Library Leadership

13. Kym Cadle founder of Pure Ambition

In July 2018, a Forbes op-ed column argued that libraries should be replaced by Amazon to ‘save taxpayer’s money’, which led to an outcry that resulted in the article ultimately being taken down.

Our host, Adriane Herrick Juarez, reached out to Kym Cadle founder of Pure Ambition, a consulting company that believes living and leading with intention is paramount to creating the change that our current times demand.

Kym has taken teams that are experiencing cascades of rapid growth to rates of even higher success through building capacity for mindfulness and emotional intelligence.

In this interview, she turns her attention to libraries to suggest ways for creating the capacity to deal with unprecedented pace in a way that is intentional and informed by values.

We can all be involved to transcend stressors through a process of awareness, attention, intention, and action. Kym likes to say, “We can’t stop the wave, but we can learn to surf.” Listen as he shares ways to create dynamic outcomes by taking this stance. Kym can be reached at


This podcast is brought to you by the School of Library and Information Management from Emporia State University, where library leaders are created—with program sites in Kansas, Utah, Oregon, Colorado, and South Dakota. And, by the Park City Library, making film and podcasting possible with green screen, and sound recording resources.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Recently Forbes published, then took down a controversial article, an op-ed arguing that libraries are a waste of taxpayer money and should be replaced by Amazon stores. As library leaders, how do we respond?

On today’s show we talk with Kim Cadle, the founder of Pure Ambition Consulting about how to respond to this issue with intention.

Hi, Kym.

Kym Cadle:

Hi, Adriane, thanks for having me, great to be here.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #1: It’s a pleasure. Can you tell me about your background, and what brought you to mindful leadership as a critical competency for today’s leaders?  01:07 

Kym Cadle:

I’ll start with what Pure Ambition does and how I landed here. Pure Ambition is a coaching and consulting firm. We’re really focused on enabling mission-driven organizations to reach their next level of impact. We do this through leadership development, and organizational design that—one, recognizes everyone as a leader regardless of title, and two, activates capacity for presence, authentic voice, and courageous action, which we found to be key levers for high performing teams.

My background comes from a mix of marketing and operations leadership in the fast food industries. A pivotal part of my journey that brought me to this space and time was having responsibility for the contact center function at a time when most organizations were doing automated call routing and the off-shore trend was really hot. And yet, we were committed to keeping the customer experience. That meant retaining these services in-house. So, subscribing to the philosophy that employee engagement leads to customer engagement, that led to a passion for understanding organizational culture, and what creates thriving workplaces and high-performing teams. 

I’m really excited about some of the tools and assessments that we use to help organizations to transcend to the next level of impact. My full leadership model really, is a critical competency. If you think about—there are three key things that led me to this model and our work: one was my own leadership journey, and understanding again, the levers that create successful leaders and teams; a second is something you can certainly relate to—most people I speak with, which is the 24/7 always-on global environment that’s digital, and hijacking our attention, thus the ability to connect in human need to thrive is critical.

And then, working with clients in the past five years and understanding their particular obstacle and stressors. What is a repeatable path to create the outcomes that they’re after? Really at the heart of it is emotional intelligence development. If you look at the definitions of mindfulness and emotional intelligence you’ll see that they’re pretty close. They’re interchangeable, almost. So, building that mindfulness leads to more emotionally intelligent leadership.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #2: Definitely. And we had something happen just over the last weekend where there was a suggestion in a prominent magazine that libraries could be replaced by Amazon. So this engagement—can you tell me more about that? 03:37

Kym Cadle:

I think that’s where things are going as we can do everything with technology. What’s really fascinating to me about all of that is if you look at the technology companies, the leaders in the platforms that are robbing our attention, such as social media, and texting and all of those things, Salesforce, Google, FaceBook—they all have a large investment in mindful leadership practices. The reason why is because they see the risk that is at stake when we both fall-in on technology and lose that human element.

If you think about Amazon replacing the library, the library is more than just an information exchange. It’s a place where people can come together and really connect in community and that’s where innovation, and inclusivity, and compassion, and empathy come from. They are just really critical to our—I loved how Elon Musk terms it, which is, How are we going to keep humans relevant in the space of artificial intelligence and technology and the more technical aspects of work being automated? It really is all through this emotional intelligence and mindful connection. And again, its inherent, human basic needs.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #3: Absolutely, and that is a place where libraries have been for a very long time and will continue to be. So, from this what kind of things come to the forefront as ideas for solving some of the challenges that libraries are experiencing today?  05:15 

Kym Cadle:

Interesting. The model itself that we’ve developed from working with individuals and organizations—again, looking at what creates the shifts that are needed to show up in this new way our current environments demand, is there are four steps to the model. The hardest of all of them, for me included, is to just hit the pause button. Before taking action, just get present. 

We do a lot of work with individuals and teams to heighten that capacity as digital distractions and inner dialogue tends to take over. Just becoming present—and then from there we look at the space between that. There’s two stages—attention, and intention. 

Attention is, now that we’re present what’s really important here? What’s the truth of what’s taking place? Just like with the Forbes article, it sounds like there was a big reaction to that. How can we show up in a way that connects and meets the space where it is?

Then we drop into our intentions. What’s our key purpose? Why am I here having this conversation, or in this relationship, or doing this work, and what’s the impact I want to create? How do my values inform that next step?

Once that’s all present and called into the space then we take action, which is then more informed, aligned, and again, focused on core impact and intention, rather than reactive, which is another thing that we’re seeing as we’re moving so quickly. Then in this attention deficit world—our ability to just not react is also being compromised. 

So, awareness, attention, intention, and action. What’s really cool about this is by practicing this path we actually start to create and build some new neural pathways. Just like any muscles that we’re building, it’s a habit that can be created overtime. So, you’ll start to notice it yourself in it, and actually showing up differently. Then experiencing different outcomes that can result from practicing it.

Your question was what are some of the things that are outcomes from taking the stance. There’s a number of things—one is the significant time of transformation that libraries are facing, and being able to create some capacity for change, which has always been true, right? Since I started my career, I don’t want to say how many years ago, [laughter] the only thing we can count on is change. It has been happening at a pace that has been unprecedented. Developing a skill set to counter that, that allows us to become more resilient, agile in the moment and pivot, which is the key requirement is an important outcome.

Neuroscience actually backs that up. When we can practice mindfulness, and build our emotional intelligence, it actually creates a level of self-trust. Then interpersonal relationships allow for our ability to trust what’s happening in our environment, and transcend some of the stressors.

The quote that I love is, You can’t stop the wave, but you can learn to surf. That’s what we’re really talking about here. I would ask you too, being a librarian, just what you see as some of the challenges that you’re facing and how can these things support that from your perspective?

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #4: Well, I agree completely that technology is one of the things that we’re dealing with everyday. We have always been information providers, but how quickly things are coming at us—the shift of the way we are seen, and staying relevant. When you get an article like the Forbes article that says, Do we even need libraries? Having this mindful way of dealing with it—not just reactive, but also being present, and being able to have that emotional intelligence to deal with it in a rational fashion. I think your model sounds perfect.  09:16  

Kym Cadle:

I like what you’re saying about being able to deal with it in a rational way. It’s not that we don’t respond, it’s that we look at, Okay, we’re being triggered in this moment—especially if you look at comments on online articles, it can be super disheartening how people speak to each other these days, even. [laugher] 

Having a moment to say, Okay, I’m triggered. Let me just be with that for a moment. That’s a real feeling, how do I want to respond? The other thing we can do is respond in a way that is a yes, and—instead of an either, or, yes, no, black, white response.

That opens up for innovation and possibility versus shutting people down, which I think is critical as we go through transformations. A lot of things we can liken to where libraries are. If we look at cameras, and film, to then smartphones, and the BlackBerry—the old days that I never imagined would become obsolete, to cabs and Lytf. How can an industry, if we want to call libraries an industry, shift with it versus fight change?

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #5: Exactly, and it’s happening in business. It’s happening in government. It’s happening in libraries. You’ve worked with a lot of organizations, and it sounds like, had great success with the leadership training that you provide. So, when you see your model applied in various organizations, what have been the results?  11:06 

Kym Cadle:

There’s three areas that this touches on. It also aligns with the emotional intelligence framework which says that we start with self. Once we can become our self-aware and self-managed better, then we can become more socially aware, and have better relationship management. At the end of the day it’s always about people, no matter what.

When we do this work in organizations what we tend to see at the individual level is a higher level of engagement—connection to the great purpose versus getting caught up in the day-to-day dilemmas. Why am I here? What’s the purpose of my work? Why do I care about this? Which leads to intrinsic motivation, and accountability, and behaviors and outcomes, which I think is a real important part of this work. Also, we try to work with victimization, and help everybody see that, Yes, they are a leader regardless of title and they are responsible for their experience. How do they take ownership of that and show up in a way that embraces the environment versus—fights it. 

At the team level we see people coming together for better collaboration because they’re having real conversations. Vulnerability is also a critical component of this work in allowing people to bring their whole self to work and have psychological safety to do so. So things can move forward in a way that’s non-political and can really become a place of partnership, which leads to heightened trust. So less silos, better cross-functional relationships. Everyone sees themselves on the same team versus competing for resources or attention, or whatever those particulars may be in an organization. 

Then if you raise that to the third level, which is the organizational level of the culture—this all moves into a high trust mission-driven, inclusive space, that allows everyone to have a voice to contribute and belong, which at the end of the day that’s what humans really want and need. That’s a path to, if we want to get to the end game—higher performance. If you look at the KPIs of the organization, whether that’s lower turnover, or higher productivity, better customer experience—those are the metrics that you watch to see what’s shifting. And then going back to say, Ok, what are the exact practices that are shifting that? That’s what we want to do more of, and in this culture maybe not as necessary. The other thing is customization all the way through, and the ability to pivot in this work as an organizational culture calls for it.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #6: We have so many incredible people in libraries who care very deeply about the mission of what we do, and those voices are important as we evolve and move forward. So, I like what you’re saying about getting everybody at the table, and no matter where you sit in the organization, being involved.   14:05 

Kym Cadle:

I think that something a lot of organizations miss out on—and what I really love and have always loved throughout my career about my work, is really empowering the frontlines of the organization so that they can, again, bring their best selves to work. They know better than anyone what’s going to solve the issues because they’re closest to the experience that the customer, the community, or the patron is having. Not bringing them into the conversation is actually pretty arrogant, quite frankly [laughter] because I think they know best. They know best.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Right, and it’s a process of continual development.

Kym Cadle:

And if you leave them out what happens is that shuts them down. So you have the opposite impact, because that is where disengagement really thrives.Then you’re creating the opposite impact on your patrons than what you’re after because that person is not there. 

That’s that philosophical approach I mentioned at the beginning—you start with employee engagement and then volunteer engagement for sure also, and that leads to the engagement of the patron, and the community.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #7: Definitely. I think it’s safe to say that our listeners are very interested in leadership, very interested in making positive outcomes in their organizations, and this requires continually improving ourselves, and working with our colleagues to make our mission important. Do you have recommended reading on leadership that relates to transformation and can you share that with us?  15:50 

Kym Cadle:

I have so many books that I could recommend. [laughter] My go-to, number one—it gets back to it starts with the self, and then we move outward is a book called, Leadership and Self-Deception. It’s written by the Arbinger Institute. It’s not one author, it’s a group of authors. It is really powerful in terms of again, how do we become responsible for the environment and show up in a way that steps-up. It doesn’t wait for others, but it also realizes what’s our part, because we’re all creating the culture, no matter what. Every action has an impact. If we can all start, just with anything, right? …in our community, in our neighborhood, in our own families, at work with, What are the actions I’m taking? It can be pretty mind-blowing how the space around you starts to shift. You’ve been waiting for everybody else to change when you realize, Wow, I could change that would actually invite a different experience for everyone. That would be my top. 

Another thing I would recommend is Simon Sinek. He’s a thought leader in intrinsic motivation within organizations. He has a great TED Talk. It’s one of the top five ever watched. It’s about really starting with why first. Then how, which is the values piece. It’s a great reminder of how great leaders inspire action among their teams. 

Gallup does some amazing work on the state of the American workplace. I know libraries are not probably included in the research, and yet it’s still completely relevant. They publish every two years. They just published some really compelling data again about empowering everyone within the organization, even these top-down, hierarchical environments that just don’t work anymore. So, how do we adapt the workplace to meet what’s going on, culturally in our society?

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #8: Those sound like great resources. Thank you. Anything else you’d like to share with us, Kym?  17:58

Kym Cadle:

At the end of the day this really is about supporting teams doing work that matters. Libraries certainly fit into that. I think the only thing I would say is that it’s all about the path to presence, authentic voice, encouraging activation, and finding more ways to continue to hone that. The key thing would be that we make up that it’s a lot harder than it is. I like to say that it’s simple, not easy, but if we can just slow it down, invest a little bit of time—it’s really pretty phenomenal, the up-side that can result. It’s always a good time to start. A lot of times organizations will say, When we get done with this project, when this happens, and yet things are moving so fast that just investing a small amount of time can have considerable up-side. Transcend the culture within the library.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #9: In closing, I know you’re working with libraries—what does this mean to you? 19:00

Kym Cadle:

From a personal standpoint I come from traditional organizations—I didn’t talk about it on the front-end, but I ended up moving after running operations for many years into social responsibility work. That moving tied into my personal passion for sustainable lifestyle, and the knowledge that business and government have the most opportunity to shift  where we’re headed. If my work can support work that matters, and libraries certainly fit that passion for me, it’s just a game-changer. It’s where my passion and my heart thrives. That would be my connection there. Anything that can enhance the community experience and make for better experiences for everyone, I’m all in.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #10: It makes us all better. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. We covered a lot of content today, and Kym do you want to tell us where we can learn more from you?  20:02 

Kym Cadle:

My website is My email—feel free to reach out, is, and at #pureambition on Twitter.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Well, we’re so fortunate you’re doing this work. Thank you so much, and thank you for being on the show today.

Kym Cadle:

Oh, my gosh it was my pleasure, thank you for giving me an opportunity to talk with you and share with your audience.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Kym, thank you for your insights, we hope this has been helpful for library leaders across the country. 

You’ve been listening to Library Leadership Podcast. This is Adriane Herrick Juarez. For more episodes tune into where you can now subscribe to have monthly updates delivered right into your email inbox. Our producer is Nate Vineyard. Thank you for listening. We’ll see you next time.

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