Cathy Light has a passion, and she describes it in bold and with an exclamation point: “I’m a leadership crusader!”
She started watching leaders around her in high school. At 15, she worked after school at Fireside Savings and Loan as a mail clerk. She delivered mail to the bank president’s secretary every afternoon and one day, the secretary let her peek into the office. It was a beautiful room on the top floor, rich mahogany everywhere.
“I said to myself, ‘One day, I will have an office like this,’” Light says. “The rest is history.”
Since then, Light says she has either observed or worked for executives “who should not have been in their positions.” She worked for two executives who reported to Steve Jobs at Apple, and while Jobs was brilliant and forward-thinking, he wasn’t an inspirational leader.
“I saw new technology and innovation, but such a lack of leadership,” she says. “If we manage people, I feel it’s our responsibility to empower them so they go home happy, healthy and thriving.”
In 1998, Light started her first management advisory company, Business Builders LLC, and then four more companies after that. In 2009, she moved to Idaho and founded Liderança Group INC., a company that focuses on measuring “the total person: mind, will and heart.”
“We make sure they have the intelligence, willingness, desire and energy to do the job,” Light says. “We help all sized companies, whether they have five or five thousand: how can we help them have a healthier, happier workforce?”
The name of the company, Liderança, is Portuguese, but Light has Italian roots. Her mother emigrated to the United States from northern Italy in 1954. Light says she wanted to name her company the Italian word for “leadership,” but as that was “mafioso,” she settled for the word in Portuguese.
Another passion of Light’s is mentoring and helping in the community. She’s active with the Women’s and Children’s Alliance and hosts a yearly luncheon for 150 in her backyard called Hearts of Idaho to fundraise for them. Coming from a dysfunctional home herself, Light feels strongly about helping other women in difficult circumstances.
“It’s all about giving back and empowering other women to feel strong and worthy,” Light says.
This is Light’s second nomination for this honor, and she hopes this year’s will be happier. In 2012, when she was nominated for the first time, she had just learned that her brother had died unexpectedly. She remembers feeling numb when walking onstage to accept her award.
“I think this year would be a much better experience for me,” Light reflects. “Also, a lot has happened in the past four years that has led me to recover, reflect and grow personally and professionally.”
Light and her husband are the parents of a son, serving as a captain in the United States Army, and a daughter, who works on Wall Street. In her words, they both give back and make their world a better place.
As her company’s website says: “We power human capital.”
“Until I can’t do it anymore, that’s what I want to do: make companies better, one leader at a time,” says Light.o