It is curiosity that bridges the knowledge gap between what one currently knows and what one needs to know. It fuels a leader’s capacity to go the extra mile. Curiosity not only enables competence, but also helps navigate challenges. This trait elevates the leadership game. For a leader it serves as a means to expand knowledge, build relationships, seek alliances, and gain a deeper understanding of self and a way to succeed across different cultures. A profound leader, Kathleen Brandt, aptly exemplifies the phenomenon of curiosity by possessing the ultimate combination of an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a desire to make the world a better place. Driven by curiosity and a desire to make a difference, Kathleen began her career at CSX, a leading North American transportation company with a 21,000- mile rail network serving customers in 23 states, in 1985 as a software developer. She progressed through positions of increasing responsibility, across many functions within CSX Technology, gaining a unique perspective of railroad operations and eventually earning a leadership role as Senior Vice President of Technology and Chief Information Officer.
Inculcating Technology to Build Topnotch Solutions
According to Kathleen, technology is embedded in every aspect of modern railroading, playing an indispensable role in the industry’s constant evolution to become safer, more efficient and more service oriented. As a critical part of CSX’s transformative operating model that is driving unprecedented service to customers, technology enables the company’s progress toward reaching its strategic objectives. Now more than ever, technology is supporting CSX’s efforts to increase service agility, reliability, and – above all – safety. This creates a stimulating environment for tech development that draws people who are diverse, talented, innovative and seeking challenges. Kathleen’s leadership and strategic vision fuel her team’s delivery of exciting solutions for CSX, such as leveraging artificial intelligence for capacity planning; employing predictive analytics for engineering asset reliability and safety; and implementing progressive cyber security solutions that support workforce productivity.
CSX’s goal is to be the best railroad in North America, and Kathleen takes personal responsibility for developing talented innovators and delivering tools and best practices that advance the company toward that objective. Agility is her trademark approach in both technical value delivery and her professional leadership style. She leverages benchmarking, frequently communicating with leaders from various sectors, and then using their insights to identify opportunities to improve CSX’s systems and processes. She also partners with key business leaders, as well as leading suppliers, researchers and academia, to maintain a fresh perspective.
Empowering Women to Take the Charge
Kathleen is involved with many organizations that focus on encouraging and engaging the next generation of women in STEM. She is on the Board of Directors of Railinc, Northeast Florida Regional STEM2 Hub, and Dreams Come True. She also serves on the executive advisory board of the Jacksonville University Davis College of Business, is a sponsor for SOAR, and is involved with the National African American Women’s Leadership Institute and Women in IT. Kathleen encourages women to take risks in exploring new roles and stretch assignments that will help them advance their own professional development and careers.
Never Stop Learning
Kathleen has always had a thirst for knowledge that motivates her to seize opportunities to learn as much as possible about the business and her customers, and to create those opportunities when necessary. For any leader, continuous learning and a healthy dose of curiosity are paramount to success. This life-long pursuit of learning and growing – not just in your craft, but across many functions of business and industry – keeps leaders in touch and winning, she believes.
A Skill to Be Developed
Leadership requires effort. It is a skill developed through discipline, experience and humility. Kathleen embodies CSX’s leadership model, which defines key requirements of effective leaders. First, they must produce results, understanding that they must lead their teams to achieve aggressive objectives that deliver value for the company as a whole. Second, they must embrace change and actively foster a culture that rejects complacency and stagnation. Third, CSX leaders inspire excellence by setting a high bar and motivating their teams to create value.
Kathleen takes a service-oriented approach to business leadership. She advises emerging leaders to be consistent, follow through on commitments and meet deadlines. By consistently doing what they say they’re going to do, she believes, young leaders will prove their value over time. Moreover, aspiring leaders should strive to make a difference for their teams, colleagues and companies. They should focus on communicating to employees, clients and customers what’s in it for them, not what’s in it for the leader. Finally, emerging leaders should focus their energy on the things that truly add value and produce meaningful progress.