FOUNDER AND CEO | SIMPLIPHI POWER
Catherine Von Burg, founder and CEO of SimpliPhi Power, a California technology company that manufactures innovative energy storage solutions to seamlessly integrate with solar, wind, or grid power for the residential, commercial, utility, and disaster relief markets globally. She is committed to the transformation of the power grid and creating universal access to renewable energy by leveraging distributed energy storage, and advocates for equitable, safe and affordable energy for all.
This interview was originally published in The Global Power & Energy Elites 2021.
WHAT’S THE BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ THIS YEAR?
A Finer Future: Creating an Economy in Service to Life by Hunter Lovins. She is an extraordinary woman, activist, author, business and policy advisor, professor and speaker. The book is a valuable compendium of data, research and historical references that help us understand how we arrived at this pivotal moment in the climate crisis and the steps we can take to reverse its course.
WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES A SUCCESSFUL LEADER?
Passion, compassion and dedication.
Passion about the ‘Why?’ The bigger objective with a long-term view. Compassion that engenders empathy and the ability to see another’s point of view and create common ground, even when opinions are diametrically opposed to your own. Dedication that drives the tenacious pursuit of a mission with underlying principles and values, even in the face of enormous pressure.
Some of the greatest leaders have been scrappy and – very often – they have come from humble beginnings with significant hardship. For me, the sacrifice and dedicated work required to overcome hardship and struggle to achieve one’s goals and objectives is fertile ground for developing leadership skills, particularly the ability to adapt proactively, take calculated risks and engage people for high impact with a sense of purpose.
I have European parents with very different socio-economic backgrounds. As a result, I grew up in Europe and the US, living in a perpetual state of change, adapting to different cultures, schools and communities in both urban and rural areas. There were periods of great privilege with private schools, but also years punctuated by extreme poverty. These seemingly irreconcilable contrasts for me growing up gave me a perspective that still informs who I am today. The same goes for having an international upbringing.
My team often hears me say: who we are as people infuses everything we think, feel, and do. Our individual core values and beliefs are as essential to our professional lives as they are to our personal lives. That is where the magic happens. I believe it’s important as a leader to be able to connect with people on that very human, fundamental level in order to have them rally around a cause or an objective.
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