Fifty inspiring women leaders met in Geneva on March 14th, 2023, representing more than 20 nationalities from a broad spread of sectors and backgrounds. They shared experiences, insights and advice on overcoming obstacles on their respective journeys and shared practical tips on what works in terms of leading powerfully and effectively.
It was a day where many words and phrases were shared by our keynote speakers and panellists – many began with the letter “p” – perseverance, planning, patience, purpose, principles, being proactive, practical, passionate, power, and people. Indeed, a thread that wove through every discussion was that people need to be at the centre of what we do.
We heard what authentic leadership looks like:
- investing in relationships to better understand and convince our key stakeholders
- how we can respond in the face of uncertainty
- learning from others and surrounding ourselves with allies, making us better leaders
- the importance of stepping outside our comfort zones
- taking risks requires preparation and courage
Courage was a theme that resonated strongly. Sometimes courage means standing up for those without a voice and standing strong for values when challenged. The privilege of leadership comes with responsibility and being bold. It also means taking the time to listen, keeping connected to those we lead and inspiring those we lead to be courageous themselves, producing better leaders for the future.
Through powerful story-telling, we learnt of characteristics inspiring leaders often possess – vision, clarity of purpose, commitment, humility and intentionality. Great leaders know their talents, understand the needs of their organisations and are very intentional in what they look for when recruiting new talent. They seek to understand what drives and motivates the younger generations and also know how to communicate to get results, while listening and valuing experts.
In all things, we were called to do what is right, not what is expected; and provided we are transparent, others will respect the process. We were called to build empathy and alignment and to act, not just talk. This builds trust in our organisations.
At the end of this highly interactive day, we ventured “beyond leadership”, deep-diving to -100 metres, to try and understand what we are playing out in the very depths of ourselves. For instance, in the space between our strong outer confidence, we can actually feel fragile on the inside. We looked at our high sensitivity as a super power, that most of us have not yet learnt to fully express and leverage; and the fact that people love us for who we are, not what we do; yet we are often focused on “doing” (and doing, and doing!) as the primary way to receive appreciation and attention.
It was a day to remember with real and heartfelt discussions, where personal stories were shared and celebrated.
And until our next conference in March 2024, may we all draw on the wise words of our speakers, on the strong bonds of friendship we forged, on the reflections of what kind of leader we are and aspire to be.
Until next time, let us continue demonstrating how women’s leadership can be a positive force in our teams, our organisations, our communities, and our planet.
Susan, Cass and Jonathan