2019 CREW Richmond Leadership Summit

November 15, 2019
Written by: Meg O'Brien

I love having sessions like the Leadership Summit. Every 6 months or so, I find myself needing a little inspirational pick-me-up to give me a can-do attitude adjustment. This event is an annual part of my leadership journey and I love that it’s accessible to all of us.  THANK YOU CREW and Ginny Johnston! This was a fantastic summit!

Leadership, like life, is not one moment in time. Nor is it necessarily recognized instantaneously by yourself or others. Your fairy godmother doesn’t wave her wand and *POOF*! You are now the leader of the universe. Leadership is more like Hansel & Gretel. Little nuggets are dropped along the way that help you find your path. Leadership starts as something you feel within yourself at a young age. It’s that bit of courage that helps you speak up in a meeting; caring for others by stopping the bully in grade school; initiative to take the lead on a nasty transaction; or doing that which needs to be done. It’s about how you act and react to others. Leadership is not for the “titled”. Leadership is in all of us.

Sara Safari didn’t start out telling us about her latest book, how she is a super smart engineer, or how she was tagged for glory in the business world. Nope. Enter the challenge. Let’s climb Everest with absolutely NO experience with a sleeping bag. For anyone that has ever carried a pack up a mountain, you were shaking your head with the absurdity of it. Then, she dropped her first nugget. What is leading your life? Fear or dreams? Geeze! I was not expecting this deep question this early in the game. I fear not having a job. I fear not being able to provide for my family without a job. I fear not being everyone’s friend. I fear failing expectations that I can’t predict. I fear not being enough. In the weeks since the Summit, I’ve pondered my fears in my off moments and I realize most of it is just rear-view thinking. Dreams are the things yet to come. This question resonated so strongly with me because I needed to adjust my thinking to dreams and the future.

Sara went on to talk about her incredible journey and the beautiful people she chose to help while meeting her challenge. She shared a glorious message of global community. This was her second nugget. It’s OK to work on your goals, but always try to find a way to include others. It doesn’t have to be a charitable act, but any good leader brings others along for at least a portion of the journey.

Then, came another resonant moment for me with three key points. 1. “No” is not the end of the world. Take “No” as a pause moment. Think. Adjust. Move on. 2. Give yourself permission to acclimate; you don’t have to achieve your goals in one shot. 3. Backing up gives you better perspective of your goal. Welcome this as part of your success plan. I’ll let that sink in.

The next session had us meeting two long-time CREW Network women, Christine and Barbara. I know each of these ladies personally and can say that they’ve seen a lot, experienced a lot, and have a lot to share. Authentic self is a key component of any leader’s journey. Courage plays an important part of letting others see your authentic self and sharing is not always comfortable. But being authentic gives others the opportunity to experience you and to find trust. Find a way to relate to one another. We’re all human! 

Christine & Barbara spoke on the importance of identifying and utilizing mentors and sponsors in your life. A mentor is that person who can help guide you on whatever journey you’ve chosen. Sponsors are your cheerleaders inside the organization. They bring the pom-poms and glitter bombs to your personal party and make others dance to your song even when you’re not there. Nugget: Are you someone’s sponsor? If not, why not?

After more coffee, Ellie Burke took the stage to talk about mindfulness. This is where my rubber hit the road. I struggle with an overactive brain. I’m always thinking, problem solving, worrying, organizing. I haven’t found a way to stop the brain madness without (I suspect) some fairly strong medication. Ellie dropped her first nugget by asking “What is your inner story, and how is it holding you back?” Again, fears and rear-view thinking crept into my overactive brain. I have to change my inner narrative and refocus on dreams! It’s great how these sessions all relate! Ellie spoke about how our minds are designed to take us out of the present. I’m not alone in obsessing on negative thoughts! She asked us to “take the pause” to give ourselves time to respond to a situation versus reacting. Mindfulness is a leadership tool that helps take us out of conditioned, habitual places and allows us to bring a grounded decision. Then, Ellie lead us in an exercise in finding our center and putting mindfulness into practice. I’ve practiced and struggled with this since the Summit. But now I know I’m not alone in reality vs. brain conflict and I’m including mindfulness into my daily leadership toolkit.

 I hope you found your nugget of inspiration and a piece resonated with your inner leader. There is no “how-to” guide for leadership. It’s found inside each of us. Take the pause, gather your cheerleaders, and follow the nuggets.