What Leadership Lesson Are You Most Thankful For? Bonus Gift Edition

by Gloria Feldt on December 16th, 2011
in 9 Ways Blog, Gender, Heartfeldt Leadership Advice, Inspiration, Leadership, No Excuses, Personal Relationships, Workplace and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wrapped PackagesWow! Thanks, for sharing so many fabulous, and fabulously helpful, leadership lessons that you are thankful for!  With the season of giving in full swing, here are more great gifts of wisdom shared by women leaders.

Want to give a gift to others? Post your leadership lesson in the comments section below.

And while you’re at it, post YOUR most burning leadership question for the New Year too.

Speaking of Gratitude

Sally Helgesen, author of The Female Vision and The Female Advantage says she’s most grateful to Marshall Goldsmith for reminding her:

“Sally, all you need to do is say thank you!”

So a simple thank you is now my response when I receive compliments after a speaking event or when women tell me that my books have influenced their lives for the better. I used to disclaim it or try to minimize, or share insecurities in the belief that this would make me more human. But contradicting someone who says something admiring and heartfelt is neither gracious nor helpful. So now I just say thank you. “Thanks, Marshall!”

And thank you, Sally!

I’ll just say “thank you” to Glynda Carr for her kind words about me and my book, No Excuses.

Glynda is an extraordinary young women who doesn’t wait for mentors and sponsors to come to her—she seeks them out. That’s came in handy during a career transition.  She says she’s always been conservative about taking risks. Here’s how she realized that approach kept her from reaching her full potential:

“I didn’t really know what was holding me back until the fall of 2010, during your book reading.  You posed a question; “tell me what you have the power to?” I had my very own “ah oh” moment — I have the power to fail.  It was time to step out on a high wire without a net and know that if I fall that it was okay.  I would get back up again, take the lessons learn and move forward with an adjusted plan.

I spent much of 2011, exploring what leadership means to me and how I can transform the way I approach challenges and opportunities that exist in both my personal and professional endeavors.

I am grateful for my “kitchen cabinet”, my most respected advisors who have helped me transform the way I think about the role that risk plays in success and failure. Their advice has ordered my steps, which reinforces my inner power, and that led me to Susan Taylor, former editor of Essence, who inspires me to think big.   My brother, Kurt shared with me that sometimes you have to step into the darkness to find the light that guides your journey.

I am prepared to step out into unknown and into bold and innovative leadership. My colleague Kimberly Peeler Allen and I have launched Higher Heights for America a national organization that seeks to expand and support Black women’s leadership pipeline at all levels and strengthen their civic participation beyond just Election Day.

You go, Glynda!

The Gift of Networking: 3Plus International: Women Worth Knowing

Glynda found the power of her network gave her the courage to step out into leadership in a bigger way. Here’s a LinkedIn group I’ve found to be particularly generous with support, information, and mentoring. 3Plus International gathers outstanding women leaders and executive coaches into a network that shares advice when asked and asks smart questions that always get me thinking. You can check it out here—I hope to meet up with you there.

When I asked members of 3Plus what they were most thankful for, I received so many replies that I saved these for this follow up column:

Lisa Brown, Global Delivery HR Director at HP thanks her mentors for honesty:

I am grateful for two of my former leaders who mentored me with the highest levels of honesty, sincerity and the most powerful weapon we all have; the ability to tell the truth even with they knew it might hurt. Over time and much reflection their comments all made sense and I used them as the weapons of my successful career. I am grateful for Dorothy and for Jim.

Laurie Margolies, Principal at The Boston Mentoring and Coaching Collaborative faced a tough decision and followed her own light:

After my daughter was born I arranged a part-time schedule in a very large and supportive corporation. One of the managers told me that a management job was opening and he thought I would be perfect. I would have to work full-time if I wanted this kind of job – managing 20 people and 5 sites, and that it was a critical step in building my career. So I tested that perspective with a couple of very senior leaders. One of them said something like this: ‘ that’s true for an average performer. You are exceptional, and don’t need to follow what others say is the leadership road. Let your own light lead the way.’ – I didn’t take the job – the manager wouldn’t have seen my light.

What Makes a Winner?

Author, executive coach, and Olympic ski medalist despite having lost a leg as a child, Bonnie St. John shares her inspirational story. Her favorite leadership lesson comes from her mother:

My mother, a principal in tough neighborhood schools, told me proudly about her relationships with many of the troublemakers. One fellow she convinced to get his diploma against all odds later became a major drug dealer in the area. However, he kept the trade off her campus out of respect. Of course Mom was proud of the kids who won Shakespeare competitions or went to college, but she pushed each person to be better than they would have otherwise. When she died suddenly, 300 people showed up at her funeral. Everyone testified to the ways she built them up. A doctoral thesis was written about her transformational leadership style–she saw people as better than they saw themselves. I guess that’s how I got to be the first African American Olympic ski-medalist—on one leg and from San Diego!

Bonnie also had the distinction of getting a quote on a Starbuck’s cup. It’s a leadership lesson that inspires and encourages me whenever I see it:  “I was ahead in the slalom.  But in the second run, everyone fell on a dangerous spot.  I was beaten by a woman who got up faster than I did.  I learned that people fall down, winners get up and Gold Medal winners just get up faster.”

“Only strong women ask for help.”

And finally, a story as only the inimitable and irrepressible self-proclaimed Intrigue Expert Sam Horn can tell it. Grab a cup of tea, curl up for a few minutes in your favorite chair, and read it. I guarantee you’ll get up re-energized to face the world more confident in your leadership:

A colleague, Rebecca Morgan, co-founder of www.SpeakerNetNews.com, and I roomed together at a convention one year. We stayed up late every night debriefing the sessions we had attended and swapping best-practice tips.

We decided to continue this rewarding collaboration by inviting five carefully selected topic experts to join us in monthly brainstorming/strategizing phone calls and twice-a-year in-person retreats.

At our first meeting, we went “around the table” updating each other on our priority projects, pinpointing where and how we could use help.

When it was my turn, I said, “I’m thoroughly enjoying this and I’m glad to be part of it.  I just can’t think of anything I need help with, so I’ll donate my time back to the group.”

There was silence for a moment and then Mariah Burton Nelson (bless her heart) said, “Well, what are you working on right now?”

“I’m re-doing my website.”

“We can help you with that,” Mariah said confidently.

And she was right.  An hour later, my website was infinitely better because of the group’s insightful suggestions.

My subsequent epiphany was, “It had been so long since I had asked for help …I had forgotten how.

I had always prided myself on my “I can do it myself, thank you” independence.

So, I stopped asking.  I ended up being a “solopreneur” in every sense of the word. Fortunately, my involvement with that first Master Mind group changed all that.

For example, I was discussing a tele-seminar I was developing and Marilynn Mobley asked, “Why are you only offering one option?  Why not set up a year-long series and offer three different time and pricing packages so people can participate and buy at their own interest and budget level?”

Uh, duh.  Why wasn’t I doing that?  Because it had never occurred to me.

That’s just one of the many advantages gained from other people bringing fresh perspectives to the table (so to speak.)  With their combined 50 years of experience in different fields, they often pinpointed a variety of ways I could move forward more effectively to maximize results and profits.

I can hardly express what it means to have a smart, talented group who has your back and your front.  They have my back by supporting and encouraging me … and they have my front by stretching me and taking my business to a level I’d never attain on my own.

Are you going it alone?  Were you brought up to believe it’s a sign of weakness to ask for help?

Or, maybe you don’t have any friends who understand your type of work and you’re going solo because there doesn’t seem to be any alternative?

Please get clear that as Mariah told me, “Only strong women ask for help.” Asking for advice is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of smarts.


Thanks, Sam! You help us all find our “serendestiny.”


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This is my last column for 2011—back January 5, 2012! I am incredibly grateful to BlogHer, to you for reading my leadership columns, sharing your questions (I want more more more for 2012, please so post them here or e-mail me)

Wishing you and those you love a wonderful holiday season and a healthy, happy, and Brave New Year.



Gloria Feldt

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

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