It is vital that women leaders and entrepreneurs find ways to get and stay inspired. You need them so that you can thrive as you overcome difficulties, leverage opportunities and everything in between. Here are three ways that can help you get and stay inspired while making your unique contribution to the world:
- Learn from women leaders addressing complex issues for a better world.
- Engage with like-spirited women in person.
- Remember that you are not alone.
1. Learn from Women Leaders Addressing Complex Issues for a Better World
I first met Harriet Lamb when she was CEO of Fairtrade International. Fairtrade International helps small farmers and miners achieve fairer trading conditions, influence their futures, and promote sustainability. In Hidden by Leadership Paradox: How to Navigate to Solutions in Between, a book in our business and leadership series, I feature Lamb because she has the ability to work with highly complex issues involving multiple stakeholders.
When she recently took on the role of CEO of International Alert, one of the largest peace-building organizations in Europe, it was natural to continue to pay attention to and learn from her. An article for The Guardian on the climate talks in Paris is a good example.
We know climate change is complex, but to truly understand the linkages, it takes an articulate, informed perspective to illuminate them. That is just what Lamb and Janani Vivekananda, Manager of Climate Change and Security Programme, International Alert, do in their article. They clearly explain the importance of the climate talks and the linkages between climate change, Syria, security and peace. That is no small feat.
Her thinking inspires me to take what I know about women leaders and entrepreneurs... to think beyond business, trade, and equal rights to climate change. While this particular article doesn't explicitly mention women, it features a picture of Syrian women tilling dusty fields where drought "exacerbated the existing tensions within the country that led to the conflict." The world's issues, their complexity and the impact on women's lives are illuminated.
2. Engage with Like-Spirited Women In Person
For me, like-spirited people are first and foremost, generous in heart and mind. Second, they are mission-driven: they have big visions for business outcomes that contribute to global good.
Seek groups and people with these attributes. When you spend time with women like this, you get to learn from others' experience and strength and to share yours. You get to be inspired and to inspire. You get to form new connections. Not having connections is on the International Finance Corporation's shortlist of barriers women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises face globally.
- Monica Smiley, CEO and Publisher of Enterprising Women Magazine, personifies generosity of heart and mind, and her vision of strengthening of women entrepreneurs globally. It permeates the tone of the magazine, and the annual "Enterprising Women of the Year Awards" event.
- When clients engage us to deliver a Leadership Hand event for their employees, association members or target market, this is what participants love most about the experience--the chance to tap into and elicit that generosity of spirit and mind in community. It gives them the opportunity to learn and share their learning, inspire and be inspired, and to connect. These in turn, foster their ability to lead more powerfully.
A few weeks ago, I had a tête-à-tête with Shad Begum, a Pakistani social activist. Begum has received the U.S. Department of State's "International Woman of Courage Award" from First Lady Michele Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton for her exemplary courage and leadership for "human rights, women's equality, and social progress." She is now focused on creating a Center for Women's Democratic Development.
Unlike Begum, I have never received death threats, but when we shared our experiences as women leaders with big visions for women's economic empowerment, I was strengthened by her conviction and indeed, put in touch with more of my own.
3. Remember That You Are Not Alone
We can feel isolated leading our business and leading our lives.
Sometimes we can feel isolated precisely because of our leadership roles -- we are standing at the helm looking out to an uncertain horizon and charting a path for those we lead and influence.
Sometimes we can feel alone because we fall prey to the glittery and seeming overnight successes of a colleague or a business competitor. We compare our effort and process -- its messiness and its failures, with the snapshot of their results. This is guaranteed to uninspire you or make you drive yourself (or your employees) crazy.
Sometimes it is because we don't know that others are experiencing the same challenges we are. While the details may not match exactly, let me assure you from my role as trusted advisor over many years, they are experiencing similar ones or have experienced them.
You are not alone. Women (and men) worldwide are traveling the journey with you. Find others who remind you that you are not alone, and who remind you of your extraordinary brilliance. Do this for someone else.
Go Forth: The World Needs You
Get inspired and stay inspired. Go forth. Learn from others who are addressing complex issues for a better world, spend time with like-minded people, and remember you are not alone. Do it for you. Do it for the world. The world needs you.