Over the past 15 years, I have had the opportunity to mentor some incredible civic leaders on what it means to step into visible and influential leadership roles; to advocate for and be an agent of change. Most of these leaders were women.
As Country Director of a peace-building non-governmental organization in Southeast Asia, I grew and mentored a powerful staff of consultants, who in the early days were all female. During a time of political uncertainty, those women were the only ones willing to take the risk of working for, or partnering with, a peace-building organization that wasn’t yet officially sanctioned by the government. This experience instilled in me a deep respect for the bravery of women who are willing to risk their own safety for what they believe in. Their brilliance, resilience, comradery, and good humor are things I keep with me, and I am forever grateful to have been part of their journey and to have played a small part in nurturing them into the leaders they are today.
To the women who are called to leadership, I have three pieces of advice.
Strength comes from within. It’s important to do the “internal work.” Find ways to cultivate an inner authenticity, a gut-check of sorts, as you navigate through life choices. In coming to peace with who you are and what a meaningful life means to you, you will find your personal strength, your voice, your power. That internal discovery offers you the foundation to walk into any room and know you can own it, regardless of the person or situation you are facing.
Don’t be afraid to seek out and ask for help. The women who have walked the path before you are brimming over with wisdom. It’s hard to ask for help, but it’s a pleasure for others to provide it and to be valued for their strengths. Find ways to support each other.
Diversity is important. Find ways to surround yourself with women of all ages and walks of life. Appreciate that as you learn from them, they will also learn from you. Meet regularly in whatever way is most effective and sustainable. A women’s circle that met early on Monday mornings was powerful for me, but it can take any form.
My biggest professional breaks have come out of the relationships I cultivated in these ways. More importantly, the community gave me incredibly wise, safe, and vital support to make sure I was taking full advantage of the opportunities around me and that I navigated my career in a way that aligned with my values and core beliefs.
About the author:
Managing Director, Effective Organizations | Waldron
Luisa Perticucci works to help governments, companies, non-profits and development agencies use the process of change to unleash what is best and vital within their organizations and within their people.