Insider Influence: Episode 4 with Stacey Holifield

Northeast Indiana entrepreneur, Stacey Holifield, shares that compassion is one of the most important leadership qualities. Understanding others and being sympathetic is essential to being an effective leader. 

Brandon Noll
Business Development Manager

Stacey Holifield’s morning routine is that she has no morning routine—being a mom, each morning is different for her and armed with a different set of variables she adapts to on the fly. After waking up, she ideally checks her email, catches up on LinkedIn, and gets to the office early, however, the order and time that each of these things actually occur is up to chance.

A Change of Perspective

Asking about morning routines often comes with a semi-predictable outcome—there’s usually coffee involved, maybe a newspaper, and then a practiced departure to work. I discovered throughout our hour-long meeting that Stacey is a differentiator in this sense and in a multitude of others.

I initially met Stacey at Parkview Foundation’s 2018 “Cookin’ Men” event—my booth happened to be right next to the booth she was helping at and we found a minute to chat before the event got going. I figured that would be the last I’d hear from Stacey Holifield, President and Founder of Levitate.

However, when the Insider Influence series took off, I realized what I needed was the unfiltered voice of a motivated, determined female entrepreneur. Being one such driven entrepreneur, Stacey was kind enough to meet me at Fortezza for an after-work coffee to discuss her views.

Your Employees are People

Stacey brings a wealth of leadership experience to her strategic communications firm, Levitate, from a 15-year agency background in public relations. After returning to her Fort Wayne, Indiana roots and starting her own business, Stacey committed to her initiatives by a motto that then became her firm’s mantra as well—“Dream Big. Do Bigger.”

“Vision” and “Culture” were both words that surfaced consistently throughout our meeting. Stacey’s culture-centric mindset comes from her agency background. The Bostonian agency she spent the majority of her early career with had a leadership style that “cultivated passion in their employees and brought everyone to a common goal,” according to Stacey. She also noted that even after the agency grew to a force of 200 people, the company never lost sight of their identity and values.

Levitate is my baby. When you feel that way about a project, you have to find people who feel that too. They have to want to be my baby’s coolest, favorite, committed aunt or uncle. It’s that kind of passion and dedication that drives us forward together.

How does Stacey carve a path for Levitate and her employees? “We are always talking about our vision and what we are doing with our clients,” she explained. Stacey prides Levitate’s approach of being direct internally and externally to promote transparency to her team and the clients they serve.

“Leaders should be determined to a fault. You will encounter so many barriers and you have to be determined to get through all of them,” Stacey explained. In the next breath, she added, “...But a leader must also have compassion. It’s vital to recognize what’s going on in your employees’ lives.” The topic of compassion endured for some time during our coffee outing as we both recognized its importance in an office setting. Taking time to understand your team, their motivations, and their dreams is integral to running a successful business with fulfilled, happy employees.

Lack of compassion is where you can fail as a leader.

Defining Leadership

As before any interview, I had questions prepared prior to arriving at Fortezza for our meeting. However, we traversed a variety of topics without the need for them at all. Stacey is a remarkable, unique individual made even more unique by her chosen career—female entrepreneurs are unfortunately a minority in the world of business, particularly in northeast Indiana. The distinctive perspective Stacey offers was a perfect fit for this series on my search for answers on what makes a great leader.

Recently, Levitate posted a video in which Stacey looks directly into the camera lens and firmly states, “We don’t do glitz and glamour. And we definitely don’t do cute.”

She’s absolutely right—what she does can only be defined as leadership.


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Bonus Insight: Stacey’s advice for new leaders? Humility is a real learning curve. “Being a leader, people have to feel, learn, and understand leadership qualities. Just because you take a management position doesn’t make you a leader. Have confidence and humility,” she advises.