Leadership

Zengo Leader

"Push it! You can do it!" I pedaled faster and faster as my Zengo instructor, barely visible in the dark, got off her bike, hopped down from her dais, and bounced towards the front row of bikers, chanting and cheering at us the whole way, until she was standing in front of me. I added two turns to my bike's resistance and picked up the pace, and as quickly as she was there, she was back on her bike, leading us on a long, slow climb. How many others had done the same when she materialized in front of them?

At the end of class, sweaty and exhausted, high on endorphins, I was talking with my friends about how much harder you work when you have a trainer or instructor inspiring you. This was my second time attending a Zengo class. The first time I had no idea it would be pitch black and had not planned on the whole body workout I was about to get. Now that the shock of the format had worn off, I could focus more on the experience. It is so clear how important a leader is, not just in fitness, but in every organization. While the Zengo organization made sure I had the resources I needed to be successful going in, including shoes and a water, the Zengo leader made sure I was set up for success on the journey, with my seat and handlebars properly set, my shoes clipped in, and a rocking play list. The Zengo leader then inspired me to follow her, to push myself, to strive for better and my best.

As a leader, you have to focus every single day on communicating and connecting with people in order to inspire them to give their best. Your job is to keep the goals in focus and lead the way, giving them the support they need to reach their goals.

"Leadership is lifting a person's vision to high heights, the raising of a person's performance to higher standards, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations." Peter Drucker

The Journey

I can't tell you how many times I have daydreamed about buying multiple copies of "my" books and delivering them to the women in my life.

Sometimes the books are tied together with twine, sometimes they arrive in a box, but in every imagined scene they elicit a curious smile as she picks up the book on top and scans the jacket. I can picture her settling in to read, maybe even grabbing her journal, and my heart swells as I sense her moving down her own path to self-discovery, wherever she is on her journey.

While I call the books mine, I didn't write them. They are mine because they so neatly summarize a chapter of my own journey to self confidence, creativity, and fulfillment. I understand intuitively that each woman will connect very differently with my books, or maybe not at all. What has resonated with me may not hold meaning for another. Still I feel called to share, to facilitate a transformative process for other women so each can find her own confidence and creativity, or whatever else she may be searching for.

Books were an escape for me growing up. The shift to using books and writing for self-reflection didn't come until I was an adult with kids of my own and became intrigued by the big topic of leadership.

At the time I had a busy job and two young kids, so the fact that I started devouring books on leadership was a testament to the excitement and passion I was feeling. For the first time in my life, I was often reading multiple books at once, and sometimes not finishing a book when I felt I had gotten what I needed. 

A few years later, the only female executive at a growing firm, I needed insight into the leadership challenges faced by women. That is how, one weekend in the fall, I found myself sitting in the bookstore poring over leadership books for women. I came home with a stack of books, and started with How Women Lead by Sharon Hadary and Laura Henderson.

If you work as a stay-at-home mom or in some other role outside corporate America, you may be thinking that what I learned from How Women Lead won't apply to you. Please keep reading.

I looked back at my journal from when I was reading Hadary and Henderson's book, and the first thing I wrote down was, "Identify the boundaries holding you back." That statement is followed by five lists--how I see myself, how I think others see me, my values, my passions, and my strengths and weaknesses--all of which have helped me define success on my terms and create my own path. 

Staying confidently true to who I am is an iterative process that will ebb and flow, which is why re-reading my journal musings has been critical for me. Whether you are a leader at work, at home, in your community, or all of the above, knowing yourself is an important step towards defining and achieving your goals.

My journey didn't start with books and it won't end there. I have also had supportive conversations with family and friends, felt the encouragement of an amazing therapist, gotten advice from accomplished mentors and peers, and attended training sessions and networked with exceptionally smart professionals. I have found inspiration through running, meaning in music, and I have tried and failed, and tried again. In writing, I have found my voice.

As mythologist and author Joseph Campbell said, "The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are." I am getting there. How about you?