Phoenix Business Journal's Most Admired Leaders 2023: Daniel Stellar

2023 Most Admired Leader honorees share their leadership strengths, challenges they have faced in their career and how to maintain work-life balance.

Phoenix Business Journal's Most Admired Leaders 2023: Daniel Stellar

What is the mission of your organization/company? The Nature Conservancy's mission is to conserve lands and waters that are essential for all life. We are a non-governmental international organization dedicated to long-term conservation solutions that benefit both people and nature.

Since when have you been working in Phoenix? Since 2016.

What do others think is your greatest strength as an individual leader? As a leader I'm committed to making sure that others are credited for the success of our organization, but I'm not afraid to accept personal responsibility when mistakes happen or work doesn't go according to plan. My willingness to take difficult decisions is probably my biggest strength. I spend a lot of time in my organization developing leaders. I am the executive sponsorship of The Nature Conservancy's Young and Emerging Professionals. I want to encourage younger generations to discover leadership opportunities, so that they can contribute positively to our organization or their future career paths.

Which leadership style do YOU find the least effective? In general, leadership styles that involve unilateral decision-making seem to be the least effective. In some situations, like a crisis situation, it's necessary to be more direct. However, I find that leadership styles which empower others to take decisions are more effective.

What was the most challenging part of your career? How did you overcome it? It was challenging to take on my new role at the height the pandemic in 2020. It was difficult for me to not be able meet my staff, donors, partners and trustees personally during the first year of my role. Zoom was a great tool for a lot of things, but it wasn't the best way to develop relationships. Recognizing these challenges, I spent more time than usual to build and maintain these relationships.

It is important to maintain a balance between work and life. What do you do to recharge? I am a runner who has completed more than 30 marathons, a half-marathon, and other long-distance events. For me, maintaining an exercise regimen is essential to recharge. Meditation is also very helpful to me in managing a job that can be highly stressful. I also take advantage of my flexible schedule. It's easier to work long days knowing that I can go running in the middle of the day.

What would you ask a notable person, past or present? My favorite leadership book is "American Icon", about Alan Mulally's time as CEO at Ford Motor Company. I would like to tell him about my job and ask for his advice or suggestions. As my entire team knows, I'm a huge Springsteen enthusiast. I would love to have Bruce join me for a beer!

What is the best advice that you did not take? My undergraduate degree in philosophy was followed by my graduate degree in environmental policy and global affairs, both liberal arts degrees. Some people have advised me to get a more technical degree. Although I believe this advice is usually good, I am glad I chose to be a generalist. The combination of writing skills and critical thinking has really helped me in my career.