Women’s History Month holds a special significance for the team at Hire Profile, as the company is WBENC certified and comprised of a close-knit set of talented women. This month we reached out to Casey Cunningham, Founder and CEO of XINNIX, a national sales and leadership training academy to get her perspective on achieving status as a forerunner woman executive. What we received is a solid perspective on what it takes to successfully lead in business regardless of gender.
Although Ms. Cunningham has technically “broken the glass ceiling” in a predominately male lead industry, she thinks of her journey to the top not in terms of male versus female leadership qualities, but more about perseverance in the face of hardships, having a values foundation and the importance of relationship building. Casey thinks leadership qualities stand alone and contain common themes and threads that are applicable and accessible to everyone equally.
When she set out on her journey in business, the one phrase that carried Casey along was the advice of her mother to “just be your very best.” With those words holding her up, she moved forward with the mental strategy of “full-speed ahead, work hard and let the chips fall where they may. Embrace every challenge and every struggle as an opportunity to grow and be empowered to be better.”
Gender was never really a factor in how she perceived herself as a potential business leader, but it was often obvious that she was the only woman in the room. She laughed saying “being a 5’3” tall female in an industry that’s primarily men is challenging. You better have some confidence and swagger to compete.” Fortunately, she never felt held back due to gender but admitted that it was sometimes hard. However, she had full confidence that her efforts would pay off and knew she would become a successful business owner and leader if she held her vision.
Fast forward 30 years later, and Casey is able to reflect on how her leadership style has evolved. In the early days, she was focused on the personal gratification of title, prestige, and achievement, but now realizes good leadership is about empowering other people. XINNIX has won 25 culture awards, and Casey believes it has to do with providing people with tools to achieve success, along with cultivating safe and supportive working environments. She believes it’s best to “let people flourish, but also give them the freedom to fall. Remove the scrutiny of being perfect, and create a culture where people know their voice matters, and they can fall and are not going to get hurt if they make a mistake.”
On building a cultural safety net that allows for failures, Casey recommends that leaders “measure the heart of mistakes, and allow people to fall forward. Forgive, learn, don’t repeat, and move on.” She believes that when someone does fall within an organization, it’s the responsibility of leadership to do some reflection and ask the following questions:
- Do I have the person in the right role?
- Did I communicate well?
- Did I empower them?
Central to her current leadership style is the belief in bearing full responsibility, in owning your leadership position. The motto Casey employs and recommends every leader take to heart is: “I am responsible.” She believes leadership means “you are at the back of the line. You worry about yourself last, and about your people first. Keep asking – what can I do to empower people?”
Her concluding message to women who desire to be in business leadership is “embrace the role and understand the significance. As leaders, we have the ability to build someone up or beat them up. You have the power to influence someone’s day. I believe great leaders build up.”
We’re so grateful to Casey for taking the time to share her experience and inspire us this month and further out into the year ahead. Thank you!
About the author: With more than 35 years of mortgage experience, Casey is one of the most influential visionaries in the industry today. In 2002, she founded XINNIX, the premier sales, operations and leadership development academy providing training, coaching and accountability for the nation’s top mortgage lenders. For nearly two decades, Casey has fostered a culture of excellence that has attracted a diverse team with deep knowledge of the industry to join XINNIX. To date, the company boasts a total of 25 awards, 22 of which are for the company’s culture, including “Atlanta’s Best Places to Work” and “Best and Brightest Companies to Work for in the Nation.”
Casey has been recognized as one of “Atlanta’s Most Influential Female Business
Owners” by the Atlanta Women’s Pacesetters, a “Top Female Entrepreneur” by Atlanta
Woman Magazine and a “Roaring Twenty” award winner by the National Association of
Women in Real Estate Business. In 2018, Casey was named for the second time as
a “HousingWire Woman of Influence.” In addition to leading a thriving company, Casey
is a sought-after national keynote speaker whose extensive knowledge and experience
allows her to inspire and enrich others by speaking first-hand about leadership and