Renowned global experts across a wide range of fields provided timely and relevant expertise on key topics during the Signature Sessions at the 2023 Simmons Leadership Conference. Drawing on their vast experience, they shared practical, actionable tips and tools you can start using today to be a more effective and inclusive leader.
The Prepared Leader
Lynn Perry Wooten, President of Simmons University, and Erika H. James, Dean of the Wharton School, the dynamic duo behind the book, The Prepared Leader: Emerge from Any Crisis More Resilient Than Before, explained how integral resiliency is to leadership during a crisis and how innovation in these situations leads to opportunities.
Erika outlined the five phases of a crisis and the supporting skills required to navigate them, with resiliency being a primary focus. “Resiliency is about mobilizing the necessary resources and gaining the capacity and strength to overcome adversity or change,” she said.
Lynn outlined their Crisis as Opportunities for Innovation tool that leaders can use as a framework as they consider ways to innovate. She also discussed the three categories of innovation.
“Crises call for unifying visions around innovation and pursuing new market opportunities,” she said. “We know that in crisis situations, innovation only occurs when the team can come together and develop because the sum has to be greater than its parts.
Thriving as a Leader
Susan MacKenty Brady, CEO of the Institute for Inclusive Leadership, and Elisa van Dam, Vice President of Allyship and Inclusion at the Institute, each presented “Thriving as a Leader: Innovating with Courage,” which draws on strategies featured in the best-selling book Arrive & Thrive: 7 Impactful Practices for Women Navigating Leadership, co-authored by Susan. (Susan presented in person, and Elisa virtually.)
In these highly interactive sessions, Susan and Elisa unpacked their 7 Questions to Courageous Action that support people as they take courageous actions. They shared how to use the 7 Questions to help viewers take action despite their fears and to identify their fears and employ strategies to mitigate them. The questions start with “Is this issue important?” and “Is now the right time?” and end with “How can I take a small step?”
“Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s the presence of vulnerability,” said both Susan MacKenty Brady and Elisa van Dam.
Juggling Is What Clowns Do!
In “Women and Work-Life Balance: ‘Juggling Is What Clowns Do!,'” Dia Simms, the CEO of Lobos 1707 and Former President of Combs Enterprise, articulated her belief that a work-life balance is a myth and that life should take precedence over work. Rather than juggle several balls, she encouraged the audience to focus on the things that are in front of them, be present in the moment and hold ourselves as the timekeepers of our own lives.
“Take an action, commit to that action, fail fast, and then move forward,” she said.
Lessons from the Flight Deck
Lt. Col. Olga Custodio, an aviation pioneer, overcame obstacles and sexism to become the country’s first Latina fighter pilot and the first American Airlines Latina commercial airline pilot. Olga’s path to success was not an easy one, especially in a field dominated by men. In “Emotional Intelligence: Lessons from the Flight Deck,” she recounted her life experiences growing up and traveling the world as an Army brat and the challenges she faced on her journey to achieve her dream of becoming an Air Force pilot. She pointed to three principles that propelled her to success: overcoming self-doubt, staying open to possibilities, and seeing herself as an equal.
“Know where you are, where you need to be, what you’re working towards, and where you want to go. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, encourage what you are trying to achieve,” she said. “Where there’s will, there’s power.”
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