Advice from 14 inspirational female leaders for future generations
Today, on Women’s Equality Day, we celebrate the women of the Vistage community and female leaders across the country.
Women’s Equality Day was officially recognized in 1971, and is celebrated each year on Aug. 26. to commemorate the ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave most women the right to vote. Women across the nation used their voices to make a change and create a better future for generations to come.
These Vistage leaders are no different. We asked female Vistage members for the best advice they’d give to other women and what they wish they’d known on their leadership climb. From the importance of community to brazen confidence, the women of Vistage are abundant in wisdom.
Build your community
In the U.S. only 21% of senior leaders are women which is below the global average of 24%. The need for community and guidance is paramount to current and up-and-coming female leaders. With women occupying such a small subset of leadership, Neda, Meridee, Christine and Judy insist that building a strong support system is key.
“Lift one another up. Mentor others and be open to mentorship.”
–Neda Nehouray, CEO, HOA Organizers, Inc.
“Find support from people in a similar place as you. Wrestle with how to let your skin thicken while still remaining vulnerable and approachable.”
–Meridee Rilen, Owner, Affinity Psychological Services, P.C.
“I could not have gotten to where I am without a strong network. Take the time to develop a network and cultivate it. Most importantly, use it! You can’t do it all and you can’t do it alone.”
–Christine Hopkins, President & CEO, ASCI, LLC
“Create your own future. Build a strong peer network and team to see you through hard times.”
–Judy Paul, CEO, North Square Restaurant and the Washington Square Hotel
Remain curious and willing to learn
Part of becoming an effective leader is recognizing that you don’t know everything and putting your ego aside to make the best decisions. Leading with an open mind and keen curiosity are what Marjorie, Christi and Carrie suggest to continue to grow as leaders.
“Ask other people what they think and you will probably make a much more informed decision.”
–Marjorie Mulanax, Executive Director, Hospice Austin
“Have direct and difficult conversations with your team, but have them with the mindset of curiosity, not judgment.”
–Christi Redfearn, LEED AP O+M, Chief Executive Officer, REDLEE/SCS
“At first I felt I had to have all the answers, but I learned to be the one who is the most curious. That became my superpower.”
–Carrie Meek, Chief Growth Officer, Anchor Peabody
Use your authenticity as your power
There is only one you — and there is no wrong way to be yourself. Only you can take each life experience, preference and perspective from over the years and turn it into your unique vision and purpose. Kris, Sandra, Michele and Sally recommend harnessing your authenticity to become a great leader.
“Being a leader and being CEO is forged in the experiences we go through. It makes us who we are.”
–Kris Vockler, CEO and President, ICD High Performance Coatings
“Vulnerability is a superpower and builds trust. Share moments of challenge, frustration, and pride with your team. Tell them when you’re struggling, celebrate your passions, and be generous with praise and gratitude.”
–Sandra Davis, President and founder, Donorly
“Amplify what you do best, even if it’s a break from the norm. “
–Michele Lex, President and CMO, The Perfect Purée of Napa Valley
“Think of yourself as a leader first with your own unique talents and abilities. Your authentic voice is what makes an impact.”
–Sally Bryant, President and CEO, BRYANT GROUP
For women in leadership, life is full of real and perceived challenges that require grit and fearlessness to make an impact. Lorri, Misti and Susan champion the spirit of “go big or go home!”
“Be willing to take risks and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Always remember that knowledge is power and will always provide an avenue to sit at the table.”
–Lorri Grayson, President, GGA Construction
“If you’re going to fail, fail forward, fail fast and move on.”
–Misti Potter, CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area
“I had progressive parents who taught me that people who said or implied I couldn’t do something because I was female, should be ignored. I should go over, under, and around them. Whenever people said ‘no’ to me, I just took it as their opening offer.”
–Susan Lyon, Managing Director, Lyon & Associates Creative Services, Inc.
These female business leaders are paving the way for future generations. And while women across industries still have a long road ahead to achieve true equity, applying lessons from these world-class female leaders will help make the journey a little smoother.