Empowerment Comes Full Circle

Blog / Friday, June 17, 2016

Perhaps the number one take away coming out of last week’s Empowered Women leadership retreat — mantra #OwnYourPower — is that we are in control of our own destinies.

That’s a little cliche to write as if it were profound but, it means nothing if you don’t actually believe it — and take action.

Whether it be having our voices heard at a table full of men, demanding to be paid what we are worth or failing hard to get back up again, there’s an element of bravery required to become a successful leader.

You can’t be afraid to “disrupt” the status quo, to use a term on trend these days. You can’t be scared to lose your job or ruffle someone’s feathers. If so, your big ideas may never flourish. And you know what they say: “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”

On that tack of leadership, one quote that really stood out from me came from Editorial Director of Audience Strategy at Time Magazine Callie Schweitzer, who said, “leadership is about what you enable other people to execute on.”

Many women, like me, feel they need to “do it all” but you won’t get very far if you take that road. It dawned on me that many of the women speakers at this retreat have likely mastered the art of enabling others to fulfill the many needs of their businesses so they can focus on what they do best, the vision for the future.

Among the long list of impressive panelists were CEOs, a large number of entrepreneurs, journalists and two awesome women leaders in Congress, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Rep. Elise Stefanik.

These women have proven their skills but what I loved most is they were just as excited to learn & socialize with other panelists and the guests of the conference as well.

As I sat in a discussion group with the former editor of Marie Claire and a couple of startup founders, I was surprised to see some of them jotting down notes. These are the people that have “made it” and yet, are just as eager to learn as the rest of us still striving for the peak.

That’s what I think makes great women great, though — a fascination with learning, a lifelong thirst to be better, know more and partake in the evergreen education that comes with meeting new people.

It’s easy to feel inspired but then look at the statistics for startups or female CEOs and get discouraged. It’s those who reject the naysayers and boldly move forward with their (hopefully well-thought out) ideas that actually get the chance to make it. All the speakers emphasized the importance of learning from failure, doing it before you’re ready and taking on more than you think you can handle.

Being an empowered woman ultimately means empowering yourself but also using the resources, mentors and references around you to get where you are going. Most people have a long list of thank yous to dole out when it comes to their success in professional life — from former bosses to unexpected mentors to professors or friends.

I came away from the retreat feeling like I could email any of the women I met this weekend and know they would kindly answer questions or do what they could to help.

Empower yourself, then empower others. The circle comes back around.


Ericka Andersen Sylvester is the Digital Director at National Review. She’s also a certified personal trainer and healthy living blogger at The Sweet Life who loves staying fit, healthy, and positive. 

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