Helen Carroll never set out to be a leader. All she wanted to do was make a difference. So throughout her career, which for the past 20 years has been with Toyota, she watched for opportunities. When they came her away, she took advantage of them. She started with Toyota in public relations in Georgetown, Kentucky, where she helped build a program from the ground up. Now manager of community relations with Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, she has an impressive list of achievements.

In 2004, Carroll was named one of Northern Kentucky’s leaders of distinction. In 2005, she was named one of Northern Kentucky’s outstanding women. In 2007, she received the A.D. Albright Award for Outstanding Community Service to Education. She co-chaired the Northern Kentucky’s Vision 2015 Education Excellence Implementation Team. She is spearheading a community summit on education. She serves on college foundation and United Way boards. But Carroll is most proud of being only the third woman ever to chair the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors.

“Working with so many great community leaders, so many personalities, trying … to pull it all together for the best future for the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce — this opportunity was far and above anything I would have anticipated ever doing,” says Carroll, a Georgetown native who now lives in Florence. When she was first named a director to the chamber board seven years ago, she was very much in the minority. Now at least a third of the directors are women, a point in which Carroll takes particular pride.

“I had the opportunity to help place women on the board,” she says. “That was important to me. We still have a way to go, but it is much better than it was.” Her efforts have made the Northern Kentucky chamber one of the area’s leaders in having women representation on its board.

To further boost opportunities for area women, Carroll also established the Women’s Executive Peer Exchange Network, an 18-month program designed to develop women’s leadership skills.

Fellow employees at Toyota — and not just women — have also benefited from Carroll’s dedication to nurturing the professional development of others. She tells how she helped a talented young man from Puerto Rico, a summer intern at Toyota. “I knew it would be a huge mistake if Toyota let him get away,” says Carroll. “So I searched the company for opportunities for him. I am proud to say he has started his Toyota career in our New York office.”

This story illustrates what Carri Chandler, external affairs specialist with Toyota, notes about Carroll. “(She) … eagerly collaborates with others to achieve common objectives. Her infectious enthusiasm in achieving goals makes her leadership skills valuable to any organization or cause she lends herself to.” Perhaps that’s because Carroll has never been the kind of leader who thinks she knows it all. “I don’t think we should ever put ourselves in a position where we cannot learn from someone else, no matter what that person’s level is within an organization,” she says.

“Being a leader is being willing to get involved,” says Carroll. “If you take advantage of opportunities as they come to you, then you become a person people look to.”

When it comes to achievement, many people know to look to Helen Carroll.