About Leda Karabela

Leda Karabela

Leda Karabela's career focus has been building alliances with and among institutional stakeholders, which spans 25 years of experience in international management, public affairs, strategic marketing and philanthropy. Her primary focus has been external audiences, such as opinion leaders, media, customers, and donors.

Today, she is bringing her executive experience into the field of coaching, realizing her passion for people, the ways they click and connect with each other, helping clients discover the power within them to improve their performance, effectiveness and reach. Having held responsibilities for global projects and working with virtual teams in multiple countries for Fortune 50 companies such as BP and Microsoft, she has also led the corporate relations program at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and has lived in Boston, San Francisco, London, Athens and Dubai.


Latest Posts by Leda Karabela

A Greek TEDx Talk: Optimism is About Being a Tom Sawyer Looking for a View of the World

April 30, 2013 by  

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I was asked to give a talk at TEDx Thessaloniki, I had mixed emotions. While I am infinitely curious, and passionately share TED’s “belief in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world,” this time I hesitated.

The city which I left more than thirty years ago rings a special emotional connotation with me – about roots, country, family and heritage and somehow the responsibility loomed even larger. Traveling all over the world, it’s easy to get lost in the anonymity of strangers and crowds but this city is somehow mine. No strangers here – even if I have never seen most of them in the auditorium before in my life. Contradictions, conflicts, regrets, pain of separations, so many farewells and unfulfilled promises of the prodigal daughter return.

And along with the agony and creative struggle of formatting the ideas in my head – came the language dilemma. In my bilingual life, I primarily write in English – as Greek is a luxury language for the non-Greeks. But as a presenter, the speaker’s primary responsibility is to the audience. You honor them; you give the talk for them and not for you. So, it was the shortest lived dilemma to figure out that my talk would be in Greek.

And now that the talk is on YouTube and until and if/when it gets subtitles, so many non-Greek friends cannot watch it. Huge debate about the language of marketing on this one. And is the TEDx talk a marketing and branding exercise? Views and likes and thumbs up/down and all that paraphernalia, it’s all about the audience in the end. And in the end, they, my Thessalonikian audience made my day – and for that I will be forever grateful.

An excerpt below:

How can we be optimistic when everything around us is falling apart? For Leda Karampela, optimism is not about being a Pollyanna overlooking the real facts but, rather, a Tom Sawyer opting for a certain point of view in perceiving the world. To achieve this, she claims, we need to change: reconsider our expectations, set realistic goals, infuse our life with positive feelings, build social networks, be grateful for what we already have and, last but not least, aim not to being good but to becoming better.

Helping sharp, intelligently curious people overcome barriers that may be keeping them from achieving more is what keeps Leda occupied. Having held responsibilities for global projects, traveling and working with both physical and virtual teams in multiple countries for companies such as BP and Microsoft, Leda is using her strategic communication and executive/leadership coaching experience to help organizations maximize their performance. Realizing her passion for people, the ways they click and connect with each other, she is helping clients improve effectiveness and reach. She has also led the corporate relations program at the Stanford Business School and has lived in Boston, San Francisco, London, Athens and Dubai. Inter/intra-cultural communication, expatriation and cross-cultural adjustment issues are among the areas she consults. She is also part of the coaching team at SupporTED program offering her support to the TED Fellows programme designed to bring together young world-changers and trailblazers who have shown unusual accomplishment and exceptional courage.

Inside TEDx Thessaloniki 2013: The Power of Syn (+)

April 18, 2013 by  

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tedxthessI don’t have any special talent. I am just infinitely curious.

I usually end up exploring and discovering and pushing the limits of my Marco Polo-ish spirit while TED has for years been one of my major accomplices. Inspiration, challenge, denial, acceptance and often awe at the simplicity and beauty of all those “riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.”

And now I humbly stand ahead of the challenge of being one of the speakers in my hometown’s TEDx event. 700 people in the Olympion auditorium with over 5,000 viewers from around the world through the webcast; over 2,000 applications to register for the event and a spirit of positive emotions that is slowly sweeping the city. This year’s theme  is the power of “syn.”

In a world full of divisions, polarities and extremism, the positive + sounded as the perfect emotionally cohesive glue amplifying synergy, synthesis, symbiosis. In my mini-terrorist comedian mode, I toyed with the idea of speaking about the power of “sin” – after all occasionally such delectable pleasure comes out of sinning.

But seriously: Seeing things from a positive perspective, being tough enough to resist the collective depressive state, and finding the strength to get up and try hard the things you do best and have that deeper meaning that lifts your soul – that’s what really matters.

So, that’s what I will talk about. And while the “blasé factor” increases exponentially with the degree of adversity, the “been there, done that, don’t need to pay attention to this or that” spirit takes us to the dark, fatalistic mindset. Can you shift and see things differently? Do you want to fight and live the way you really want to? And why are you really hesitating?

So, Exactly How Do You Create Innovation?

November 9, 2012 by  

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Innovation is a “seriously serious” and deliberate matter. Tons has been written, discussed, and debated on how to excite, tickle and grow that thirst for inside out creative and different kind of thinking.

But while Fast Company’s Innovation Uncensored event is taking place in San Francisco, the provocative, the unexpected and the meaningful are dancing a crazy dance with our imaginarium playpen.

So, how do you create innovation?

Daniel Lemarre, the president of Cirque du Soleil, once had someone hire a full-time clown to make sure he wasn’t getting too serious. “I’m the chief of clowns,” he said. “And I’m so happy.” And, come on now: Cirque du Soleil is the mother of all creative forces.

Here are some ways Lamarre tantalizes innovation: “You have to create an environment where people are stimulated. Sometimes in an organization, we try to be nice to each other, and there’s a lot of politics. We don’t like that. We like to create debates. It doesn’t matter if the idea comes from you or me, as long as the best idea prevails.”

Easier said than done? Think needs and wants. What you need is so much different than what you want. As Gallup Chairman Jim Clifton in his book,  The Coming of Jobs War says,  everybody’s been talking about Steve Jobs. But Steve Jobs wasn’t meeting needs; his company never met a need. Steve Jobs and his company created a need. Nobody knew they needed an iPhone. The same thing was true with the transistor and flight and Henry Ford’s mass production of cars. And looking back from the vantage point of today’s reality, all of these guys must have sounded like fools while sticking it out, acting like clowns while their ideas lit up the fire.

In the field of emotional economy or behavioral economics, it is acknowledged that human beings are not entirely rational. Best estimates are that approximately 70 percent of economic decision making is emotional, and 30 percent is rational. And what better way to go back to the circus, laugh and play with your inner clown and let the power of your ideas take over?..

British Airways and The Idiot Tax

May 8, 2011 by  

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How is it that so often life clashes with the great and brilliantly glorious ideas that occasionally pop through our brains? 

I am not necessarily referring to justice, world peace, bold dreaming, equality and all these noble and majestic uplifting nuggets of what we self-label brilliance and bright ideas that come to all of us from time to time.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if___________? (Fill in your own blank here). In such a happily creative and indisputably brilliant state I decided to buy myself a business class airline ticket. After all, what harm could possibly come out of that other than the negative growth of my bank account?

And in comes British Airways! I find their connections convenient, have thousands of accumulated miles, and for various questionably smart reasons I chose them to take me to my destination. So far so good, right?

Not so fast, am afraid, dear Watson….

Do you see what I mean? At first, I thought something was wrong with the on-line manage your booking system. Then, after the initial two second disbelief, I got it.

If I wanted to choose my seats, I’d have to pay $180 more!

I have to admit – this was one of my dumbest moments. After all,  Club World, is “a business class designed around me or so does the BA description claim. And yes, the privilege of flying business class comes with a much heftier price (maybe just the idiot tax in my case).

The airline industry is the success model for dynamic pricing – and yes, the alternative of stacked human sardines crammed for long-haul flights in uncomfortable and narrow spaces is to me the most persuasive argument. So, while I realize I have no alternative other than to pay the ransom of a higher price for certain health related benefits (such as no lower back pain, stiff neck, occasional deafness and hospital-like food displeasure), I get incessantly mad at the idea that I’d have to pay for everything in order to get on that plane.

So, what do you do? How do you react to something you consider illogical, outrageous, unfair or simply out of place? Yes, there is a choice: Pay or not pay; fly or not fly, do X or the opposite of X; try to find the alternative or simply find some sort of a compromise solution. In my incredulity, I made a vow not to pay the extra and go with the randomness of the last moment seat selection – but this is for this time only. Will I fly BA again? Will I tell people it’s a great way to fly to the west coast through Europe? Will I do all these nice customer loyalty things anymore? And the question is will BA (and any other airline out there ever care or listen?)

You know what? In the end, each one of us has to do what needs to be done. While the actions/reactions to any given event, obstacle, happening, injustice or random occurrence are taking place, our state of balance within our own self will naturally find its fine point. No, I am not happy with British Airways and other airlines in general. Neither is the majority of passengers who fly the friendly skies on a daily basis – and the airline industry is not the only culprit.

Yet, I go on with the business of my own business speaking up, letting it out, recognizing the symptom of the declining passenger service phenomenon and eventually moving on with my life and my trip. Do I feel better now that I shared the experience with all of you? Hell, yeah! Absolutely! So, go on spread the word, tell someone, do something. If nothing else, it makes you feel so much better.

PS: Please see British Airways comment/response via twitter: “We added paid pre-seating as an optional extra. You can still choose your seat for free from 24 hours before your flight.”

British Airways and The Idiot Tax

March 16, 2011 by  

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How is it that so often life clashes with the great and brilliantly glorious ideas that occasionally pop through our brains? 

I am not necessarily referring to justice, world peace, bold dreaming, equality and all these noble and majestic uplifting nuggets of what we self-label brilliance and bright ideas that come to all of us from time to time.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if___________? (Fill in your own blank here). In such a happily creative and indisputably brilliant state I decided to buy myself a business class airline ticket. After all, what harm could possibly come out of that other than the negative growth of my bank account?

And in comes British Airways! I find their connections convenient, have thousands of accumulated miles, and for various questionably smart reasons I chose them to take me to my destination. So far so good, right?

Not so fast, am afraid, dear Watson….

Do you see what I mean? At first, I thought something was wrong with the on-line manage your booking system. Then, after the initial two second disbelief, I got it.

If I wanted to choose my seats, I’d have to pay $180 more!

I have to admit – this was one of my dumbest moments. After all,  Club World, is “a business class designed around me or so does the BA description claim. And yes, the privilege of flying business class comes with a much heftier price (maybe just the idiot tax in my case).

The airline industry is the success model for dynamic pricing – and yes, the alternative of stacked human sardines crammed for long-haul flights in uncomfortable and narrow spaces is to me the most persuasive argument. So, while I realize I have no alternative other than to pay the ransom of a higher price for certain health related benefits (such as lower back pain, stiff neck, occasional deafness and hospital-like food displeasure), I get incessantly mad at the idea that I’d have to pay for everything in order to get on that plane.

So, what do you do? How do you react to something you consider illogical, outrageous, unfair or simply out of place? Yes, there is a choice: Pay or not pay; fly or not fly, do X or the opposite of X; try to find the alternative or simply find some sort of a compromise solution. In my incredulity, I made a vow not to pay the extra and go with the randomness of the last moment seat selection – but this is for this time only. Will I fly BA again? Will I tell people it’s a great way to fly to the west coast through Europe? Will I do all these nice customer loyalty things anymore? And the question is will BA (and any other airline out there ever care or listen?)

You know what? In the end, each one of us has to do what needs to be done. While the actions/reactions to any given event, obstacle, happening, injustice or random occurrence are taking place, our state of balance within our own self will naturally find its fine point. No, I am not happy with British Airways and other airlines in general. Neither is the majority of passengers who fly the friendly skies on a daily basis – and the airline industry is not the only culprit.

Yet, I go on with the business of my own business speaking up, letting it out, recognizing the symptom of the declining passenger service phenomenon and eventually moving on with my life and my trip. Do I feel better now that I shared the experience with all of you? Hell, yeah! Absolutely! So, go on spread the word, tell someone, do something. If nothing else, it makes you feel so much better.

Does it Matter if you are a Man or a Woman? Why Hesitate?

March 7, 2011 by  

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Following up on last week’s Feminists: Born or Raised post and being bombarded by more than my fair share of the Oscars, Natalie Portman’s pregnancy, and the Black Swan plot debate, I was pondering on the unavoidable stereotyping and labeling.

(You are wrong. This post will not be about feminism – guys, relax and read on.)

Expectations about women – pregnant women especially – are pretty much cast in stone. When someone pregnant stays on and continues her relentless pace, some people frown.

Characters like Black Swan’s Nina clearly show that the steep price of a woman’s success will be the death of her traditionally nurturing relationships; her sure stumble under the unbearable weight of her balancing act; and the final betrayal of her dreams and possibly that of her family as well.

In a 2010 study of the Center for Work-Life Policy, co-authors conclude: “It’s a classic catch-22: a woman’s personal choices, whatever they may be, brand her as not quite leadership material.”

Frankly, I am tired of such affirmations of female powerlessness.

All of us, men and women alike, are making thousands of choices on all kinds of different subjects. Men, equal to women, suffer the consequences of their ambitions, having their sons and daughters blame them for their absenteeism as some of them are growing up needing their fathers who are burning the midnight oil working hard at their jobs. While societal expectations are different for men, sometimes the burden of the preconditions ease the difficulty of the choices. Is there a point in looking back and questioning the options and the decisions we have all been making?

From the moment we leave our mom’s warm and cozy womb, slapped on our cute little behind to kick start our first independent breath to the moment we die, life’s full of sacrifices and that triple shot of compromise. There will always be second guessing, ambivalence and what ifs. But I fail to see the usefulness of looking back, assigning blame, guilt or regret – and most importantly – finding the differences, the cons, the negatives, the difficulties.

Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt when she turned back. Looking to the future and deciding on the next big (or small) thing you simply have to do gives you a better chance to your own future, your plan, your target.

Does it matter if you are a man or a woman? Why then hesitate?

Fortune Favors The Brave

March 5, 2011 by  

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Would this bring me a fortune?“Fortes Fortuna Juvat” The phrase means that Fortuna, the Goddess of luck, is more likely to help those who take risks or action.  The phrase was shouted by Turnus in Virgil’s Aeneid just before he was utterly destroyed by Aeneas’ Trojans.

But Latin is only a dead language to some, and this is not a linguistic exercise. It’s just that the phrase that took me back to my high school cramming days as exams were crashing down on my tender teen passionate soul and fervor for life. And it is only natural that I could not really grasp the marginal bump with Latin and its effect on my preparation for life and adulthood.

Little did I know back then, that everything you learn matters. Even if you don’t know why or how you are going to use the information – in the end, somewhere, somehow you are richer with the knowledge.

So, in my usual exploration detours and lost paradise trails, I devoured the Poke The Box workbook created by a team of brilliant folks to promote the Domino Project, the brainchild of Seth Godin, named after the domino effect— where one powerful idea spreads down the line, pushing from person to person.

Fortes Fortuna Juvat is in a quote in the workbook by Mary South – go check it out.

Disclaimer: I have no connection with Seth Godin or the Domino Project and I don’t get anything out of writing about this. I just love the boldness and brainpower of the enterprise. (These days one never knows).

Verbal Karate Lessons for Upcoming Feminists: Born or Raised?

March 2, 2011 by  

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Verbal karate lessons for upcoming feminists… Take a peak.

All delivered by a cute little girl who is no longer voting Barbie and Ken as couple of the year. I would love to keep track of her life and see her in a few years when she falls in love and the life dilemmas start crowding and clouding her vehemence and purity.

Will women in her generation break the mold or will they follow the paths taken by so many mothers, daughters, wives, girlfriends – professionals with their own choices and balancing acts? And what I also wonder.. will the men of her generation be different, as open or not?

Regardless, the influences will be there – as long as our own little girl ends up finding her balance, her own way of doing things and being independent enough to follow her heart and her dreams. One thing I am sure of: if she stays as determined, most likely the man she will end up falling in love with, again most likely, will respect her way of thinking. Ain’t love (and determination) grand?

PS: And I also wonder: did her mother do the same – not marrying before having a job first? What do you think?

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