This past week in Washington, D.C., the Network of Executive Women hosted their NEW Leadership Summit 2017. Thousands of interesting women in management positions at a range of companies (for example, Coca Cola, Nestle and Accenture) attended. While the two-day event mainly gave these women the opportunity to connect and learn from each other, the featured keynote speakers left the attendees with some real gems to carry forward.
Here are highlights from the four plenary speakers who highlighted women’s unique capacity and constraints as key distinctions for leadership.
1. Empathy is Essential: Lisa Ling, Executive Producer and Host of “This is Life” on CNN showered us with story after story of how she continuously challenges her USA based perspective in order to get to the core of a matter- whether that be child soldiers in Afghanistan or underground brothels in the United States. Her examples confirmed the power of empathy and storytelling. As businesses gain more global traction empathy and cultural relativism are increasingly important. And as Lisa reminded us, once a new and troubling reality is revealed–you now have a piece of ownership in the problem solving.
2. Commit to Buoyancy: Grace Killelea, CEO of the GKC Group & Founder of Half The Sky Leadership shared a deeply personal story proving again that the more specific and authentic we are in our messaging, the more deeply people respond and connect to it. Her “Stop Drop & Roll” talk brought the house down with laughter and a standing ovation as she gave specific tactics on how to sustain resilience and buoyancy in career and in life. Some highlights: Have a tribe, be comfortable with discomfort, and be willing to shift perspective: “Clean your lens!”.
3. Diversity is Core to Strategy: Julie Sweet, CEO of North America for Accenture, took on the topic of diversity as she was interviewed by Nelly Borrero, Senior Global Inclusion and Diversity Managing Director at Accenture, Julie affirmed and confirmed that more CEO’s are normalizing the diversity, equity and inclusion conversation. Diversity is no longer an addendum to strategy- it is core to strategy. For a company to be relevant and effective in the 21st century leaders must incorporate gender, ethnic, age and thought diversity into any plan for innovation. She also gave great tactical advice about how to be more visible in your organization (“…become known as a continuous learner”) and how to effectively network (“Join associations that will build your credibility.”).
4. Your Words Matter: Victoria Medvec is Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Executive Women at Northwestern University. She closed out the conference by giving an interactive talk that outlined key principles for negotiation. Key takeaways included: speak your value out loud- it will not become known through osmosis; ask for what you deserve and do not stop at “No”; and understanding all the angles in a negotiation is key- it is never all about you.
Clearly, these 4 points are important for all leaders- so the more gender diversity we have in leadership positions, the better the outcomes for our businesses!