Kate Webster

Breaking Thru Barriers Founder, Dr. Kate Webster

 Dr. Kate Webster’s passion empowering audience members to speak up for themselves led her to create her own company called Breaking Thru Barriers. Through her programs, Quiet Power™ and Mindful Communication™, she brings together her academic knowledge on gender equality issues with her physical experiences as a self-defense instructor to provide insightful stories, engaging points, and concrete skills to help individuals manage difficult conversations and communicate authentically.

1. As the founder of Breaking Thru Barriers, you have been hired by Tiara to be their Content Developer Project Champion. Can you tell us something about this amazing collaboration?

In the Fall of 2015 I came across a series of four articles written by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant for the New York Times SundayReview on “Women at Work.” I wanted to write a response for each article to provide proactive steps for the workplace gender-based issues they wrote about. Having been recently introduced to Tiara’s work as providers of women’s leadership development programs, I knew they’d be a great fit to co-author these articles and thereby highlight both our company’s thought leadership in this area of women empowerment and business leadership. These four articles became the starting point of Tiara’s “Applied Leadership” series and they sought me out to continue co-authoring articles that would connect with various managing partners and continue the focus on women’s leadership.

2. Why did you choose Tiara International?

I chose Tiara and they chose me. Tiara International is unique in their approach to women’s leadership because their coaching, trainings, and presentations are not proscriptive with a list of do’s and don’ts. Instead, they encourage women to look within, find their source of inspiration, and from that inspired place, be the best leaders they can. This inside out philosophy connects well with the work that I do through my company Breaking Thru Barriers and is what I call Quiet Power—a deep belief in yourself to connect mind and body and break free of limiting beliefs that hold you back.

3. You have been a co-author of Applied Women Leadership with Tiara international featured in our SkinLess Project Website. Can you share with us your experience?

As the co-author of the Applied Leadership series of articles on women’s leadership, I have the opportunity to connect each month with one of their six managing partners. With each managing partner, I interview them on a topic of women’s leadership, learn about their perspective on the issue, and come up with a coherent thought leadership article. It’s been a phenomenal way to learn more about the inner workings of the company and also the great work that they do.

4. Can leadership be taught or acquired?

I believe that leadership is something one can learn because it doesn’t come from innate special powers. Instead, it is created over time through challenges, personal courage, setbacks, self-reflection, and an ability to grow and change. One of the recent co-authored articles with Tiara focuses on the concept of resilience and The Hero’s Journey, and it is this very form of resilience that makes good leaders great.

I also subscribe to Daniel Goleman’s work on emotional intelligence as a key ingredient to effective leadership. Your IQ is what gets you in the leadership door, but it is your EQ (or emotional intelligence) that makes you excel and stand out as a leader. It is his five aspects of EQ—self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills—that remain elusive to so many people, but can be learned and integrated into a highly effective leadership style.

5. You are a strong advocate of gender equality in workplace. Why choose this topic?

My interest in gender equality in the workplace comes out of my long-standing work in academia on gender in society topics combined with my experiences teaching self-defense and gender-based violence issues. I chose this topic as I’ve seen the universally negative impact gender roles, norms, and stereotypes can have on women’s self-esteem and confidence. I have struggled with these issues and it’s been my life’s mission to pay it forward and assist others to find their unique way to move beyond these limiting societal beliefs and feel more empowered. I created my company to provide trainings, presentations, and coaching to provide this guidance.

6. What are your tips for a lasting personal and professional change?

Tips for lasting personal and professional change is three fold—First there is an awareness of your strengths and weaknesses to see that something amiss that needs to be addressed and changed to move forward. Second there is a building of confidence and resilience. This is done through baby steps or “nudges” whereby you allow yourself to step outside your comfort zone and gradually grow and change beyond it. Last, there is taking direct action that best suits the required change, action that is informed and comes from an inspired place.

7. How can women empower themselves in the workplace?

There are many ways women can empower themselves in the workplace and, as such, it depends more on the individual woman, her workplace, and her leadership path. One key ingredient is executive presence or leadership presence—how women communicate effectively, have a commanding presence, and a quiet confidence. With these tools, she can be authentic, stay true to her values, and lead from the inside out.

8. You spoke at the Ted Talk Conference about Quiet Power, how can this be related to leadership?

Quiet Power is directly related to leadership in several key ways. Quiet power allows leaders to stay true to their authentic selves and respond rather than react to difficult situations and interactions. Quiet Power also allows leaders to move from a focus on the problem to a solution of the situation. Last, Quiet Power allows leaders to see choices and options to make decisions from an authentic self. With these tools, leaders can take deep dives into issues, address underlying causes, and help themselves and their teams move forward in effective ways.

9. You are a self-defense instructor and 3rd degree black belt, how did this help you professionally?

As a self-defense instructor and 3rd degree black belt, I learned three key aspects of myself that helped me professionally. First, I learned about the importance of an integrated mind, body, and spirit. Up to that time, I had lived predominantly in my mind through academia, and the martial arts opened me up to the concept of a strong mind connected to a strong spirit: “technique rather than strength and spirit rather than technique.” Second, I learned about my non-quitting spirit. I remember vividly doing push-ups on my knuckles one day, and had told myself I just couldn’t do one more. Our instructor encouraged us by saying “What will happen if you do just one more?—will it hurt a bit, yes, but the pain will go away and you’ll have survived it.” A transformative moment for me to gain confidence to just push through and be resilient. Last, as a self-defense instructor, I saw the empowerment students gained by easily learning physical techniques to feel safe. However. I also saw how transformative it was for them to just use their voice to speak up, set a boundary, and feel confident, strong, and safe. This takeaway was the seed for which I founded Breaking Thru Barriers—to help individuals find their voice, speak up, and feel empowered.

10. Lastly, who inspires and motivates you?

I am inspired by those who dare greatly and greatly dare. These are individuals who move beyond their misfortune, privilege, or internal demons to empower others to break free of limiting beliefs that hold them back. A few specific individuals that have inspired me over the years:

  1. Waris Dirie—Author of “Desert Flower” and UN Ambassador for the abolition of FGM
  2. Malala Yousafzai: Author of “I Am Malala” and Noble Peace Prize recipient
  3. Leslie Morgan Steiner: Author of “Crazy Love” and TED presenter “Why Domestic Violence Victims Don’t Leave.”
  4. Amy Cuddy: Author of “Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges”, professor, and TED presenter “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.”