When you think of a leader what comes to mind? Is it someone who runs the country, a CEO of a company, or a head of a household? Regardless of which it is there is one word that stands out the most and that’s EMPOWERMENT. But gone are the days of the type A, full on, domineering leader.
I love what LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner, said in his interview with Oprah on Super Soul Sunday, “Managers tell someone what to do, and Leaders’ inspire someone to do it.” This statement has stayed with me and has been one of the most impactful sayings I’ve heard in business. Leadership is not only about driving efficiency and results anymore – it’s about celebrating the whole person, and the success of a culture that thrives!
Celia Swanson, an accomplished senior executive for one of the world’s largest retailer’s Walmart, had that same aha moment. She say’s, “I’ll never forget the day I realized I didn’t have to act like a man and that I was more powerful being me. That was the changing moment; I realized the importance of using my voice and being my authentic self. It’s important that you have a view point and deliver it correctly so it influences other around the table.” Through that Celia has left a legacy in organizations and non-profits where she served, they put programs in place to help develop leaders of the future including women, to achieve their full potential. Celia is notably recognized as the first female executive vice president at Walmart Stores, Inc. breaking the glass ceiling for women. Her deep expertise in commerce, large-scale transformation, company culture and multi-generational workforce engagement serves as the cornerstone of her career legacy. Celia’s message is, “It’s all about being gracious and strong, these are the qualities of an effective leader.” Her book, Gracious and Strong is focused on how to make hard-right decisions that lead to life-changing opportunities, and how to navigate well during times of adversities.
So, thankfully the atmosphere of business has evolved, now it’s OK to celebrate a holistic style of living focused on wellness. It’s not all about structure and control.
Today more and more people are helping to support that shift as they are seeking work, life, balance, and some are choosing to give up the daily grind of Corporate America and filling orders to attain management’s bottom line requests.
Stephanie Breedlove is a prime example of this as she took a leap of faith, left the corporate world, and answered the call of entrepreneurship. Over the next few years she built a thriving business while simultaneously raising two young children, eventually selling her start-up for more than $50 million. Stephanie says, “When I started the bootstrap company I had 2-toddlers, ages 1 and 2. The first 10 years were tough; in fact it was a grind. I was constantly searching for balance or more of integration since life is full of peaks and valleys. But sometimes one has to take priority over the other and I made a decision that I shouldn’t feel guilty about the priority. Over the next 10 years the business continued to grow and that’s when I chose to sell it. By this time both kids were grown and in college and I was in my early 50s, a time of a new stage. I no longer had to tend to young kids or head to the office early in the morning. I felt more and more alone and was trying to figure out why. It’s then that I realized the small percentage of women who have walked through this level of entrepreneurship. I realized I am a role model, it would have been easy for my ego to get caught up in all the success but I stepped aside and felt it was my duty to share, inspire, and empower others. Which is why I wrote All In with On Fire Books Leadership Company. All In is about, How Women Entrepreneurs Can Think Bigger, Build Sustainable Businesses, and Change the World.” Stephanie fills a gap in the lack of role models as she outlines the hows and whys behind the decisions that led her towards success. Her inspiring message empowers readers to be all they are called to be, to set the bar higher, and to grow businesses with economic impact and power. Stephanie says, “I want to encourage women whether they are working for a small company or going out on their own, they will have difficult choices to make and choosing between home life and work life should not be one. Sometimes work has to take priority and you shouldn’t feel guilty. It’s so important to have a tribe that you are plugged in with to help you through those moments. If I had to do it all over again, I would.”
So what used to be the image of an effective leader is no longer. Today it’s all about core values, transparency and understanding that relationships matter; a strong desire to empower others as a way of shifting them into being their authentic selves and helping them to be all that they are designed to be. There is a lot of work to be done inside of corporations though to ensure that all people are provided the opportunity to achieve their full potentials. This will involve both men and women joining together in the vision and changing the way that Corporate America promotes talent.