The media often rightly pays attention to disruptive startups and habits of successful CEOs, whose influence shapes entire industry ecosystems. In fact, this list of influential business women is very encouraging. But less often do we ask how his or her success developed by examining forces which shaped someone to become a leader. It leads me to wonder:
What makes you a leader, and how do more young women tap that knowledge to grow into more leadership positions?
To tame my curiosity, I attended a fascinating gathering hosted by Mindspace in Berlin. This session, somewhat mysteriously entitled ‘How to Lead Myself,’ is part of a series on young female leadership led by Judith Jungmann. I asked Jungmann about her motivation to offer this workshop. She said her mission is to empower young female leaders. To do so, you need a circle of trust where you can be supported and coached. She also seeks to altruistically give back to these women her knowledge from 20 years of HR and leadership experience.
The evening’s topic came directly from a request in the previous session. Jungmann wanted to meet the needs of her first group of participants, mostly freelancers or women starting their own businesses.
Jungmann says ultimately to be a great leader, you must start with yourself.
So in this session, Jungmann coached 30 participants from around the world who were each drawn to Berlin for unique reasons. The internationalism in that room cannot be overlooked.
These women have origins in Italy, France, Macedonia, Iran, Turkey, the UK, Ecuador, Egypt, Sweden, the Philippines, Singapore, Bulgaria, America, and of course Germany.
Their professional backgrounds and industries include influential marketing, IT, computer science, neuroscience, agile coaching, consulting, the arts, travel, and fintech, among others. What connected them was seeking expertise on how to transform oneself into a leader.
After a brief ‘centering’ exercise to begin, the group split into teams of 2 for major introspection expertly guided by Jungmann, and shared outcomes with each other and the group. Over the course of the evening, people’s mindsets or circumstances clearly shifted: A die-hard entrepreneur realized she needs to focus on empathy to succeed. Another met a potential colleague at a company to which she had recently applied. Yet another got sound advice about how to appropriately charge for her skill set.
Let me be clear: the learnings of the workshop could apply to men as well. But in order to carve more space for women at the top of their industries, we need to support them early on in their careers. I culled some initial key tips to share, and give full credit to Jungmann for facilitating these three insights:
- Move from realistic to UNrealistic. Think BIGGER. Dream beyond your current reality.
- Self-doubt, although a natural consequence of reflection, has no long-term place. “There is no room for self-doubt,” says Jungmann.
- Good leadership can stem from gratitude. Doing a simple daily exercise of listing what you are grateful for shifts the mind from the usual risk-aversion/survival mode to calm, leaving more possibility for creativity.
The main work that evening focused on creating clarity. So, what is that? In loose terms, clarity is the sweet spot where you are in your groove and have a plan for the future. It is a sense of flow, where one can be happy — with happiness defined as having a good challenge, open communication, and importantly, a mid-term plan of 5–10 years. Without meeting these delicate criteria, there is a risk of either staying in your comfort zone, stagnation, or depression.
Fragility of Perfection
Jungmann shared a poignant anecdote from her own life which boiled down to this: even the veneer of perfection in one’s personal or professional life is easily shattered unless there is a foundation of honesty and adherence to core values underneath. To access what this personal truth means, participants completed exercises to evaluate the following: self, social circle, skills, and service. We reflected on how we measure ourselves, how others perceive us and look for any variance between these, and how to correct for it.
Key tips: Ask yourself: What 3 terms or characteristics describe who you want to be, or what you want to be known for?
What can you do right now that will shape yourself into a person who is described in that way?
Avoid only focusing only on your professional development. Instead develop a more holistic view of your social interactions, both in your personal and work spheres.
From Passion to Career
The portions I found especially useful were on the skills/service topic. For Skills, we asked ourselves, what are the top 3 skills needed in your field? Basically, what leads someone to move from having passion to having a career? How do you develop those skills, and what skills will still be relevant in the near future? What is something you can do tomorrow about this that fits your preferred learning mode, i.e. reading a useful book, watching an online tutorial, seeking out mentorship, shadowing someone at work, etc?
In terms of service, we asked: what is the biggest value to those you serve, such as a team, boss, client. How can you provide this service in a way that is excellent, unique, and unforgettable?
Write it Down and Sleep on it
While Jungmann was entirely encouraging of everyone’s ideas and comments the one thing she strongly urged everyone to do was write down your goals. The act of writing solidifies ideas and subconsciously begins to commit them into action. Sleep on it. Come back to your goal list and revise it. You might notice after 6 months' time that you have naturally begun to chip away at your grand plan, and if not, keep at it.
The immediate connectivity in the room was palpable. Connections were made and emails exchanged.
I see a huge potential in this community and in this format: Opportunity to define one’s values, examine your interactions, shape your work/life balance, pursue active steps in your career, network and build a support team.
Seeking More Resources?
Check out podcasts like FemGems to discover female founder role models and future-focused networking groups like Clustered. Are these ideas helpful? You can follow me, Elisheva Marcus for more insights from the Berlin community.