elephants and lollipops – a different take on leadership

by Shari Nunes, NOI Lady and Founder of MP Cosmetics

“As women, we must stand up for ourselves” – Michelle Obama

The last NOI event was fantastic: the topic was leadership, but with a difference. There was no talk about developing leadership skills or thinking like a man, the focus was more on authenticity.

The first speaker of the night was Harriet Minter, who is the founder of The Guardian’s Women In Leadership. Here is a recap on what she said:

•    Make sure that your goals are what you want and not what your culture or loved ones want from you. It may not be outrightly spoken, but subconsciously the environment we are in can dictate to us what we think we should be doing or having. The truth is that we need to make sure that whatever we do is for our happiness.

•    Women believe that they cannot have it all, when the truth is we can. We can have it all, we just cannot do it all. A good leader knows how to delegate tasks to stay efficient and effective.

•    Representation matters. Whether we become the next Arianna Huffington or not, the first step we take as women is seen by others. Our daughters, nieces and next door neighbours are watching us. For a personal example, my landlady was a stay-at-home mom. When I moved in and she saw my work ethic, it motivated her to do something. She went back to school and is now studying to be a dental nurse – after 8 years of not working!

•    Resilience is not the same as endurance. Endurance means you can run the marathon but you will finish it exhausted with no energy reserves. Resilience means you run the marathon but can walk away at the end of it. Therefore it is imperative to know what you are good at and do that.

For many women, there is a fear that holds them back and it is important for us to unpack why we have that fear. Why do we still fear sacrificing family time for work? Why do we still believe it has to be either or? Why are we afraid to make mistakes? In order for us to lead others, we need to lead our own lives. I believe that the answers to those questions can only come from a place of self love, and self love is a journey.

The second speaker was Ambica Jobanputra, who is head of Social Leadership at BeyondMe and she touched on the topic of generosity and leadership. I truly appreciated this as a topic because this is often overlooked many times in publications on leadership. Throughout history, there have been many people who stood up because there was a need and they were generous. Cadbury’s, Thomas Cook, The Body Shop – legacies started by people who saw a problem and created something so that they could give back to their community. For that reason, I agree with Ambica on the point that you cannot be a great leader unless you are generous.

Recommended reading:
Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
Give And Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant
I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of their Time by Laura Vanderkam


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