Real Leaders

Why Leadership Starts in the Family

The pandemic of the past two years has reset many things in the world, but the concept of leadership and what success means has never been adequately defined for all people. By this, I mean that a dominant group of people on the planet have decided what leadership looks like — it was never designed for diversity, for belonging to all.

Women’s movements over the past few years have urged us to “empower ourselves,” “have confidence and rise,” “attend inclusive male training exercises,” and a myriad of other encouragements. But we need to redefine what leadership means. We should instead be asking ourselves what we, as human beings, are contributing to the world and how we’re showing up in our leadership.

An increasing number of CEOs want to create social impact, solve the world’s problems, and form collaborations. To do so, we first need to build initiatives, cultures, and systems that will be inclusive of all. Ask yourself, “Who is contributing to this collaboration?” and then think about how you can make it more effective by adding underrepresented voices.

The old leadership definition was money, power, and influence. The new definition is purpose, inclusion, and well-being. Remember, too, that your behavior can create as much impact as any of these things.

I believe that equity and leadership begin at home. Look at the broken political, social, and economic systems around us today — they are products of the family. We are all the sum of previous generations, and unless we teach our kids diversity of thought and a more responsible way of looking at life on Earth, we are destined to repeat our mistakes.

We should build businesses, families, and the world on a firm foundation. Right now, this foundation has so many cracks, yet we continue to build on it. Xerox developed the world’s first women’s employee resource group in the 1960s, yet women only make up 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs today. We keep adding Band-aids to a broken branch while the real problem lies deeper at the roots.

Think about how you lead yourself, your family, and your team in the workplace. In Whole-life leadership, the first concern is your mental health, the second is your family, and the third is your work, followed by your community. Within your marriage, it’s about your partner first and then your kids. So many negative issues I see in society today are because people are triggered by their story — the way they were brought up and the narratives and belief systems that were instilled in us. Work on elevating how you show up for those around you by becoming more aware of opportunities and new ways of thinking. Many of us think that because we’ve done something the same way for 20 years, that’s how it should always be done. A shift in focus may unlock the solution you’ve been seeking.

We transform culture when we transform people. If you want to create a thriving, social impact company, you’ll find it in your employees and those living in your home. When there’s an economic downturn, many business leaders cut creative activities first, such as keynote speakers, team-building exercises, or family outings to focus instead on quarterly results. But if you prioritize humanity before productivity, you’ll find greater success.

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