On the gloomy morning of March 10th, I was on my way to Grand Hotel Italia, armed with high-heels, pink matte lips and great excitement to attend the most important female leadership conference in Cluj, The Woman.
I know some of you were really curious what happened, how was it, and what did I learn from this experience, so this post sums up the main ideas. I had the chance to socialize, listen to some amazing speakers and spend a full-day in a room with more than 500 beautiful women. It was my first time there, but definitely not the last.
The event was very well organized, there were no delays or last-minute changes in the schedule (as it happens sometimes on other events), we had great lunch and coffee, plenty of gifts and giveaways, and also a very interesting experimental art gallery, which really caught my eye.
Nothing is perfect, so the special artistic moment in between the award gala was not really my piece of pie. Also, maybe the speeches should have been longer, because they seemed a bit rushed and we didn’t have much time for questions. But I understand the need to fit everything in a one day event, so I really want to congratulate the organizers for their great job.
OK, so now it’s time to get to the juicy part. What did these female leaders talk about? And what can we learn from them, in order to improve our own careers and lives?
Top female leaders do some things differently. They have certain habits, methods and mentalities that help them achieve their goals. So let’s learn from them and see what you could do to become more successful in your professional and personal life.
1. You are capable of more than you think
You need to push your limits, to be confident in your own strengths and skills. You should take advantage of your greatest assets (creativity, imagination, etc.) and believe in yourself, or no one else will. If you really want to start a business, become a manager at your company or be the best at what you do, you need to conquer those inner demons that constantly try to tear you down.
You are good enough, you have the capacity to do it. Just let go of your fears, step off the comfort zone and start doing things. It’s the only way to achieve greatness and to become a real leader or influencer.
2. Always strive to become the best version of yourself
You need to constantly improve yourself. Read more, socialize more, learn more about the world and about your role in it. Larisa Petrini (health coach), one of the speakers, emphasized the importance of good living, which involves enough sleep, healthy food and exercise.
It’s hard to focus on your professional role when you’re constantly feeling exhausted, lacking energy or motivation. So you need and deserve to adopt a healthy lifestyle. And remember, one of the biggest myths is that we “don’t have enough time”. We do, we just need to use it more wisely.
3. Take a break once in a while
Relax, meditate, take a day off, go on a holiday. You need to do the things you love, take long walks or spend time with your friends. Don’t disregard this part of your life, just to work more or catch up with e-mails. It’s only going to hurt you on the long run, and it will eventually turn into a massive burnout. One of the first workshops of the day actually focused on the stress management part, and the conclusion was simple: it’s more important than ever to take a deep breath and enjoy life to the fullest.
4. The “work vs. personal life” balance is just an illusion
Yikes. This one hurts, I know. But after listening to all these accomplished female leaders, I understood that you can’t always strike a line between what’s work and what’s not. When your work is your life, hobby and source of happiness in the same time, it’s only fair to spend as much time as possible doing what you love.
Keeping a blog, for example, it’s not a 9-to-5 activity. It can sometimes take up the full-day, even weekends, but it’s such a rewarding job that you never feel the need to complain. Having an important position in a company (or even owning your own company) will require a massive amount of time, effort and dedication, which will probably leave no room for “personal activities”. But if this overlap doesn’t bother you, why struggle to keep a balance in the first place?
5. The need to wake up early is a reality, not a cliche
If you want to improve the quality of your life, you need to get up early. I am normally not a morning person (and I need several alarm clocks to wake me up), but I cannot disagree with the fact that waking up at 5 or 6 o’clock is something extraordinary.
Instead of being angry, frustrated and in a hurry every morning, you should dedicate at least 2 hours for yourself only. This is enough to drink your coffee, exercise, read the news, walk the dog, create a nice make-up look, or anything else that you want.
While the whole world is asleep, you are up and working for your dream. Isn’t that a refreshing thought? It is for me, and I will do my best to get into this routine.
6. Be authentic and embrace your personality
You laugh, speak, walk, smile in a certain way. You make certain type of jokes, have a special set of skills or abilities. So why would you ever try to hide your personality or copy someone else? Embrace your weirdness, embrace the things that make you unique and stand up for yourself. You can’t succeed if you constantly use a mask.
Both Paula Herlo (awarded journalist) and Monica Barladeanu (actress and entrepreneur) talked about the importance of personal branding, and the fact is that you cannot be loved or appreciated for something you’re not. So be authentic, be real and brand yourself likewise.
7. Fight for what you want
Don’t be discouraged and stop at the first obstacle you face. Sometimes things go wrong, you might lose money, jobs, friends, you might need to go through hell and back until getting where you want. But never quit.
Fight for what’s yours, fight for what you want to achieve and there’s nothing that can stand in your way. Maia Morgenstern told us a story of loss and gain, in her role as Director at the Hebrew State Theater, and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t inspiring and motivational.
8. Don’t try to rule like a man
We are women, we have certain ways to deal with things. We have intuition, empathy, and we need to use those skills in our advantage. There is no need to fight against men or to adopt their methods in order to be taken seriously.
All we need is a bit more confidence in ourselves and in our ability to become a leader.
9. Taking care of yourself is not superficial, it’s essential
Beauty and fashion seem like such superficial and frivolous topics of discussion. I mean, I know we’re not quite saving the world through make-up or hair-styling, but we are making it better for ourselves. And that should be enough.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you look in the mirror and like what you see, you’ll be confident, you’ll smile more often, which means you’ll get a lot more opportunities and make a lot more connections. It’s only a natural reaction to be attracted to beautiful people. And you don’t even have to look perfect, you just need to embrace your flaws and enhance your qualities.
Make-up is a great tool to highlight your natural beauty. A well-fitted blazer can make you feel a lot more confident than a baggy sweater, and a fresh haircut can help you more than you think. Just remember that if you feel good, you’ll inspire the same thing in others.
10. Be modest, grateful and don’t neglect your family or community
Many of the speakers touched upon a delicate subject: family, kids and the importance of spending enough quality time with them. Family is a major source of happiness and can provide balance and peace in your life. So they deserve all the love, time and support you can offer.
Also, giving back to the community was another hot topic. Volunteering, helping people in need, using your resources (time, money, etc.) to help make a better world. It seems that the more you do about it, the happier you are. Karma always rewards you for doing good, even if you don’t realize it yet.
Well, what can I say, being a successful female leader doesn’t seem easy at all. It takes a lot of courage, passion and a splash of madness to make your dreams come true, but all the effort and sacrifice is worth it in the end. I really admire these people, especially because not everyone can do what they do, and that’s the whole charm of it.
As a final thought, I think it’s important to remember that you don’t need to be a manager or an entrepreneur to be a leader. You already are appointed as the leader of our own life, and you are responsible for all the happiness (or lack of happiness) that you now experience. It’s hard to accept this fact, but once you do, there’s no turning back.
Do you apply these principles to improve your own professional or personal life? And which one do you think it’s more important? Let’s talk about it 🙂