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On October 24 I had the pleasure of being a volunteer at the Women in Leadership Luncheon that was held in Toronto. You can read a bit more about it here. The panel speakers for the lunch included an impressive combination of very successful women in some different industries. They were Dianna Buckne (host of Dragon’s Den), Kristine Stewart (EVP at CBC), Kerry Peacock (EVP at TD), and Jennifer Klotz-Ritter (CEO at Make a Wish Foundation). Although the panel speakers came from different industries, their attitudes towards their jobs are all quite similar in that they felt that they still have so much to learn.

Their discussion lasted about 1.5 hours followed by a question an answer period from the audience. To me, the overall theme of the talk seemed to surround the idea of overcoming obstacles. But then maybe I was honed in on those topics since they resonate so much with where I am in my life right now. The following is some points that were touched upon that I felt is worth mentioning:

What is your definition of a leader? – The first question the panelists were asked was what they thought a leader is and when did they think they became a leader. The answer that I thought was the most noteworthy is the idea that a good leader is someone who inspires success in others and are enabling a greater good. I really liked this answer because it isn’t always about how much money  you have in the bank or how many people you manage but about how you treat others. One of the women mentioned that she sees leadership in even the entry level employees when they help their colleagues with something or take initiative for a project.

If you could tell your 25  year old self some advice, what would it be?

Jennifer: “Hold on, don’t look d0wn, and keep lowering the rope”

This one needs a bit of backstory: During the summer, the executives decided that it was a good idea for Jennifer to join the others and rappel down city hall for a fund-raising event. As she was going up the elevator that day she was terrified. To calm her nerves she spoke to a young cystic fybrosis survivor who had a double lung transplant earlier that year  who was also doing the rappelling. Jennifer said she gave her some of the best advice she ever got. She said “hold on, don’t look down, and keep lowering the rope”. She said it inspired her to be brave because here was a teenage girl who has overcome so much and is still strong and optimistic. So whenever you feel like things are getting to scary or hard, just remember to keep holding on and go at one slowly and not to think about how scary it is (don’t look down), and eventually you will reach the bottom and be okay.

Kirstine: “Don’t let others define you”

As a young woman is heard to cut through the clutter and figure out who “you” really is. I can attest to this nearly impossible task of finding oneself because I’m still trying to figure it out. While you’re in the process it’s important to keep in mind that no matter where your soul searching takes you, it’s you who is driving and not someone else. Sometimes it might be easier to let someone else have the reigns for bit but then you become complacent and lazy.

Kerry: “Don’t take yourself so seriously” (have fun!)

Although all four women are very accomplished in their fields of work, they all spoke humbly and were very down to earth. I’m glad I got the opportunity to hear them all speak and look forward to the next Women in Leadership Luncheon next year.

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