LeaderLuncheon profile: Bettina Mehnert

40th Annual LeaderLuncheon  |  June 14, 2017  |  12:00-1:30pm  |  Sheraton Waikiki

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Bettina Mehnert was AHL’s first female principal, director, and Chief Operating Officer, and in 2013, became the firm’s first female president and CEO. Under her guidance, AHL elevated its reputation as a high-tech firm and earned an international award for its innovative design of the Walgreens flagship store. The German native also helped spearhead AHL’s 1% Pro Bono program, which donates 1% of its hours to a design or planning project for local nonprofits. In her spare time, Bettina serves on the Board of Directors for YMCA Honolulu and PBS Hawaii, and is a trustee for St. Andrew’s Schools. In addition to her many individual awards and honors, Bettina was recently recognized as a Fellow in the American Institute of Architecture.

Q & A with Bettina Mehnert

What types of qualities make a good leader?

-    As a leader I believe you need to have patience when dealing with people to help them understand and appreciate decisions and circumstances, as well as giving them time to grow.

-    You need grit. Some things require extra effort and determination.

-    Courage and accountability. You need to be able to make a decision and commit to it. You also need humility and courage to admit and adjust when things don't go as planned.

-    And finally, passion. Liking, loving what you do comes across to other people and helps both your clients and your staff.

What has helped you become a more effective leader?

Patient mentors, and a good degree of impatience with myself.

Name a woman leader who inspires you and explain why.

Zaha Hadid, who was the first woman to win the most coveted prize in architecture, the Pritzker prize. She was extraordinarily intelligent, sophisticated and a true pioneer of contemporary design. Architecture is still a field of predominately men, and she showed how gender could fade into the background if it was systematically taken out of the equation in favor of an appreciation of sheer talent. 

I cried when she died last year. She continues to inspire me with her courage of convictions and her vision of leadership.

What was your dream job growing up?

I always wanted to be a jockey and race horses. Being outside, being close to one of my favorite animals, working with them all day, and …. Racing. It sounded heavenly.

Then I grew too tall.

What’s one of the best pieces of advice you’ve ever received?

“If you didn't get what you wanted, you didn’t try hard enough.” and “No matter what you do, you need to be able to sleep at night.” 

As a woman leader, what can you advise others to do to help each other or help the next generation of women leaders?

-    I believe that the single most important thing women can do is to support each other. Help each other professionally, personally and emotionally. There's a lot to be said for the benefits of what uses to be the "old boys network." Women should learn from that.  The book, Broad Influence by Times correspondent Jay Newton-Small describes how the women in the past administration banded together to make sure they were at the right meetings and found the courage to open the door to portals of power.  That concept is still applicable.

-    Don't take things personally. Business decisions aren't personal - they're business.

-    Ask questions and speak up. Women are often more considerate and as a result can appear less of a power player. Communicate!

LeaderLuncheon honors women for the contributions they have made to their professions and in their community.  Join us in supporting Hawaii’s commitment to the advancement of women leaders by attending the 2017 LeaderLuncheon. To purchase tickets or for more information, call 695-2620 or click on the button below.