"If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then you are an excellent leader.” – Unknown
The internet isn’t always a reliable place. In searching for a leadership definition that would speak to the fullness of the experiences of women leaders in the inaugural cohort of Tide Risers, this quote stood out. Among the myriad quotations from famous people, too often leadership was spoken of in relation to one’s title or position in government or in an organization. Too rarely, was leadership discussed in terms of what it unlocks for those who follow the leader, who are impacted by that one’s legacy. But these words struck me, even though it was unclear who said them. They were attributed to Dolly Parton, but also to John Quincy Adams. I scratched my head, but ultimately determined that the weight of these words wouldn’t be diminished simply because I couldn’t find their origin. Leaders matter for the legacy they leave to others, for the ways they inspire others.
I founded She Thinks Purple to help mission-driven women and organizations leverage storytelling to create radical change in the world. To “think purple” is to be consciously attuned to the power in human stories; for locked within our personal and collective narratives lives the potential for radical change. The future belongs to the best storytellers, and that’s why I created the Storytelling Essentials Experience for Women Leaders, or “SEE.” The acronym is intentional. To be inspirational and effective, leaders must see themselves for who they really are, courageously acknowledging their mistakes and triumphs and modeling authenticity without apology. Achieving this clarity is this first step toward creating a legacy that inspires others to dream, learn, do, and become more.
SEE for Women Leaders is a three-part, curated workshop series designed such that participants walk away with clarity, confidence, and community: Clarity around which elements of her leadership story inspire and resonate; Confidence in her ability to tell her leadership story with polish; and a Community of fellow leaders committed to igniting and fueling sparks in other women. Because I designed this experience with my fellow Tide Risers in mind, I was delighted to deliver a mini-workshop at the June UnstickHer session. We spent about 75 minutes together working on achieving clarity last Thursday, and here’s some of what we learned:
1. Our own lives, our personal stories, are texts worth examining.
We’re often encouraged to read leadership books, to pursue an MBA or other management degree, or to take expensive leadership development courses. All these activities have their merits, and may be invaluable in some sectors. But no less important is the time that we take to reflect on our own lived experiences with leadership, to see our lives as text (and the lives of other real women around us). Some of the women in our cohort had very early memories of leadership and influence, going back as early as age 3. Others can only remember being master manipulators. Still others had later but fully formed expressions of leadership that foreshadowed (so impressively as to be eerie) their current endeavors as entrepreneurs and kick*** business women.
2. We must be kind, patient, and brave with ourselv