“The first responsibility of leadership is the creation of meaning.”—Warren Bennis.
Welcome to the Sum, where I share my take on the meaning of sum of the week’s parts. I want your voice too. Leave comments here or @GloriaFeldt
My word of the week is CONNECT.
As in the world turns on human connections.
I must have said this tens of thousands of times over the course of my personal and professional life. It is without any doubt the most important leadership lesson I’ve learned over several decades as a CEO.
And I don’t mean it in a cynical “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” transactional way. Nor am I referring to the person with tens of thousands of superficial LinkedIn connections and time-sucking social media discussions (read this from Women@Forbesfor tips on how to stanch the flow), though somewhere within those 10,000 digital souls in your network there are bound to be a few meaningful links.
In fact, I am often pleasantly surprised at how valuable social media can be to forming professional relationships, especially where there is already a mutual connection or network of some sort.
For example, I am delighted to have connected with Susannah Bailin, founder and CEO at AdviceCoach. We were matched through Take The Lead’s Glassbreakers Take The Leadpeer mentoring platform. She’s building technology that creates apps for self-help book advice. She wanted beta testers and has built an app for my book No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power to demonstrate the app. You can get the app free at the app store right here, and it will take you through the 9 Power Tools with questions that genuinely help you learn and retain the information. That was a super valuable connection because we were matched based on our self-described personal interests and were open to the fortuity of having in-person conversations to explore our professional opportunities. And besides that we are able to offer the free mentoring platform because its founder Eileen Carey and I were connected by a mutual friend…the trail of human connections is infinite.
So when I say that the world turns on human connections, I mean that expansively. Starting with our families and radiating out to the concentric and interlocking circles of friends, acquaintances, business colleagues, and special interest networks, it’s the human in the connection that makes things happen. That makes the world turn and the planets align so that movements are spawned and visions blossom into productive enterprises and one person sparks or supports another in an endless virtuous circle.
This week I was blessed with a most remarkable example. Several months ago, I was pleased to be contacted by someone with whom I’ve crossed career paths occasionally over the last two decades but hadn’t seen in several years. Anika Rahman reached out looking for insights from my experience, even though she had no idea whether or how I’d respond. Due to our past association, I didn’t hesitate to offer to share anything that might be of help to her.
We met at my favorite Chinese tea house. We brought one another up to date on our lives and how we’d been working on our passions for advancing women while sharing a pot of ginger milk tea, Anika generously offered to host an event in her home to help tell more people about Take The Lead’s work. Because I trusted her based on—you got it—our human connection over the years, I said “yes” without a second thought as to whether this was a good idea, whether she would follow through, or whether it would be worth the time and effort of my small team to pull such an event together.
This week, almost 60 people, at least half of whom had never heard of Take The Lead and some who didn’t know me, came together for #Powertopia – a magical, inspiring conversation and more importantly a conversation leading to commitments to use our superpowers to achieve gender parity in leadership.
Among the guests was a young woman, Mea Boykins, who had been introduced to me by a mutual friend via email a year ago, and had consistently stayed in touch till we were able to meet in person at Soledad O’Brien’s PowHERful Enrichment Conference where she spoke last weekend. Now we’ve established ways we can support each other in the future. I was at the sold out conference at Google’s snazzy NY office in the first place because I so admire journalist O’Brien and have been fortunate enough to be interviewed by her on occasion. So when given the opportunity to interview her, I jumped at it!
And I can’t recount the importance of human connections without giving a shout out to Jamia Wilson who this week was named Executive Director and Publisher of the Feminist Press. I have had the distinct pleasure of mentoring the amazing, talented Jamia and seeing her grow into this important position.
From Seneca Falls where the first women’s rights convention was held 169 years ago this week to Anika Rahman’s living room; from the women in Champagne, France whose close-knit support of each other resulted in profits to the tech conference this week where Open Table’s CEO Christa Quarles called BS on a man who said women don’t support each other, women are turning the world aright based on our human connections. That’s what I call #SisterCourage.
“Only connect!” said the author E.M. Forster. “Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height.”
If your intention is to be a great leader, start there.
Till next week, power TO you.