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Why Feminine Leadership is the Future: Interview with LeadHERship Founder, Linda Fisk
Linda Fisk is a multi-award-winning leader, keynote speaker, author, and university professor dedicated to amplifying and extending the success of other high-caliber business leaders. She is the Founder and CEO of LeadHERship Global, a community of unstoppable women enhancing their leadership blueprint and embracing their power to be the best version of themselves- in work and life. In LeadHERship Global, Linda supports and guides ambitious, creative women to move in the direction of their purpose, their mission, and their dreams with powerful connections, critical support, practical tools, and valuable resources to show up, speak up and step up in their careers and personal lives.
Prior to her role in LeadHERship Global, Linda was the CEO of Collective 54, successfully launching growing, and scaling that firm after serving as the global head of brand marketing, public relations, and communications at Susan G. Komen. Linda forged an earlier career as an entrepreneurial and forward-thinking marketing executive on the cutting edge of brand marketing. When Linda served as the Global Head of Marketing for YPO, she developed her passion for bringing inspiring leaders together to create opportunities, discover possibilities and solve problems.
Linda has a Ph.D. and M.A. in Clinical Psychology and has written extensively on the subjects of social comparison, depression and anxiety, subjective well-being, and personality theory, with a focus on relating scientific research to commonly understood concepts. Currently, Linda is interested in the psychology of influence, persuasion, and negotiation.
Let’s rewind the tape for a minute. Remember back in early 2020 — an invisible and dangerous enemy was fast approaching: COVID-19. It was highly contagious, unpredictable, and deadly.
So, what to do? How to prepare and respond? Leaders of cities, states, and countries faced an unprecedented test. The story of the spread and unthinkable human tragedies of COVID-19 is the ultimate case study in high-stakes leadership. The ones who passed this test with flying colors are disproportionately women. This is despite the fact that they make up only 7% of
heads of state.
And, none of us can afford to miss the lessons here. The number of COVID-related deaths is predicted to be substantially lower in areas where leaders acted sooner – even by a week.
All leaders, including men, can learn from what we have seen women do in this crisis. This moment in history offers a fascinating and real-time opportunity to understand the consequences of leadership decisions in a high-stakes situation.
Empathy wins in a crisis – Women leaders, they found, tend to slightly outperform men in most leadership skills. Often referred to as emotional intelligence, soft skills refer to any ability pertaining to the way you approach others or handle your professional life – and women tend to excel.
Women have been proven to hold a key advantage in these soft skills–a study by global consulting firm Hay Group found that women outperform men in 11 of 12 key emotional intelligence competencies.
But the difference in leadership between the genders grows larger during any sort of crisis. Female leaders express more awareness of fears that team members might be feeling, concern for well-being, and confidence in their plans.
Included in these are essential leadership capabilities, common to most women, are things like:
• Professionalism (self-motivation, work ethic, resilience)
• The ability to network
• Communication, both oral and written
• Critical thinking
More information at https://leadHERshipGlobal.com
Read the Interview Transcript
Hugh Ballou: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to The Nonprofit Exchange. Interviews with leaders, interviews with people who have done things, are doing things, have discovered some important things to share. Through their experiences, they have some ideas and wisdom to share with you.
Today’s episode is called- Hmm, I will let my guest talk about this because it is so powerful, and she is a powerful presence. She is an advocate for women in leadership, which is such an important topic. Linda Fisk, welcome. Tell people a little bit about you, about leadership. What is your passion for this work?
Linda Fisk: Thank you so much, Hugh. It is such a pleasure and honor to be here with you today, so thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to be a part of your program and to be able to speak with all of the people who are fans of yours.
AS CEO and founder of LeadHERship Global, I have the privilege of meeting inspirational leaders all around the world. I am surrounded by people who are invested in accelerating the success of other women. It is one of the most inspirational and motivational jobs that I can imagine. To be able to be in a community of women who lift each other up, cheer each other on, provide counsel and support, and help all women around the planet reach greater levels of success and impact because the purpose of LeadHERship Global is simply to create and support personal and professional breakthroughs. Our community is created to help guide women to achieving greater levels of leverage and freedom, both in their careers and their lives.
Hugh: Love it. Why you?
Linda: Why me? I will tell you that early in my career, I learned about the transformational power of bringing leaders together for problem-solving, ideation, creation, co-elevation. I learned very early on that when you bring passionate, astute thought leaders, pioneers, trailblazers, innovators together, focused on solving common goals and challenges, the outcome is absolutely transformational. We provide a global community of world-class women thought leaders and experts that are brought together to collaborate and facilitate excellent outcomes for each other.
I learned very early on that really good leaders operate in close-knit, high-performing teams. They operate well-run organizations. But the most transformational leaders, those leaders who are really doing legacy work, they operate outside the boundaries of just their organization or team. They bring in a whole counsel of thought leaders and supporters and truth-tellers around them. Through that wider network of people who are uniquely chosen because they support that leader, they challenge that leader, they stress-test ideas, they accelerate the success of that leader, that is where we find transformational advancement. That is where we find incredible innovation, both in leadership and bringing that outside thought leadership into the organization. That is when we see huge leaps in performance.
Hugh: Some of the most profoundly influential leaders that I have experienced are women. Women approach leadership in a different way than men, which is a good thing. It’s time for a fresh paradigm. You’re an influencer. I think one of the most important traits of being a leader is being an influencer. What do you think?
Linda: Yes, I agree. When you think about impactful leadership, to me, it is about making long-lasting, positive, and meaningful contributions to organizations and community and the lives of people. To do that, you have to combine both your mind and heart to lead. You have to create achievable and sustainable goals that build lasting impact. That is only achieved by genuinely and generously influencing people to believe, to trust, and to join you in your mission. Being an influencer is very much about inviting others to join you in your mission, to create purpose, to create a mission and vision that ignites them, electrifies their spirit, and gives them the motivation to persevere and to be ingenious, resourceful, creative in the way they solve problems, in the way they impact other people, communities, and organizations.
Hugh: Impact is key. You work with women in the business world and the nonprofit world. Clergy as well. Women are making a significant impact in those areas. We are not judged by our activity at the end of the day; we are judged by results. We impact people’s lives with our work. I think the first rule of transformation happens in self. Managing self is more important than anything to be effective as a leader. What are some of the myths about leadership and where leaders fall short?
Linda: I will say that in my mind, there are a couple qualities of what I consider to be, as you described it, a transformational leader, a leader that really does create impact. One is they are clear about their values. They have established a unique leadership style based on those values, those non-negotiables, those aspects of their operating style, their leadership style that will not be sacrificed. There are no shortcuts. There are non-negotiables associated with their values. These value traits are what inform their leadership style, their character traits, their talents. It’s all based on a foundation, a framework of values that are steadfast. These are aspects of their leadership style that are non-negotiable.
The second quality of a good leader is not only understanding your values and allowing your unique leadership style to be based on those values, but to serve with both your heart and your mind. That means incorporating an attitude of service, to genuinely connect with people in your life and earn their loyalty. This isn’t about a commanding leadership. This is about an earned leadership position. It’s about incorporating this attitude of service that attracts people to you. It genuinely connects with the people in your life. It helps earn their loyalty
The third aspect of really effective leadership is to be generous and participate. You have to share your knowledge generously with those you lead. Being a role model, you have to live your values. You have to live your leadership style. You have to be a role model to inspire and motivate people to move forward, which means that not only do you have to be incredibly generous with your willingness to share your knowledge, to coach, to participate, but you also have to live out the tenets of your belief system. You have to live out the tenets of your leadership style, which again should be based in the bedrock of your values.
In my mind, those are perhaps the three most important qualities of being a good leader. But we do know that women generally, not always, have some unique leadership traits, too that I think does serve them well: empathy, humility, self-knowledge. Those are all keys to accelerating in leadership. Generally, women tend to have those kinds of attributes and traits in a much more abundant way than most men. Female leaders tend to express more awareness of the fears that their team members may be feeling. They’re empathetic. They have concern for the well-being of their team members. Yet they have confidence in their own plans.
In my mind, central leadership capabilities that are central to most women are collaboration, communication (both oral and written), critical thinking, empathy, humility, and self-awareness that they know they may not have all the answers. There are risks in business that they need to be aware of, but they rely on the broader sense of their community, other thought leaders, the people they turn to as their personal board of directors to tell them the truth, give them feedback, and share ideas, possibilities, options, and opportunities in a real way.
Hugh: That’s profound. That’s so consistent with what we teach at SynerVision Leadership Foundation. I want to come back to the women’s traits in a minute. I was almost 50 before I discovered that in order to make music, as a musical conductor standing on a podium in front of a choir or orchestra, I had to be vulnerable. That is one thing that you implied, but we haven’t hit on straight. Brené Brown writes about it. Until you can be vulnerable on a podium, you can’t be free to make good music, to lead the music making. There is a direct transposition of that into the workplace. Talk about authenticity and vulnerability, would you.
Linda: I agree with what you just suggested. Authenticity begins by deeply knowing yourself, understanding a lot of the themes that have reoccurred in your life, a lot of the teaching moments and learning moments that have been woven throughout your life. In that rich tapestry woven in someone’s life, there are highs and lows. There are incredible achievements and times of accomplishment. There are also times of extraordinary failure, missteps, mistakes. As a leader, you need to embrace it all. You need to be open and honest about your wins as well as your losses. The more you are able to see the most profound mistakes and failures as learning opportunities, that allows you to be much more open, authentic, and vulnerable about the lessons you have learned along the way.
That also leads to a sense of empathy for other people. It allows others to recognize they have both extraordinary wins and losses. Both of those experiences help you become a much more capable, open, transparent, authentic leader that now has the opportunity to be empathetic to others. When you recognize your wins and your losses, you have a sense of grace for others.
It turns out that women leaders tend to slightly overperform men in leadership skills associated with empathy. They are often referred to as things like emotional intelligence and soft skills. It pertains to any way in which you approach others or handle your professional life with a sense of humility, openness, transparency, grace, and acceptance of other people. Women have proven to hold a key advantage in these soft skills. That is from firms like the Hay Group and E&Y and Columbia Business School. They tend to suggest that those skills associated with emotional intelligence competency tend to be more associated with women, for the most part. Not a sweeping statement, but generally female leaders express more awareness of their strengths and their weaknesses; their incredible successes and their stunning failures. They are more accepting of all those experiences as fundamental building blocks to their learning journey.
Hugh: You just had 900 sound bites go by. Each one of them will impact your life. The title of today’s episode is “Why Feminine Leadership is the Future.” Linda, your website is LeadHERShipGlobal.com. What will people find when they come to the site?
Linda: LeadHERship Global is a community for what I consider to be the most impactful, extraordinary women in the world. Our whole focus is helping women unleash their full potential. It’s about accelerating their success. You are going to see huge opportunities to learn, grow, advance, both in community as well as in self-directed learning. We help ensure that high-performing and growth-oriented leaders are able to collaborate in a confidential, supportive, and private community. We give them opportunities to collaborate in small groups like leadership boards and trust forums and huge learning events like our Enlightened Leadership Roundtable or our Business Owners Roundtable. What we try to do is provide community for women to collaborate, to co-elevate, to learn, to grow, to advance.
We also have a deep, rich library of diagnostics, assessments, resources that include workbooks, worksheets, articles, videos, step-by-step instruction through podcasts. We have so many high-value resources to help women overcome any challenge they could be facing. We help members of LeadHERship Global accelerate their success by defining their vision, growing their leadership, expanding their influence, leaving a lasting legacy by advancing their definition of what success means.
Hugh: It means busting through some of the assumptions and paradigms. I often teach that we have learned leadership wrong. It’s really good to see what you have to offer. We have inherited systems that are compromised. We are expected to do what was before. What was before, I am a white male boomer, and we have messed things up. There is also the challenge of people in power, which is the white male boomers mostly. Due to our fragile male egos, we want to block anything that will be more effective. There are certain challenges for women. For you and other leaders, you have stepped to the front of the line, saying, “I am going to claim my place.”
I want to remind people: You have heard it before, and you are hearing it again. They are not failures; they are learning opportunities. Napoleon Hill said, “In every failure, there is a seed of a future success.” I wanted to highlight that.
I do want to address something here. We talk about this equality. To me, equality is a myth. Why should women dumb down and try to be equal with men who have screwed it up? It is equity, but it is stepping into the excellence of leadership that women bring to the workplace, no matter where it is. What would you say to encourage some of the women who want to step up but feel threatened or don’t feel secure in doing it?
Linda: You will find a community that is going to support you, cheer you on, be genuinely invested in your success. Throughout your leadership journey, you have to continue to learn how to better serve others and genuinely support their career advancement and overall engagement in their work. The more you have a community of people around you who are doing that for you, and you in turn do that for others, it becomes this remarkable ecosystem I really do think was the design of life. It was for us to feed others as we are fed ourselves.
Becoming mindful of the opportunity and responsibility that you have to serve your own advancement by serving others is to me the key. That is absolutely the secret, but it’s also the key that unlocks phenomenal joy, incredible fulfillment, incredible meaning and purpose in life. Ensure you are being fed as you focus on feeding others. That means learning how to better serve others and genuinely support their career advancement and overall engagement as you surround yourself with others who are going to tell you the truth, cheer you on, provide counsel to you, lift you up, connect you, and give you the benefits and advantages of their experience. Being mindful of the opportunity and responsibility you have to serve your own advancement by serving other people to me is the key.
Hugh: That is so essential. One of the phrases that flew by that I want to pull out was “creating a collaborative culture of community.” You talked about some components there. We as male leaders tend to cut ourselves off because we have this boss paradigm. Boss is double SOB spelled backwards. We need to get out of “I have the right answers.” None of us have all the right answers, but we do have good questions. You talked about building collaborative cultures. You talked about coaching and mentoring others. How does a leader move from a doer to empowering others who have really good skills?
Linda: Everyone in their leadership journey at some point becomes a little stymied, stuck. They feel like they have hit a wall. They are unable to figure out how to take their team to the next level, how to level up their skills as a leader, someone who continues to be motivating and driving and inspirational. Let me just say that is a big challenge for anyone, no matter how gifted you are, no matter how much of a natural-born leader you are. There are still times where you feel stuck, like you hit a ceiling or a wall. That is when it’s important to be surrounded by people who will lift you up. You have to make sure you have access to valuable insight, proprietary tools, resources, certifications, executive coaching, powerful group experiences, mentoring relationships, influential networking. You have to find ways of reaching beyond yourself to find resourceful, new angles on a problem, to find innovative, pioneering, new solutions to a problem.
We are facing some unprecedented times. Even though many of us are starting to feel as though COVID is in our rearview mirror, I will tell you there are new challenges surfacing post-pandemic. Being in a community of leaders allows you to have an outlet, continuously learn, improve in a confidential setting, and get exposure to new ways to approaching problems to issues and new ways of leveraging opportunities. Having a safe, supportive environment that allows you to develop friendships and networks with other CEOs and leaders you respect, this can really enrich your personal and professional life and give you that little jolt that you needed to feel as though you are able to get “unstuck.” Choosing a community that supports your unique purpose and can improve the growth and profitability of whatever organization you are a part of is really a great investment. I hope that answers your question.
Hugh: It does. It’s hard to keep your nose above water when you have challenge after challenge. Not that we need other people to prop us up, but we all need encouragement. We need to be all around people who are positive, who are possibility thinkers. They won’t tell you, “That won’t work” no matter what. We want people who are affirming but don’t want to be yes people. They will help us get through where we are to get to where we need to be. How about smaller groups, like a mastermind? Do you recommend leaders have a smaller group they meet with on a regular basis?
Linda: Absolutely. Being part of a leadership community, whether big or small, has significant proven benefits. Leadership communities are not for every executive. To benefit, you have to be committed to improvement. Those who believe that simply holding a C-suite title is the end of your learning journey, well, you are probably not going to benefit from being in any kind of group. On the other hand, those who believe in continuous learning and believe that every C-suite can benefit from ongoing professional development, they are really going to benefit by being in a community of thought leaders, of innovators.
The second thing you have to understand about joining any kind of group, be it big or small, is you need to be self-aware. In addition to improving organizational performance, those leaders that aim to increase their level of satisfaction in their own work as well as the work of their employees, their customers, their investors, they have to be self-aware. They have to recognize their strengths as well as their weaknesses, their triumphs as well as their failures. They have to be open and honest about those things so they can improve, which leads us to this sense of humility. I really believe that in order to benefit from the full weight of a membership community, you have to demonstrate a willingness to share your personal triumphs, and just as importantly, your failures. Hard-won experience, both good and bad, is what provides depth and meaning of leaders for substance.
If you think you’re that kind of leader, and you’d benefit from joining a dynamic leadership organization, there are tons out there. Virtual networking allows for a much more customized approach to networking, which is incredibly helpful. You have to carve out regularly scheduled time to review and grow the community you’re a part of. Grow and nurture those relationships. Invest in those relationships. It’s also a time to get comfortable being seen. Networking involves being seen, being vulnerable, as you said, and being able to share your experiences.
That is what I think really matters. No matter the size of your organization or community you surround yourself with, those are the tenets of your approach to membership that will really make a big difference.
Hugh: That’s awesome. There are so many good things. We have covered a lot of topics, and we are nearing the end of our interview. What would you say to women who have some really good ideas and skills, and they want to begin to exercise those traits in the workplace? What word of encouragement would you offer those who are just starting out, thinking about becoming a leader?
Linda: Step out. The very first thing I believe that everyone has the opportunity to do is step into your purpose. By understanding your design, your purpose, you can then understand how to invest in the vision and the mission that you were given on planet Earth. You can understand clearly what you need to do to make the kind of impact in your family, your community, your organization, within the world that you were designed to. There should be nothing holding you back. There should be nothing you feel ill-equipped to be able to tackle.
What you need to do is understand your purpose, understand your vision and mission, and take the gamble to step out into that purpose with a sense of confidence and bold intention. I will tell you that you would be shocked at the way that doors will open and opportunities will arise and possibility will begin to take shape and form in your life when you know your purpose, you know your mission and vision, and you step boldly and confidently in the direction of your dreams. Doors will open. The more you surround yourself with people who are invested in your success, who want to see you succeed, who really genuinely want to be part of your team, advancing your vision, the more success you will find in very short order.
Hugh: I was going to ask you for a concluding statement, but that was it. That is a challenge. It’s time now to step up. Linda Fisk, LeadHERShipGlobal.com. Go to that website. Look at the community. That is a powerful place for leaders to be. It’s time for women to use the skills that God gave you. Love it, Linda. Thank you so much for being our guest today.
Linda: Thank you, Hugh. What an honor and pleasure to be with you. Thank you so much.