Leaders Being Real 1: Carol Peddy

A new series gives us a personal perspective on facing tough challenges and how they managed to not only build their career but nurture their life!

Clients I’ve known for decades teach me so much about leading and living. I interviewed an extraordinary example of life-long learning: Carol Peddy. 

A veteran like Carol has been through all kinds of corporate upsets, mergers, lay-offs and external factors she couldn’t control—like the S&L crisis in Dallas in the 1980s and 90s. I was there working with her back then and, literally, bank signs were falling off buildings, and clunky car phones were being ripped out of failing business owners’ Cadillacs. 

Carol, a long-time property management executive, has seen it all as she rose through the ranks to her present position of Sr. VP of Operations at Knightvest Residential, one of the largest apartment owners in the U.S.

Carol told me she had an interesting and fast start to her career. She was hired as a contractor to audit a properties’ policies and processes. Three days later when the bank took the property back she told them she was just there as a contractor and told them why their property was not performing. The next day they came in and let go of the current manager and offered Carol the job to manage the asset. The rest was history.

She has always impressed me with her energy, humor and transparency about what drove her “bat s—” crazy.

I watched Carol navigate many rough waters in the vulnerable real estate industry. Adding to the heavy people-dependent factor, the business of apartment management is subject to never-ending economic changes and natural disasters. 

Particularly in a city like Dallas, where heat waves, tornados, flooding, ice storms, and state power outages are common, the pace is fast, and fortunes can shift rapidly.

She always made me laugh as she described the ways she had to contort herself to behave in corporate meetings. She admits her compulsive tendencies to overperform made her life harder, but she was determined to meet the demands of each challenge. 

Her colorful descriptions of the antics of those she managed, those she reported to and her own default reactions made her one of the most engaging people I’ve ever coached. 

Not far beneath the surface, however, Carol feels the stressors and can’t help but be personally impacted when others are struggling. She’s weathered a lot of storms and helped develop hundreds of other leaders.

“In this business, there are constant issues, crazy hours, and problems to solve. It can be a very thankless job,” she told me.

I asked her what she has learned and would most want to share with other leaders. What follows are quotes from Carol in our interview.

Carol Peddy
1. Fill Your Bucket

I have managed to stay sane and truly enjoy what I do all these years. Leaders have to figure out where to fill their bucket and you have to be sure your bucket is continually filled—otherwise you burn out. I’ve been at a place of exhaustion, discouragement and borderline burnout several times throughout my career.

For me personally, my drive is, and has always been, in making a difference in people’s lives. That is what keeps me going to work every day. Even in the darkest times.

I get most of my affirmations from people below me. They tell me how much they enjoy working for me.

I can tell ways they are growing, that helps too. Someone recently said, “Look, I learned this from you—I am asking more questions like you do.” I see the impact.

I want people to want to come work for me. I want them to feel the impact if I leave my company. Still to this day, I hear from people from all the companies I’ve worked for in the last 25 to 30 years. I get emails and calls about how they miss what I provided. That feels good.

2. Get Support

I have taken the opportunity that some other executives don’t want to face by hiring good leadership coaches and even a therapist, at times, to help keep me grounded. More recently I worked with a nutritionist to support my energy.

I advise other leaders I mentor to not hesitate to get outside professional help. It forces you to focus on yourself, remember who you are and why you are there—and most importantly, what not to focus on.

It’s very easy to focus on all the people that you find irritating. No power there. And you internalize it.

I can tell the leaders I have worked with who have worked with a coach or a therapist.

The best leaders are the ones who have really taken time to focus on themselves through coaching or therapy or other wellness professionals.

3. Quality Time

It’s really about finding time for yourself too. It all comes down to the same things. Are you taking care of yourself?

I take time now, no matter how many demands there are in my role. I walk the treadmill. Or I walk around the block. I pay attention to what I put in my tummy. I am aware of how much it affects me. If you are not taking time out for you, if you don’t move your body and you eat to ease the stress… it’s a vicious cycle.

It has forced me to focus on my mental health and my physical health, and I have learned they are more intertwined than we think. 

I try to focus on quality time for myself like reading a book. Spending time with family or a good friend.

4. Communicate Up

It’s a challenge to keep ourselves motivated. When you are in a high level position, you don’t hear the good very often. 

I talked to my boss recently and said, “I just need to vent. If I don’t, it’s just going to continue to build up. When it builds up I’m unhappy or I’m in tears. I need to vent up to you. Just hear me.”

He said, “Do you want me to do something?” I assured him I just needed to be heard. He was wonderful. He just listened and let me know he understood.

This affirmed my belief that open and honest communication with your supervisor—good, bad, or ugly—is critical! It’s scary and you never know how they will respond, but if you don’t communicate, problems don’t get solved and the relationship can quickly deteriorate. 

Happily, I work with a leader who knows how to listen and to respond productively. In fact, a month later, he gave me a surprise bonus with a nice note telling me what a good job I’d done. He was sensitive enough to realize I needed to hear more positive feedback.

Even at my age, when I get something positive from my leader I save it! 

5. Appreciate Your People Often

People have to hear the positive. It’s what helps keep people energized and cared for. You have got to take time to let your teams know you value them and appreciate how hard they work.

The littlest thing that can make someone feel so valued is a $50 gift card.

People get so busy, and people are so stressed out. We went from Covid to ice storms and now the economy. We all have to take time to appreciate people.

6. Learning and Unlearning

What have you learned or unlearned from your early roots?

Well, I was raised with 10 siblings, so it tended to be about everyone else. I’m a big people pleaser. The mediator in the family. You stuff everything to take care of everyone else.

People-pleasing still gives me a dopamine hit—I will admit that. But it’s more on the healthy side. I don’t think I’ll ever change my commitment to caring for people. I want to make sure that everyone’s okay and everyone’s taken care of…

The difference now, I set healthy boundaries. 

I’ve learned it’s okay to say NO. It’s okay to take care of myself before I take care of anyone else.

You can’t take care of others very well if there is nothing left of you. I feel bad at first, some guilt, but I know I need to care for myself.

There is no way I’d be at this level of emotional intelligence if not for coaching and therapy.

You have to deal with the insides of you to make you a better leader, a better human being.

For me, Carol is a living example of leading with heart. Her transparency, vulnerability and authentic engagement in her own growth, inspires her people to want to develop their own leadership skills and discover what fills their bucket. Her lifelong pursuit of a healthy mindset reminds me of one of my favorite quotes…

“We can make ourselves miserable, or we can make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” —Carlos Casteneda

If you would like to learn more about leadership coaching, let’s talk! Here is a link to schedule a 30-minute, complementary Chemistry session to explore your coaching goals and to see if we would be a good fit!

An alternative to individual coaching is group coaching focused on building presence—I’m starting a group in the Fall. For more information, email me at or reply to this newsletter.

Elaine Morris
Executive coach and positive intelligence expert

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Elaine Morris is a master-level emotional intelligence and executive coach who brings more than 30 years of experience to upper level executives and their teams.

Elaine Morris