacey views this as her opportunity for cultivating a habit of self-care and relaxation.
Someday in the not-to-distant future, Stacey, and her husband Fulvio hope to shift gears and spend many hours on their sailboat. Maybe they’ll write a book, and of course, she’ll always be open to endless, new possibilities!