7 Things I Learned About Becoming a Leader from Some Amazing Women of Color

Just over a month ago, I organized a Women of Color Leadership Conference that was amazingly impactful. So much so that I am still hearing stories from people about how it has changed their perspective on what’s possible and how they are taking control of their own narratives to create the futures they see for themselves.

I learned so much from the community created that day. The wisdom shared not only by the speakers but also by the participants was profound. It has given me the courage to continue this journey and do what I can to move our collective spirit of shared support forward. To that end, I want to inspire others with some of the lessons imparted at the conference in the hopes that it will encourage more women of color to empower themselves and break some glass!

1. Bring your best self. You’ve heard about bringing your whole self to work. LaFawn Bailey has a different take. She pointed out that not everyone needs to see or know everything about you because sometimes, if we’re honest, it’s not pretty. But you do want everyone to see the best parts of you so make sure you’re in an environment that allows you to do that.

2. Take off your backpack. As women of color, we can often feel like we’re wearing a heavy backpack because we not only have gender biases but racial and ethnic biases working against us as well. How do we make that backpack feel lighter? Find cheerleaders. Change your environment when you need to. Be active in moving your game forward.

3. Don’t be a victim. There is a lot of research out there that spells out in depressing detail all of the biases held against women and people of color in the workplace. As Chitra Nayak said, ignore it. Yes, it exists, but it does not have to define you or your experience. If you take the no fear approach to your career and aspirations, you can fulfill them.

4. Step into your power. When we trust in ourselves and are truly bringing our truth to what we do, we are in our power. Each of us is capable of so much, and we sometimes unconsciously hold ourselves back. But in the words of Stacy Parson, “Let’s be with it so that we can get on with it.” Acknowledge your circumstance as a woman of color and be powerful anyway.

5. You are not alone. As speakers and participants shared their stories with each other, there was such a palpable sense of shared experience that it was profoundly affecting. Alison Hu encapsulated this when she said this was a chance for the unsaid to be said, where others will hear it as you meant it so that we can take our feet off our own brakes. It brought about a realization that each of us becomes stronger when we can connect with the women of color community for support and shared purpose.

6. Take risks. Take risks. Take risks. As Shellye Archambeau put it, once you figure out that you’ve got skills and you can always get a job to pay your bills, then take some risks to go after what you really want. Noni Allwood talked about how our intersectionality as women of color is a fantastic asset to driving innovation. We need to find the courage to be confident in who we are and what we bring in order to be the leaders others know we can be.

7. Lift as you climb. When we share our stories and experiences with people outside of our community, we can create awareness and action for change. And when we empower ourselves to break through glass ceilings, we create an opportunity for others to follow. We cannot be passive in the dialogue around diversity. Margenett Moore-Roberts put it best when she said to think not only about yourself but how what you do and the energy you put out in the world impacts other people. We do not have the luxury of holding back.

This is just a small sampling of all the valuable takeaways people got from the conference. If you’re interested in experiencing more moments like these, join the community at an upcoming Breaking Glass Forum. The next one is August 30, 2016 from 5–8pm in Palo Alto, CA and the topic we’ll be tackling is “Building Resilience in a Changing World”, which will speak not only to dealing with change in your professional life, but also how to move forward as a woman of color in the broader context of what is going on in the racially charged society of today. Go towww.breaking.glass for more info and to register.

“Like” this post and let me know if any of the above resonates with you. If you were at the Women of Color Leadership Conference, I would love for you to add a comment below about your key takeaways as well.

And please share this post with anyone who might need a little inspiration today!

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