Christian Women in Leadership: Sarah Guldalian
Sarah Guldalian is a champion of integrity and interpersonal relationships in her journey as a Christian leader. Read on…
What does it look like to be a woman in a leadership role? How does Christian faith impact leadership? And what happens when you put the two together?
To find out, we caught up with founder and CEO of Rhino Hyde Productions. She holds a BA in Broadcast Journalism and Mass Communications—Political Science from Drake University and participated in an Advanced Social Media program with Columbia University – New York. Sarah is also a speaker at the upcoming WLI national Conference where she will lead a workshop on Confidence to Share Christ in the Workplace.
We asked her a few questions about her job and her views on Christian leadership:
What’s the favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is working with people to find solutions for their problems and/or obstacles then, by the grace of God, helping them overcome these to see meaningful results for their ministries and companies because this equates to positively impacting their employees and constituents. I also love my team and seeing them exercising the beautiful gifts God has uniquely given them.
How would you define Christian leadership?
I believe that kindness goes an incredibly long way. When there is kindness, I believe true joy and success can flow from that. Yet, even in kindness, there needs to be an ability to speak the truth in love – not letting things go too far or get out of hand for happiness’ sake. Happiness is incredibly awesome but it is not the same as kindness.
If you keep the end in mind – to please God and to see people ultimately succeed – you will realize that kindness is both a joy that you bring to work but also sometimes a loving firmness that leads to someone’s (and the team’s) success in the end.
The above is an overarching viewpoint of mine as it pertains to Christian leadership because it incorporates integrity, truth, passion and love.
How do you bring your Christian values into your work?
I try to operate by focusing in on the fruits of the Spirit as well as our company’s Core Values, which are also rooted in the Word.
Fruits of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
Our Core Values: Integrity, Humility, Love, Fun, Courage and Passion.
Can you remember a specific experience where you relied on your Christian faith or values to lead you through a tough decision or important task?
Absolutely! We had 60 commercials associated with a huge media buy to produce in a very short window of time – only two weeks. Meanwhile, we had a family crisis which was devastating and, in a business founded by a family, we cried out to God and rallied the troops to help each other in every way. God came through in the family crisis and the business transaction in miraculous ways! It was so clear that only HE could have accomplished it all – and He did – so He gets ALL the glory!
Looking back, is there a time on your leadership journey where you perhaps felt uncertain about the future, but God had a bigger plan?
I love people so deeply. Meanwhile we are in an industry that is very fast-paced, high-demand, and constant; and starting a business can be very difficult too. This can really lead people to become tired and anxious along the way as the demands are high even as the excitement is high; and exhaustion heightens emotions. When you work with friends and family, this can be difficult because you can become afraid that crucial relationships will become marred.
I have often looked to the Lord and said, “God, I know you have a plan. You had a plan in us starting this. How do we do this well and keep relationships intact for the future?”
You don’t get to see into everyone’s minds or hearts – only God does. So, I am always looking to Him to help and to lead and to heal and to guide. Leaders, after all, are only human so we must rely on the Lord daily for success, not only in business, but more importantly in relationships.
How does working in a religious or secular setting change the way you lead as a Christian?
Honestly, it shouldn’t change how you lead as a Christian. Whether you are in a secular or a Christian setting, you will need to guard your heart and be sure that you look to Lord for your affirmation and for your answers. Obviously, though, working in a secular setting can pose different challenges.
For us, we work in a Christian-owned business but we are operating in the secular business world when we go out where, admittedly, people can be more cutting and painfully direct. So, it is so important that you go to the Lord with your wounds so that you do not get jaded; but you also need to stand up for yourself in an honest and respectful way so you respect yourself and show others where your boundaries are.
And, on the flipside, inside of a Christian organization, sometimes you must make the conversations more open and honest – versus concealing issues – for the health and success of the organization long-term.
So, there are different circumstances in either setting; but, ultimately, circumstances should not dictate your leadership style. When they do, I realize I get off path. It’s so crucial that I just keep my eyes focused on the Lord in either and work to operate according to His Word.
Who are your biggest role models as a leader?
I have been blessed to have had two awesome bosses who love the Lord and love people deeply: Dave Dawson, during my time at Lutheran Hour Ministries; and my boss, Terry Knoploh, the CEO of our corporation. They both are wise in business even as they love their people, yet they stand their ground in a respectful way. This shows me that being a people-pleaser can be dangerous ground. It’s important to love people but you need to serve God and think of the greater good of the organization.
On a personal level, my grandpa, Jim Jordan, who helped raise us, was perhaps the biggest role model in my life. Everyone looked up to him as, in the world’s standards, he had the education and experience that would cause them to do so; but more important was that he just served people consistently and treated everyone equally. He was not too important to change his neighbor’s lightbulb or take their trash out, or drive us back and forth to private school. What really stood out to me also was that he didn’t see race or economic status. He treated everyone with the same love and respect.
Is there a passage in scripture that resonates with you as a Christian woman in leadership?
Matthew 10:16: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” This reminds me to be aware – not sticking my head in the sand – but to remain innocent and honest even yet.
What most prepared you to be a Christian leader in the workplace?
I first worked in secular media where, frankly, I was appalled by some of the underground practices and how people were treated unethically just so goals were hit. It was when I went to Lutheran Hour Ministries where I really saw people love one another, which brought a healing and joy to me; but then this was coupled with the incredible opportunity to work for a very experienced businessman who also loved people, Dave Dawson. By working for Dave for almost eight years, I learned how to couple loving people with shrewd and honest business practices. That was an incredible opportunity and education. It was also a lot of fun too.
What challenges do you face as a Christian leader in your workplace?
It can be hard to balance loving people so deeply and of course wanting that from them in return with towing the line, meaning holding people accountable – both clients and employees – so that your teams hit your goals and your business turns a profit.
What is the most important piece of advice you would want to pass along to other Christian women in leadership?
Remember your identity. We live in a day and age where it can easily feel like you are as valuable as your last deal or last project. It can feel like we are only as valuable as what we can do for others. But I challenge other Christian women – and myself! – to remember who God has created you to be from birth and not lose yourself in trying to achieve and please others. Instead of working for approval, start by knowing that your identity is in the Lord; and, when you lean into Him, He will cause you to have favor and have others approve of you. And, when they do not approve of you, get closer to God so that you don’t change to please man, but continue to please God.