Recently I had the honor of attending the New York Women in Communications 2018 Matrix Awards. The event recognized ten extraordinary female leaders in the communications industry who were noted for being ‘Women Who Connect the World,’ including my trusted colleague, Alex Trower, EVP of Global Communications at The Estee Lauder Companies.
At this event I heard words of wisdom from several inspiring women leaders. These ranged from the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporters, Jodi Kantor, Emily Steel and Megan Twohey, who broke the Harvey Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly stories, accelerating the movement toward equality in the workplace, to Shelly Zalis, who is creating opportunities for women to advance and thrive in their careers through her company, The Female Quotient.
As I sat and listened to these women, I was reminded of something that has often been top of mind for me, especially lately – when the topic of leadership has been at the forefront of the national and global political discourse. What all of these people had in common was their ability, through their persistent and deliberate efforts, to lead change.
Regardless of where we are seeking change – in our world, in our organizations, in our teams and families – we must not only BE the change we want to see in the world, as the saying goes. We must do more: We must LEAD the change we want to see in this world. Now, in an age where so many of us are desperately seeking leaders with conviction, integrity and vision, we must put forth a different call to action. We must ask our leaders, and ourselves, to not only model, but proactively accelerate the change we want to see in the world. This mandate is even more active, inclusive and demanding.
I have spent my entire career in conference rooms with people in the midst of major change, and I always tell them the same thing: You must lead the change. What this means, in practical terms, is three things:
- First, to truly lead change, we must use our voices. We must be clear and courageous about sharing our vision or point of view.
- Then we must give others the opportunities to lift their voices as well. We must make space for people to share their perspectives and contribute to the future. Communication and collaboration are key.
- Finally, we must inspire action – we must activate people to turn vision into reality. People need to be capable and committed to bringing change to life.
For change to really stick, every stakeholder, at every level, must find and exercise the strength of their leadership “muscle.” Having a clear and courageous point of view is a critical start, but giving others the opportunity to share their own ideas, and creating a concrete plan for taking action and inspiring others to do the same, are the ways in which we ensure that we’re making lasting, meaningful change.
As William Lauder said when he presented my colleague Alex Trower’s award, “Great leaders are those who inspire others to be great.” When I hear the stories of these women who have truly “connected the world,” and I see how they are taking leadership into their own hands to engage larger teams to accelerate change, I cannot help but be inspired too.