Leading with Impact: Three Critical Personal Themes for Today's Leaders

by Kelly Dwyer on March 22, 2023

Leadership is a topic that garners a lot of interest, particularly when it comes to women in leadership roles. Recently, we had the privilege of hosting a conversation with four senior leaders (who happen to be women) from various industries. Attendees reported that they loved the breadth and depth of the wisdom the leaders shared.

In this article, we highlight three themes from that call that any current or aspiring leader can leverage today. Watch the 45-min replay for the full experience!

Theme 1: See the bigger picture and use it to create your own reality

When it comes to leadership, it is often said that a leader is someone who inspires others toward a common goal. However, it's also about recognizing opportunities and taking action to capitalize on them. This is exactly what the senior leaders in the live conversation described when they were asked about what led them to their current position of leadership.

For each panelist, their journey to leadership began with a "pulling force." They saw a need or opportunity in their environment and took steps to satisfy it. This highlights the importance of having a clear vision and being able to identify opportunities that others may not see. It also emphasizes the importance of taking action and being willing to step out of your comfort zone to pursue your goals.

One of the panelists, Lisa Ramirez, Senior Vice President of Operations at Indeed, recognized a gap around customer experience while at Netspend and developed a business case for how the company could address it with her leading the effort. She showed the importance of being proactive and taking initiative to identify opportunities for improvement in your own sphere of influence.

Another panelist, Lori Shao, CEO and Founder of Finli, felt a passion to create a financial solution for a market segment that is consistently underserved. She showed the importance of having a strong sense of purpose and being driven by a desire to make a positive impact on the world. When you are passionate about what you do, it not only fuels your motivation and drive but also inspires others to join you on your journey.

Overall, the journey to leadership is not a straight path. It requires a willingness to take risks, identify opportunities, and pursue your passions. The senior leaders on the panel demonstrated the importance of having a clear vision and taking action to achieve it. By doing so, they have not only achieved success in their own careers but also served as an inspiration to others who aspire to become leaders.

Theme 2: Say yes to the challenge!

Deeksha Hebbar, COO at Sonder, advocates that it’s important to stay present in what’s right in front of you, even when you are thinking about exploring a new frontier in your life or career. Giving a nod to Cheryl Sandberg’s advice to Lean In, Deeksha explained that even though she and her husband were in the midst of starting a family (pregnant with their first child), she actively went for the COO role at Sonder. Deeksha went on to share her perspective that leadership is about “being willing to roll up your sleeves, do the work, and help inspire others along the way.”

There was a palpable sense of confidence these leaders exuded in how they spoke about their careers and their approach to leadership. When asked directly about confidence, Ilana Zivkovich, CEO & Founder of Werq, shared a favorite saying. “The bird does not fear the branch breaking beneath her feet for she trusts her wings.” For Ilana, trusting her wings has allowed her to say yes even in the face of great risk, like the leap to found a company. She went on to say, 
“Confidence building is an ongoing process every day. It’s really about the learning that comes from facing challenges.”

This trust in self was echoed by Lisa Ramirez when she talked about how her past challenges have created an unshakeable faith in her ability to recover from failure. Knowing that she can recover helps her to say yes to ever bigger challenges.

Each of these leaders showed how continuing to jump into challenges and trusting in your ability to navigate them provides a journey of confidence, growth, and resilience. These skills are what can create true effectiveness in a leadership role.

Theme 3: Define what guides you. Use it. Share it.

“The rejection of my ask or my work is not a rejection of me as a person.” This was an insight that Lori Shao gained from reaching out to and being rejected by over 400 investors when raising capital for her startup. (By the way, she persevered and succeeded in raising millions!) Lori continues to reap the rewards of remembering this distinction between her work and her value as a person. She said, “My growth is internal - how I am internalizing feedback from my environment. I have a choice to look at this from a negative lens or dismiss it and reach for the positive view.”

By embracing her personal values, Lisa is able to create a sense of purpose that extends beyond the bottom line of her company. Her values of "Get to instead of Have to," "And instead of Or," "We instead of They," and "Yet" all speak to her collaborative and growth-oriented mindset. Lisa's personal values are an integral part of her leadership style, which prioritizes collaboration, growth, inclusivity, and resilience and serve as a guiding force for her and her team. By embracing personal values and sharing them openly, leaders can create a sense of purpose and meaning that extends beyond traditional metrics of success.

“Ask yourself what YOU want.” When asked about how we get in our own way, Deeksha Hebbar brought up the tendency for some people to forget to stop and ask themselves what they actually want before they make a choice about their path. She noted how easy it is for someone to get caught up in what society says we should do or what our family thinks we should do. We have a perception of what it means to be a certain kind of person (a mother, for example) but we really don’t know what it will be like until we are there, so instead of putting time into trying to imagine how it will be in the future, focus instead on what you want now and make your choices based on that.

“Stand for your potential.” Women are faced with a proof versus potential challenge. Ilana referenced emerging research when she said, “Men are given the next opportunity because someone thinks they CAN whereas women are given the next opportunity because they have proven they COULD.” She went on to say this becomes even more entrenched when people take on that mentality of not raising their hand because they haven’t already proven they can do it.

This mentality can create a self-perpetuating cycle where women are held back from reaching their full potential. Ilana's message is an important one for leaders to hear, as it encourages them to recognize their own potential and to be willing to take risks and pursue opportunities even if they haven't yet proven themselves in that specific role or context. By standing up for your own potential and advocating for yourself, you can pursue your potential and take on new challenges, regardless of gender or past experience.

Final Thoughts

All four of these leaders, Deeksha, Ilana, Lisa, and Lori, have advocated for themselves time and time again. We are inspired by their stories and their demonstrations of leadership.

The conversation with them highlighted important themes that any current or aspiring leader can leverage today. First, the importance of having a clear vision and being able to identify opportunities that others may not see. Second, the importance of taking risks, saying yes to challenges, and trusting oneself. And the third, the importance of embracing personal values and sharing them openly to create a sense of purpose and meaning that extends beyond traditional metrics of success. Overall, the conversation was motivating, inspiring, and refreshingly relatable for individuals looking to excel in their own professional journeys.

If you liked what you read, there is more goodness from each of the panelists. Watch the 45-min replay to catch it all.


About the Author

Kelly Dwyer is a Senior Executive Coach with an extensive background in leadership, strategic planning, and executive and team coaching. Learn more about her experience here

Topics: Effective Leadership