Meet Kristen Merrifield
Kristen Merrifield is Chief Executive Officer of the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits in Phoenix. Kristen is a graduate of the ASU Lodestar Center for Next Generation Nonprofit Leadership Academy and also is a 2019 Connect Association 40-Under-40 class member. One of her greatest strengths is connecting people, companies and causes together for the greater good of the Phoenix community. Kristen is being recognized for:
- Connects genuinely with those around you.
- Willingly bonds with others, profoundly and productively with trust and respect.
- Reaches beyond status and self interest in search of meaningful connections.
“Leaders engage, empower and trust.”
This truly embodies Kristen’s leadership style. It has become the critical piece of why she has been able to grow into the leader she is today. Kristen says she is “often teased that she is the most ‘un-CEO CEO’ you will ever meet”. “I truly believe that we are all serving alongside each other, and that there shouldn’t be anything I ask my team to do that I am not willing to or have done myself. I believe in being accessible. I don’t believe that leaders should live in ivory towers, but should be available and interested in engaging with those we have been called to serve.”
For Kristen, who is an introvert, the thought of building relationships was previously something that made her want to run and hide. However, it was her work at the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce that gave her an insight into herself. “The beauty and art of relationships is in the building process. The most important thing about a relationship is the other person. I want to focus on getting to know them as a fellow human being and deepening our connection beyond just a single meeting or business deal.”
When asked about being an advocate, Kristen says that “Advocacy is really about giving voice. Often times people or groups feel that they don’t have a voice. In my role, we serve all of the nonprofit organizations that are in Arizona and there are 20,000 of them. We work on their behalf and advocate for the collective. The Alliance is able to ensure others can impact the community they serve. This is a very heavy responsibility but it is also a huge opportunity.”
When reflecting about her personal leadership journey, Kristen identified that her hardest lesson in life is facing the illusion that “You can have it all. I struggle with perfectionism but instead a more important lesson which is to live authentically. As young professionals, we sometimes feel that we have to fit in a certain mold and especially when we first become a leader and start to manage people. There is this self-imposed expectation to be a certain way or speak and act like another leader. I did that for a little while and I was so miserable. I didn’t know who I was. Then I realized I could be who I was and surrounded myself with other authentic ATHENA women. I realized being who I was made me a great leader.”
“My biggest lesson is that you can be yourself and you can be super successful by being yourself.”
Kristen has had the privilege to meet a variety of leaders from across the for-profit, nonprofit and government sectors. She has established long-lasting and meaningful relationships that have spanned multiple positions and organizations. She is a balanced, successful and graceful leader because of the incredible investment of multiple mentors who showed her how to be a great leader, to stand up for herself and her abilities while remaining committed to the incredible task of leading, engaging and impacting communities.