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Leveraging strengths, mentors, and purpose: The journey to authentic leadership


Read this if you are interested in leadership.

Every successful leader uses their knowledge of their individual strengths, the mentorship of other leaders, and their driving purpose to create an authentic leadership style unique to them and their organization.

Recently, Sarah Belliveau, BerryDunn’s CEO, shared with Shawn Tuttle, the firm’s Director of Learning and Development, some insight into how she has navigated the different stages of her leadership journey. From joining the firm while still in college, to managing and developing the firm’s Not-for-Profit team, to leading the organization through challenging times, Sarah has leaned on her strengths, her colleagues, and her purpose to guide her. 

This conversation has been excerpted from the podcast BerryDunn Leadership Insights. Listen to the full conversation here

Career stage: Early career

Key strategies: Finding the right fit, advocating for yourself 

Shawn Tuttle: I thought maybe we could start with just hearing a little bit more about your journey at BerryDunn. I've heard you talk about being the first intern.

Sarah Belliveau: That's my favorite self-appointed title. That last semester at school, I needed a part-time job because I was paying my way through school and so I reached out to the principal in charge of our Bangor [Maine] office at the time, who had hired me [to begin full-time work in the summer], and I said I've got a relatively light load, if you have an opportunity for me, I'd love to start working. And so, I worked part-time while I was finishing up at school. And so, what struck me right out of the gate with BerryDunn is that that decision to allow me to do that was not for the benefit of BerryDunn, it was not because they had a need. They'd already done their hiring for the winter. It was because I had a need, and they took that into consideration and were concerned about me as a whole person. That was probably the first moment when I thought, "That is exactly where I need to work." 

And throughout—from the moment I started at BerryDunn, until I took on this new role—one of the things that made it so rewarding was that I had an opportunity to really participate in the development of our people. So, I call myself the original intern because I probably am the original intern, but also because the internship program was so important to me, as I was leading teams and helping BerryDunn grow and focusing on learning and development, I was a member of our inaugural Learning and Development Committee. And so, I just sort of had an opportunity to experience, both personally and in my work with staff, the full life cycle of developing people at BerryDunn. 

Shawn Tuttle: I'm thinking about, as you're talking, the three contexts that we talk about leadership in—so, self-leadership, leadership of others, and leadership of the organization—and your journey has really been about all three. Even that first instance you described is about self-leadership, saying, "I really want to get started, I really want to do this, and going and asking if it was possible, so taking that initiative."

Sarah Belliveau: Yes, absolutely. Advocating for yourself, recognizing what you need and what's important to you, and being brave enough to ask for it.

Career stage: Emerging as a leader

Key strategies: Finding great mentors and continuing to learn and grow 

Shawn Tuttle: Have you had a particularly impactful mentor in your journey?

Sarah Belliveau: I've had many and very impactful mentors, but the ones I think that have been most impactful are women leaders who have not been afraid to share their voice and use their voice and advocate or sponsor and make sure that I had opportunities that I may not have otherwise had. So those mentors have been absolutely powerful and impactful to my career.

Shawn Tuttle: That's such a strong thread, the, you know, sponsorship, empowerment, the availability of opportunities in your career and what you value and in the ways now that people have been impactful to you.

Sarah Belliveau: And [that] informs how I lead now. It is because I want to make sure everybody has those same opportunities.

Career stage: Leading a complex organization

Key strategies: Identifying your purpose and passion, bringing the right voices to the table 

Shawn Tuttle: Tell us about your interest in your current role.

Sarah Belliveau: [At] every point along my journey with BerryDunn, I have been provided opportunities to do what I love to do, what I found interesting, what fit in my life at the time, [and I’ve been given the] opportunity to work with folks from across the firm to develop something that had never been done before. Recognizing that the importance, for me, [was] in making sure that everyone has that opportunity and that those opportunities continue to grow well beyond when I'm here. And so, I recognize[d] for me personally that the next challenge and that next opportunity that was going to give me an opportunity to grow really was centered around making sure that the firm stays strong for future generations.

Shawn Tuttle: Is there anything specific you do on a day-to-day basis that's energizing?

Sarah Belliveau: Yeah, every single day. And this is the way it's been my whole career, really. It's one of the reasons why I've loved the career that I've been in is that every day, most days are very different, and every day I come in and there's the possibility that I'm going to be amazed by something that somebody has done. I'll hear about a new service that someone in the firm is developing, or I'll hear about a really cool client project that we're doing in Colorado, or I'll hear about, you know, a not-for-profit client that we're working with that is making important change in our communities. It's been really, really, really cool.

Sarah Belliveau has led the firm since 2021. Her intimate knowledge of BerryDunn’s culture, coupled with decades of working in direct client service, team development, and collaboration with diverse practice groups positioned her well to lead the dynamic group that the firm’s clients and community have come to expect.

Shawn Tuttle leads the firm’s Learning and Development efforts with a mission to empower continuous development that drives individual, team, and firm success.

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