top of page
March 9, 2023

Leading by Listening: Kendra Keller Wins ARMA’s Executive of the Year

Kendra Keller was recently named Executive of the Year by the Austin Regional Manufacturers Association. We sat down with Keller to learn more about her leadership style, the challenges 2022 posed, and what she’s most looking forward to this year.

Leading by Listening: Kendra Keller Wins ARMA’s Executive of the Year

For Kendra Keller, 2022 was the ultimate endurance test.

As Vice President and General Manager of North America at Dover Fueling Solutions®, Keller began the year by navigating the continued fallout of the pandemic and the business hurdles it created. Then, in March, a more immediate challenge emerged: A series of tornados hit south central Texas, including the Austin campus of DFS. Buildings were damaged, and critical networks went down.

The outlook seemed bleak. Yet within just four days, DFS was back up and running with minimal disruption to their customers and employees.

How did such a trying year become a successful test of DFS’ resilience?

Keller is a big part of the equation. With more than 11 years with DFS, she has made critical decisions that have allowed the company to prosper during the pandemic, supply chain crisis and other macro-economic conditions that have existed while continuing to prepare for other challenges ahead.

On February 23, Keller was honored with the Austin Regional Manufacturers Association’s Executive of the Year Award. The award recognizes an executive who has met business challenges with thoughtful and demonstrably successful leadership. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Keller to learn more about her thoughts on receiving the ARMA award, her reflections on her career, and her vision for DFS.

Question: How does it feel to be honored by ARMA?

Last year was truly challenging, and I had moments of questioning whether I was doing things right or making a difference. To get an award like this after such a tough year feels uniquely gratifying and affirming. Also, I’m excited by our partnership with ARMA to learn about other companies and their decision-making processes.

Question: How would you characterize yourself as a leader? What’s your leadership style?

Above all, I think I’m an empathetic leader. I truly care, and I listen. At the same time, I hold people accountable and have high standards for my team. But I make it clear to them that I’m here both to support them and collaborate with them. For me, collaboration is critical. Leadership isn’t about prescribing solutions; it’s about working toward them together. Clarity is important to me too. I try to be unambiguous and to the point.

Question: Reflecting on 2022, is there a moment you’re particularly proud of?

Dealing with the tornado in March is the first thing that comes to mind. The fact that all of our employees were safe and we were able to get production back up and running within days — that helped show me that the worst imaginable event can help bring folks together with a renewed sense of purpose. And on a personal level, the fact that we were able to close out 2022 with extremely high employee engagement and execution, despite the year’s setbacks, makes me proud.

Question: As an executive in a largely male-dominated space, do you have advice for other female leaders?

No. 1: Why not? Just give it a shot! Earlier in my career, I thought I had to check all the proverbial boxes to achieve a role like the one I have now. And that’s just not true. I think more women deserve to feel a sense of courage to pursue roles that may, on the surface, seem like a reach. Often, they’re not. As women, I think we can occasionally be our own worst enemy. It’s all right to aim higher than you think you can land. A lot of the time that’s what your male counterparts are doing.

Leading by Listening: Kendra Keller Wins ARMA’s Executive of the Year

Question: How would you describe the culture of DFS, and how has it evolved since COVID? What role have you had in that change?

We have a great culture at DFS. It’s collaborative, we hold each other accountable, and we’re execution champions. But beyond that, we genuinely all like one another. And that’s rare. As far as COVID, I think the pandemic has helped us become more of a global company, because these days, it truly doesn’t matter where you are.

Reflecting on my role, I think and hope that I helped champion a more flexible and cross-functional working environment, especially through COVID. And I know I’ve never thought about employees more than during COVID — how to keep them safe, how to keep them motivated. So, on a personal level, the pandemic has shaped me into a more empathetic leader.

Question: What are your professional goals in 2023 and longer term?

I want to challenge myself to keep learning. At DFS specifically, I think we’ve had trying years since the pandemic, and I’d like to continue working to establish a sense of normalcy and stability here. Setting the business up for continued growth and success isn’t a next-year challenge; it’s something I want to do now.

Leading by Listening: Kendra Keller Wins ARMA’s Executive of the Year

Useful Links

bottom of page