In June 2006, I became the executive director of a local nonprofit I’d long wanted to lead. I thought I had arrived! I had reached my ultimate destination.
I started off my leadership by imitating the leaders I had chosen as role models, relied solely on my skills to get me through things and shut down my emotions like I thought a good administrator should. Day by day, month by month I became more and more miserable. I spent the first four years like this. At the end, I felt disappointed in myself and my leadership, questioning what I was doing and disillusioned out being a leader. I found myself asking “what the heck am I doing?”
There I was … creating success, but I was falling apart inside. I was miserable. I was gaining weight. I couldn’t find solace. I was completely dissatisfied in my role as a leader. I felt ineffective. I didn’t know how to nurture and mentor the emerging leaders I was charged to lead. I felt exhausted, spent and so very discouraged.
I don’t even want to tell you how I showed up at home for myself and for my husband.
In hindsight, this was the best thing that could have happened to me. It pushed me to finally get honest with myself. I realized that achieving my leadership position was not the final destination … actually there was no destination in leadership. Leadership, I finally realized, was in fact a journey! Achieving my position was simply the beginning of my leadership journey. I had to admit to myself that I needed to start a brand-new journey with leadership.
I needed help. The help came through an executive coach I hired. She insisted that I commit to myself and my leadership. Once I committed, I worked to figure out “who” I was, my values and my passions. This was essential to re-igniting the fire inside me so I could show up as the woman leader I wanted to be; the one I meant to be. The result was that I became a leader I like and am proud of today. Side benefits? Increased income and releasing 60 lbs. of body weight!
My darkest and most hopeless moments as a leader were when I bought into the traditional leadership model, questioned my strengths and power as a woman leader and ignored my own inner wisdom and knowing. Those moments were dark and hopeless because it left out ME, who I am, my core values, beliefs and what I stand for. All that changed when I set out on the leadership journey; my ultimate pilgrimage as I would like to call it.
The desire to create my own brand of leadership led me to start working with the woman leaders who were experiencing exactly what I went through. It inspired within me the desire to help the new generation of woman leaders to create their own unique brand of leadership.