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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Chief Operating Officer Kendra Klink stands next to a Duesenberg at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum.
In the lead/Kendra Klink

In the Lead: Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum executive Kendra Klink driven to learn

ACD Museum executive values willingness to be challenged

Signs at the ACD Museum let visitors know what they can see now – and what they’ll see in the future.

Kendra Klink is no cheerleader.

But her brother, Simon, means that in the best possible way.

His sister doesn’t simply offer a rousing pep talk to motivate others to tackle tough jobs, Simon said.

“If she asks you to stay late and work hard, she’ll stay later and work harder,” he said about his sister, who’s four years older.

Simon Klink, who lives in Washington and works for the Defense Department, said some people might be lulled into thinking Kendra is a pushover because she’s so nice.

But, he said, the Auburn woman who describes her siblings and her parents as her best friends knows how to lead and how to get things done.

“She’s definitely a tough cookie,” Simon Klink said.

Name: Kendra Klink

Title: Chief operating officer for the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum in Auburn

Age: 34

Family: Her parents, Mike and Deb Klink, live in Auburn. She also has two sisters – Kristen and Jessica – and a brother, Simon.

What community groups have you been involved with in a leadership capacity? Klink was invited this year to serve on the Fort Wayne Youtheatre board. She also volunteers with the Auburn Arts Commission, the Auburn Presbyterian Church and contributes a quarterly column on innovative marketing techniques for the National Association of Automobile Museums.

What is your most recent accomplishment? Klink’s promotion to chief operating officer in May was a career highlight. And considering the frenzy that descends on Auburn every Labor Day weekend with the annual car auction, she believes surviving that onslaught was also worth celebrating.

What makes a leader effective? “Honesty is a huge one,” Klink said. When leaders are honest, the public gains confidence in an organization and workers develop faith in decision-making, she said. A sense of humor is also important.

An effective leader can look at adversity and stay positive, which projects confidence to others. Staff is less likely to panic when the website crashes, for example, if the leader remains calm in a crisis.

What leadership traits do you value most? “Being able to ask questions and listen to people’s responses” is important, Klink said. A leader can make an organization stronger if that person is open to receiving constructive criticism.

Klink also appreciates when leaders are prepared for meetings. It allows them to make meaningful contributions to the discussion, she said. And Klink values a willingness to be challenged. Those who aren’t satisfied by past accomplishments drive themselves to improve, she said.

What is the best leadership book you’ve read? “The Servant: A Simple Story about the True Essence of Leadership,” by James C. Hunter, encouraged Klink to deal with people with a caring and respectful attitude.

The book’s main character appears to be happy but doesn’t feel inner peace, she said. He learns about love, service and sacrifice while attending a seminar at a Benedictine monastery.

What are the best ways to overcome self-doubt? Klink relies on the support of her family, friends and mentor. They’ve encouraged her, challenged her and provided constructive criticism.

How do you manage your time? “I am a huge list-maker,” Klink said. She keeps her notebook and color-coded calendar with her at all times.

“And who doesn’t like to strike something off a list once you’ve got it done?” she asked, laughing.

Who are your role model(s) and why? Klink cited Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Eleanor Roosevelt as role models who overcame great hardships and made great contributions to American society.

Bader Ginsberg grew up in poverty but became the first female member of the prestigious Harvard Law Review and, of course, a U.S. Supreme Court justice. Roosevelt was a shy child whose parents died by the time she was 11. She went on to become first lady when her husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was elected president of the United States.

“I always find myself inspired by the underdog,” Klink said.

Describe one leadership challenge and how you resolved it: Klink has risen through the ranks at the museum, accepting promotions that have made her the supervisor of people who used to be her peers.

Her relationships with her supervisors have also changed as they have transitioned into peers.

Klink has approached those changing dynamics by listening to employees’ concerns and working hard to prove herself.

“Over time, I think I’ve (earned) the respect of my co-workers. And they always have my respect,” she said. “It’s just a difficult situation to trudge your way through.”

What are your goals? “I always have a huge list of goals,” Klink admitted. At the top of the list? She wants to become executive director of a nonprofit organization.

Klink discovered her love for nonprofits between her second and third years of law school.

“I realized you can do good things as a career,” she said.

Klink, who spent a few years working for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Indiana in Indianapolis, decided to return to Auburn to live near family and work at the world-class auto museum, which is a national historic landmark.

The 34-year-old would also like to keep learning – everything from earning additional advanced degrees to crocheting. She loves fashion and crafting.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? Klink spends time with her family, friends and two goddaughters, Elise, 9, and Ella, 7.

She likes to travel, shop at garage sales and make crafts with her mom.