Inspired leadership: women who lead by example

When I was younger, I did not see myself as a leader, but I never saw myself as a follower, either. Rather, I marched to the beat of my own drum — as I still do today. Throughout my school years and early adulthood, I resented authority figures – those in a leadership capacity who would tell me what to do, or force their will on me — while at the same time secretly craved their guidance and wisdom.

In recent years, with some reasonable maturity under my, um, coloured hair, I have been studying some of the world’s greatest minds and leaders, and observing leadership around me; not because I was setting out to be a leader, moreso out of curiosity. I wanted to know what is true leadership? What makes a good leader? Is it power and influence? Running a large corporation and many employees? Making decisions that impact scores of people? Or is it something else? We usually think of leaders as those who have risen to the top in the business world and political arena, such as Steve Jobs (whose legacy lives on), President Obama, Marissa Mayer, Ontario’s Premier Wynne, and so forth. But these are not the only kind of leaders out there.

Today, I interview women on my talk show, Extraordinary Women TV, who are doing something interesting with their lives.  They are role models. Having interviewed in-depth more than 200 Canadian women from all walks of life who are making their mark, it has forced me to revisit any previous notion I had of leadership.

For instance, Kym Geddes is the news director and anchor at NewsTalk 1010, who has her finger on the pulse of Toronto — an influential position to be in. She is the first female news director at the station, no doubt a huge accomplishment, but what I think is most interesting about her is the passion she oozes because she loves what she does. It’s like a magnet.

Linda Lundstrom, Canadian icon and fashion designer, had a highly successful design company only to later lose it all when the economy turned-down. Then, through a journey of faith, as she put it, she created a different kind of meaningful and successful life for herself, while at the same time making a difference in Aboriginal communities, which she speaks so passionately about today.

And Hassel Aviles, who founded the Toronto Underground Market (TUM), the first social food market in Canada, which brings many people together. As a young mom, she wanted to do something in her life that did not involve her children, so she faced her fears and launched TUM, something she loves to do – which makes her shine and that is alluring.

These women all have something in common: they are all leaders in their own right. They make their dreams come true. They inspire me. And they have opened my eyes to seeing a different kind of leadership because, as role models, they are leading by example.

Whenever I give my keynote on the topic “unleashing creativity,” I talk about discovering what we truly want to create in our hearts, getting beyond self-doubt – the killer of creativity – finding inspiration, which fuels us, and the courage that gives us the, ahem, balls to make our creative dreams a reality. When we do this, we are following our hearts and dreams. When we follow our dreams, we become an inspiring person. When we become an inspiring person, we inspire others to do the same — it’s catchy!

Because let me ask you this: is there nothing more inspiring than someone who is following their heart and dream?

This is leading with inspiration, through inspiration, for the purpose of inspiration. It is inspired leadership. And it is all around us.

And so, today I challenge you to think about how you view leadership and maybe even redefine it, if necessary.

And if you ever hit a wall with your creativity (a creative crash), experience the doldrums, or need inspiration or a courage boost, I encourage you to check out the women I interview. Get inspired by their stories of courage and transformation, and that will surely get you fired-up and make you take steps toward fulfilling your own dreams. They are truly leading…by example.