This post is based on a talk at St. Catherine’s University at the Leadership Imperative Conference for women leaders. Honored, humbled, and enriched I left this day having enjoyed so much wisdom from and for women leaders! Cindy Kent, general manager of Infection Prevention Division at 3M provided a powerful and inspiring closing keynote, sharing her personal and professional journey with us. Thank you Cindy! Also a warm-felt ‘thank you’ to everyone who participated in my talk “The Power of Beliefs and Thoughts” and for your very appreciative feedback about the content and delivery of this talk.

Some key points to emphasize:

  • Learning requires curiosity, creativity, candor, and courage.
  • We often do not realize how incomplete and subjective our perceptions are.
  • You and only you are responsible for your thoughts, emotions, and actions.
  • Identify your musts and ask whether they should be musts or rather preferences.
  • You may not be fit to lead if your greatest strength is seeing weakness in you, in others, or both.
  • We regularly deceive ourselves, driven by the need to protect our image and self-esteem.
  • The biggest gift to ourselves and others is listening a little longer and postponing judgment.
  • There is wisdom to be gained from asking positive, self-critical questions such as
    • What if I am (partially) wrong?
    • What may I be missing or misinterpreting?
    • Could I be clinging to untested assumptions?
    • Which opinions and perspectives am I not soliciting?
    • Which biases and hot buttons could be at work right now?
    • What assumptions and thoughts might lead to a better outcome?
    • What if I am focusing on the wrong thing or on too many things?
    • How much will ‘this’ still matter tomorrow, next week, next month?

 

 

I’d like to close with the thought that the best leaders allow themselves to be persuaded. I think of Alan Mulally, former FORD executive, who is said to be exceptionally skeptical of his own opinions, and I think of Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, who is known to seek out information that disproves her beliefs about the world and herself. How smart, right?!