Karen Tiber Leland is the Founder and President of Sterling Consulting and Marketing Group, a branding and marketing firm that works with CEOs, executives, and entrepreneurs on building stronger personal, business, and CEO brands. She is a writer, actor, and keynote speaker, who has experienced the world of performing in various contexts through decades spent doing communications consulting with Fortune 500 companies. Leland is the best-selling author of eight books, which have sold over 350,000 copies and been translated into ten other languages including German, Spanish and Korean.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in the sub-burbs of LA. When I was a kid my parents took us camping every summer – all summer long. I hated being away from my friends for a whole summer. However, my love of being in nature – especially mountains has stayed with me my whole life. And I’m fairly certain that a good dose of my persistence in business, comes from those long, arduous hikes my father made us take… “come on kids you can get to the top!.”
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
That I am neither too much nor not enough of one thing or another. As Popeye said “I am what I am,” and that’s good enough.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
I don’t think there is enough space for this one… but here are a few of my biggest pet peeves.
People who start an in-depth PR campaign (or really any major marketing tactic) for their brand without having a 360-degree strategy in place first.
People who jump headlong into Google Adwords, SEO, and other supposed “technical and measurable” arts without really understanding how complicated it is and the depth it takes to be successful.
People who overpromise and underdeliver what they are getting paid to do.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
7 years ago, over a six-month period I got a divorce after a long marriage, moved from California to New York and then back to California again, began and ended a love affair, and both my father and step-father died. That was not a good six months. What did I learn? I am resilient as hell, take care of your friendships – they are the glue that holds you together in tough times, eat, sleep and exercise – they are the magic trifecta and make the most of your life – it really will end one day.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
This one is easy. The grace of other people’s mentorship, kindness, support, and generosity is the biggest contributor to my success.
What is your morning routine?
I usually get up around 7:30, have a cup of coffee (w ½ and ½), check my email and text for anything urgent and depending on the day, exercise and then dress, or just go right to dress. During the pandemic, I will admit to a number of days spent in my PJ’s.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
I learned this decades ago and pretty much these are the habits I follow:
Show up and deliver on time
If you can’t be on time or deliver on time let the other person know asap
Do what you say you will do
Say what you mean
Do the right thing
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
While I am not perfect at this (who is?) I’m actually pretty good in this area. If I’m having trouble focusing, I use a timer and set it for 15 minutes to work on the item – no interruptions. That usually gets me in the groove. I also make lists. Lots of lists. I’m big on getting things out of my head and onto a computer or paper. Finally, I don’t sit all day to work, I stand at intervals and work. As a matter of fact, I’m typing this standing at my desk, looking out over Central Park. Lastly, I try to get out and ride a horse once a week. It keeps me sane.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
That is a hard question to answer since I have found so much inspiration, wisdom, and even solace in books over my lifetime. I would have to say that the novel Love in The Time of Cholera by Gabriel Marquez has stayed with me. It’s the first time I had read a book and realized that language could be transformative. The way Marquez uses words in the novel is breathtaking. On the more practical side, the book Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl has had a definite impact. Continuing to remind myself that we each can bring our own “meaning” to who we are and what we do is essential.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
Yes… “Do The Right Thing.”