Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Making Things Happen: Action-Oriented Leadership

Key Takeaways from Advancing Women in Technology Panel May 15th, with Lucinda Duncalfe Holt (Founder and CEO, Real Food), Mandy Ginsberg (President, match.com North America), Heather Gilchrist (Managing Director, RAK Tech Fund.

Heather Gilchrist,
RAK Tech Fund
If I had one overall word that thematically linked all three panelists' advice, it would be 'action'.

Aka doing. To do stuff. To be bold. To not let analysis, excuses or fear stop you from moving forward and doing exactly what you want to do.

Heather Gilchrist summarized it well, into these three pointers:

1) Don’t ask for permission ever
2) Do what you love
3) Take yourself seriously

Lucinda Duncalfe Holt
Founder and CEO, Real Food
Lucinda Duncalfe Holt built on this, elaborating on the idea of fear:

'There’s nothing that can stop you from doing this except yourself. When you start to feel afraid, ask yourself: what’s the worst thing that can happen? (In her case, at the time) Worst thing is: I’m a failed CEO'. If you can live with the worst case scenario, keep moving forward.

All three women agreed that they had taken some ‘go big or go home risks’, and admitted that sometimes in the past they did not know what they were doing. That's ok, they assured the audience, it's all part of the leadership journey. Knowing everything perfectly before doing is the perfect antidote to action.

An interesting question came up, about how to inspire others to take the same kinds of risks that you were tolerating in the business. The answer was something of a surprise to the questioner: You can't. Not exactly. It's not fair to expect others to have your own risk tolerance - after all, it's not their ship. 

The best way to inspire as much risk taking and trust as possible is to admit the risk and show that you are willing and prepared to shoulder that risk personally. Lucinda recalled an amazing story of a woman who, during her time in the military, crawled through a field containing land mines to pave a safe path the next day for her frightened team. Unsurprisingly, this team was prepared to follow her on every move after that enormous show of personal bravery. Her leadership and commitment was never again questioned. 

A final tip? Ask, ask, ask. Lucinda's final piece of advice was: people love to be asked. Even if they say no, they still love to be asked. So give people what they love (and perhaps also help your business and yourself in the process!)

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