I almost didn’t go…
As I read the weekly email from the Cambridge Judge – “EnterpriseWOMEN provides the perfect environment to learn and be inspired by other successful female business leaders” – I thought … that is not aimed at me. I am a Senior Director but I have not founded and grown a company. I have not nurtured a company almost single-handedly to sustainability, I am not a CEO – so I am not this “leader” they speak of … surely?
I think we have all dealt with that – not thinking that a particular descriptor applies to us. A leader is a word that conjures up certain images and faces to me. Just to say it ensures that I sit up straighter and take in a deep breath. But to own that I AM one? A totally different thing entirely!
I signed up – figuring that I could sit on the edge and then leave to ‘go to the loo (aka never coming back)’ if I was totally out of my depth! I envisioned a room full of women that would be totally different from me – somehow sharper, stronger … better. I was worried that they would be unfriendly and judge me as lesser – the experience that I had could not have been further from this.
As I arrived, naturally late, I was pointed in the direction of a room that exuded laughter and pleasant chatter. I tried to creep in quietly but noticed a friend, then another, then several more acquaintances. I felt myself exhale as I sat down next to one of them – this was going to be fine – I had compatriots!
The session started with an introduction by the formidably impressive and glamorous Ghina Halabi, who welcomed us to the workshop on Transformative Leadership.
The first session was by Anne Boisier-Fouché, an educator from Shine For Women. Her manner put us all instantly at ease and we were all engrossed as she started to talk to us about Values. Our values are what drive us. They fundamentally influence whether we are happy with what we work on, who with and the direction our life takes. They are made as a child and fixed solidly as a young adult. Anne told us how knowing what they are, how identifying the values in other people can help us be better leaders and also, understand them and ourselves.
Anne demonstrated an exercise based around story-telling to determine what our values were, and then chose someone from the audience to talk through their story. I must have been making my ‘keen’ face as she chose me. I was asked to sit on a chair at the front, and tell my story – from which the other women would glean what my core values were (I will not go into details but the story was one where no-one was fighting for the ‘right thing’, and I did and it all worked out even better than I had hoped). The values gleaned were written on a board, and the list was like looking into my very soul! I was amazed. How could these people that did not know me see what actually mattered to me at my core?
The next session was a talk by the very impressive Kim Wedral-Rooke. Kim had recently been made the youngest partner in Taylor Vinters history and told us a fantastic story about how her difficult childhood and painful life experiences had not hindered her – but had given her strength and drive to get where she is. It was inspiring to hear from Kim and to think about how our own trials could be used to drive us forward.
Lastly, was the very engaging and funny (and impressive) Rakhi Rajani. She has one of those jobs that just sounds mega-cool (a consultant on human-centered AI). She gets to answer questions like ‘How do we create a world where robots and humans work together?’ She talked to us about the traits of a true leader, and how reframing our beliefs and thinking of different ways to communicate would make us better leaders.
I left the workshop feeling more sure of myself in a Senior Role, having made new friends and more certain of my place in this ecosystem. I am so glad that I went to the EnterpriseWOMEN session on Transformative Leadership and I cannot wait for the next one.
My name is Dr Charli Batley – and I am a Leader.