“Nellie inspired me every day, and I still think about her often,” says Kyla Lowe, General Manager of Holiday Parkside Court in Columbus, Indiana. “She was a trailblazer – she trained to be a pilot in 1971, back when there weren’t many female pilots. She also traveled, wrote books, and became a painter. Her life story was almost like a movie.”
When Kyla started as Assistant General Manager at the senior living community almost six years ago, Nellie was one of the first residents she came to know closely. “I’d sit next to her and ask, ‘Do you have another story, Ms. Nellie?’ and she’d recall the most amazing things.”
Nellie passed away in October 2020 at the age of 100, but her influence is still felt throughout the Holiday Parkside Court community. Copies of the six books she authored can still be found on the bookshelves, and some of the fascinating items she acquired throughout her life are occasionally displayed.
Most important, the impression she made on Kyla shaped her leadership of the community.
“I learned that to be a leader, you have to be a listener,” Kyla said. “By stepping back and listening to what others are saying – whether in a meeting or a training or a one-on-one conversation – that curiosity can teach you so much.”
Throughout her career, Kyla learned that being an effective leader is very different from just being the boss. She believes that open communication creates an atmosphere that is positive, empathetic and supportive.
Having a baseline of positivity, Kyla discovered, makes overcoming problems more manageable. “I go back to my conversations with Nellie; she had a lot of difficulties in her upbringing, not to mention the challenges of becoming a pilot when it was so rare for women. To accomplish so much in her life, I think, had a lot to do with the positive attitude she maintained.”
The lessons Kyla received from those first conversations with Nellie still ripple through the community. “Through mindful listening,” Kyla says, “we can better understand and inspire one another.”