LIMA — Bonnie St. John recalled visiting a hospital where she’d stayed as a child after winning silver and bronze medals at the 1984 Paralympics in Austria.
After her inspirational speech, a mother leaned into her and asked if her son would ever have a normal life. She responded, “No, he’s not going to lead a normal life. He should aim higher.”
St. John, an honors graduate from Harvard who later won sales awards at IBM and served as the director of President Bill Clinton’s White House National Economic Council, shared that story during a Leadercast video presented as part of the Women in Business quarterly networking event, applying it to many of the female business leaders watching her speak. It’s presented by the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce, with the backing of several sponsors.
“Women, we are not ‘normal’ leaders,” she said, “but we can be extraordinary leaders. We can bring ourselves, our unique perspectives and what we have to contribute. In fact, the world needs what we have to contribute at such a time as this.”
She offered tips, such as making yourself more help-able. Succeeding means getting help and support. She also urged women to engage in “women’s amplification,” taking the documented trend of men sometimes offering a woman’s ideas as their own a few minutes later and putting that on its head. Instead, she said, women should agree ahead of time going into meetings that they’ll redirect people’s attention to the original idea’s provider.
The key, she said, is to make sure women are heard and valued in businesses, becoming a “community of champions” for one another.
The second speaker, “Fast Company” editor Stephanie Menta, noted changing dynamics in the workplace from 15 hours of interviews she’s had with some of the nation’s largest companies.
She said companies have adjusted their priorities from the days of just serving the stockholders. The “new normal leadership” has four tenets, that it remembers who it leads, is curious, is flexible and has a North star, a conscience driving its decisions for the employees and community.
“In this day and age, that doesn’t just mean telling people what to do,” she said. “That means treating employees with integrity,r respect, dignity and equity because, frankly, that’s what they expect from leadership in exchange for giving you their very best work.”