“Accept yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, your truths, and know what tools you have to fulfill your purpose.”Steve Maraboli
Most leaders are accustomed to dealing with one crisis or the other. Despite this, the Corona Virus Pandemic has presented an unparalleled level of crisis for our generation’s business leaders. I am privileged to be part of an Executive Committee Team that works exceptionally well together. Of course, the immediate collective decision was we would do whatever we had to do in order to get through the crisis. On an individual level, the question was what can I do? How can I contribute? What meaningful contribution can I make?
Wading in the uncertain waters of the sweeping pandemic, I looked with admiration to the strengths of my colleagues coming together in a defining and prompt action plan: decisiveness. strength. crunching numbers. understanding legalities. dealing with sub-crisis after crisis. The lawyer and the company secretary in me did what was needed of her and contributed her lawyerly bit. A small part still wanted to do something more. I simply didn’t know what that could be beyond being a really good lawyer so I did just that.
Then my boss asked me to write something to communicate a difficult message. The lawyer in me wrote it. It clean, logical and precise. I sent it to him. Not quite the right note, he said. Dig deeper. I gave it another shake and resent it to him. We are getting closer he said. Could you sound a little more empathetic? What is a lawyer if not aloof right? Ok, then. Aloof wasn’t working. I edited a third time. Then my boss said something entirely unexpected: Chio, I want you to try and really connect with the mother in you and then write the letter.
Oh my gosh! It was like a lightbulb suddenly came on.
In the largest professional crisis I have ever faced I am still surprised that it wasn’t the lawyer in me with all her academic qualifications or the Human Resources Exec in me with all her people skills and emotional intelligence or even the leader in me who needed to see the bigger picture in the midst of widespread uncertainty or even the writer in me that was my biggest contribution. It was the mother in me, taking the lawyer’s knowledge of the impact of the crisis, layering it with people skills and emotional intelligence to put it in context for widespread consumption, tying all of it together and delivering it with the heart it deserved in the writer’s words.
My boss, as is typical of him, in one short sentence, shifted my perspective fundamentally. My true superpower is not being one of the things that I am at a time. It is harnessing the lessons and skills of every woman in me to sharpen my contribution in all of my different roldes.
Ilene Long, CEO of the non-profit women’s advocacy group Catalyst… believes that women leaders contribute in different, equally valuable ways to an organization: “Women usually act more than male leaders based on their innate strengths (e.g. creativity and collaboration) in their everyday approach to work. They tend to lead from a more interactive, cooperative style which often results in strengthening the team spirit approach, inspiring a higher degree of commitment to strive to achieve the business’ goals. They bring a different perspective based on a different set of life experiences. But the most important contribution for me, is that a female leader would rely more on her emotional intelligence (EI) i.e. self-awareness, managing our emotions, empathy, and social skill. Women tend to have an edge over men when it comes to these basic skills. That edge may matter more than ever in the workplace, as more companies are starting to recognize the advantages of high EI when it comes to almost all positions”.
Perhaps then this journey is not about trying to be more like anything or anyone else. Perhaps it is about becoming more of yourself… all of yourself.
A related but not necessarily directly linked thought for the week from Emilie Wapnick as she questions the notion that we should be one thing or even aspire to be one thing. Why not embrace your wiring? I would love to hear your thoughts too.