I’ve had the opportunity to mentor some amazing civic leaders, predominantly female leaders, on what it means to step into visible and influential leadership roles to advocate for what is right.
As Country Director of a peace-building non-government organization in Southeast Asia, I grew and mentored a powerful staff of consultants, which in the early days was all female. During a time of political uncertainty, women were the only ones willing to take the risk of working for, or partnering with, a peace-building organization that wasn’t yet officially sanctioned by the government. So I have a soft spot for their bravery in risking their own safety for what they believed in. Their brilliance, resilience, comradery and good humor is something I keep with me. I’m grateful to have been part of their journey.
To these women and others who feel called to pursue leadership, I first say: strength comes from within. So it’s important to do the “internal work.” Find ways to cultivate an inner authenticity, a gut check of sorts, as you navigate life choices. In coming to peace with who you are and what a meaningful life means to you, you’ll find your personal strength, your voice, your power. That internal discovery offers you the foundation to walk into any room and know you can own it, no matter who you are facing.
Don’t be afraid to seek out and ask for help from women of wisdom who have walked the path before you. It’s hard to ask for help, but it’s a pleasure for others to provide it and to be valued for their strengths. Find ways to support each other.
Diversity is important. Find ways to surround yourself with women of all ages and walks of life—they will also learn from you. Meet regularly in whatever way is most effective and sustainable. A women’s circle that met early on Monday mornings was powerful for me, but it can take any form.
My biggest professional breaks came out of the relationships I cultivated in these ways. More importantly, the community gave me incredibly wise, safe, and vital support to make sure I was taking advantage of my opportunities and that I navigated my career in a way that aligned with my values and core beliefs.