ATHENA Leadership Virtue: Relationships

The York County Economic Alliance recently launched their new Professional Women's Alliance (PWA) to share resources that celebrate, support, promote, and advance the success of women in business. The PWA's first event was a luncheon featuring past ATHENA recipients who spoke about the individual virtues that make up the ATHENA Leadership Model. They have graciously agreed to share their perspectives here, as well.

By: Debra Goodling-Kime

“There’s very little you do in business or in the world that isn’t about relationships.” (Maureen Kempston Darkes of GM)

Relationships...We all have them; with neighbors, family, friends, co-workers, bosses, spouses, even our pets. 

We know when a relationship is good – we can get back together with someone we haven’t seen in ages and fall right back into a comfortable conversation, feeling like no time has been lost. 

In the book, Becoming ATHENA by Martha Maywood Mertz, the relationship principle is defined as:

            “Connecting genuinely with those around you. A willingness to bond with others, profoundly and productively, with trust and respect; to reach beyond status and self-interest in search of meaningful connections. Leaders engage, empower, and trust.”

The words that speak to me most about this definition are: 

Genuinely – We are not called to simulate relationships, YouTube-style. Nor to profess relationships with no walk behind the talk.

BondProfoundly and productively – We are not called to approximate relationships, going through the motions at a distance, safe from entanglement or risk.

With trust and respect … Beyond status and self-interest. 

ATHENA leaders are open to relationships from all points of origin. They don’t seek solely to “relate up,” to connect only with people who share or can raise their status. 

Nor do ATHENA leaders instigate relationships just to rack 'em up: more names in a contact file, more friends on a Facebook page.

ATHENA summons leaders to the demanding work of building relationships. 

Think about it - GOOD builders are exacting, patient, and in it for the long haul. They earn the callouses on their hands. They stand by what they create.

There is also an ART to building and maintaining relationships. They require: 

  • Sensitivity
  • Creativity
  • Attention to detail
  • And TIME  

I believe we build trust - and relationships - by retaining our humility, meeting others where they are in their journey, and making a difference in their lives. 

I don’t always do it well, but I try to give my best to others. I strive to leave every interaction having learned something from the other person and leaving something of value behind. Good relationships don’t happen overnight – they take time and effort to build and maintain. 

You never really know how you will impact others you come in contact with. All you can do is give of yourself and work hard to make a difference in others’ lives, no matter their status or income or color of their skin or ethnicity. Relationships are really all about them, not you. 

In closing, I’d like to share two quotes. 

Barbara Bush said, “Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people – your family, friends, and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way.”

And, from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”


Debra Goodling-Kime has been honored with various awards for her leadership, including Alumnus of the Year at York College, one of the Top 50 Women in Business in Pennsylvania, and Central Penn Business Journal's Forty Under 40. Deb started as a teller at Drovers Bank and was eventually promoted to Executive Vice President and CFO. She left the organization after 24 years and went on to work at Shipley Energy in the finance function and as president of the Tom’s Store chain for 2 years. She then returned to banking, working in various sized banks in the region and then consulting with small banks, primarily in Maryland. She currently serves as CFO of Community Progress Council, York’s Community Action Agency. She received the ATHENA International Leadership award in 1996. She is a 1984 graduate of Leadership York's Leadership Training Program.


The ATHENA Leadership Award® was inspired by the goddess of Greek mythology known for her strength, courage, wisdom and enlightenment - qualities embodied in the ATHENA Leadership Model®. The ATHENA Leadership Award® is presented to a woman - or man - who is honored for professional excellence, community service, and for actively assisting women in their attainment of professional excellence and leadership skills. Nominations for the York County Economic Alliance ATHENA Award are being accepted until November 18, 2016.