I have had the privilege of working with inspiring female entrepreneurs and leaders throughout my career, and these women have been instrumental in my own growth as a professional and as a person. I recently asked a group of accomplished leaders to share their advice for women who aspire to lead an organization or start their own businesses. I hope you gain as much inspiration from their insights as I have.
Who inspires you and why?
Esther Morales, Executive Director of the National Women’s Business Council: I have the honor of meeting and supporting women in business, and women in pursuit of business, every single day. I am continually motivated by the creative, visionary women that I meet, as well as the 15 Council Members who direct our research and engagement work. They volunteer their time on top of their day-jobs to improve the business climate for women in our country. They inspire me not only because of their humor, kindness, and intention to empower other women in leadership, but also because they are committed to something bigger than themselves.
Stephanie Bush, Executive Vice President, The Hartford’s Small Commercial Insurance Business: My younger daughter, Caroline, is a daily inspiration. She was diagnosed on the autism spectrum when she was only 20 months old. We were told that she may never speak and may likely live in an institution. We immediately sought experts and engaged in an intensive therapy regime for several years. Today, Caroline is a very happy and sassy teenager. Not only did she learn to speak but she acts in a local children’s theater program, plays piano, takes archery lessons and earns grades that put her on her school’s honor roll. What she has overcome and what she manages every day inspires me, grounds me, and fills me with gratitude.
Lori George Billingsley, Vice President, Public Affairs and Communications, Coca Cola North America: Growing up, I was inspired by Harriet Tubman and Helen Keller. I looked towards these two because of their leadership, courage and tenacity to overcome all odds. My parents are my inspiration as well. They instilled the discipline of hard-work, family first and the importance of bringing different people together to build community and work towards a common goal.
Becky Huling, Vice President, Customer Engagement Marketing, FedEx: The people who inspire me most are the female entrepreneurs I see every day in my role at FedEx. My team works closely with our small business customers to help them take their businesses to the next level and, over the years, I have seen women from all walks of life – from single mothers to immigrants from less developed countries to military Veterans – turn their passions into viable, profit-turning businesses. They have new and innovative ways of solving problems and stop at nothing to achieve their goals.
What are three words that you live by and that summarize your approach to work and life?
Esther Morales: Teamwork acknowledges that we are all interdependent, and that we each bring different strengths to a situation. Positivity must prevail. When I choose positivity over negativity, then all things are possible. Persistence, because failures are inevitable in work and life. I take every time that I’ve failed as a learning moment to grow.
Stephanie Bush: Conviction means having confidence in yourself and your abilities, focusing on excellence, and setting goals. Integrity means pursuing your goals the right way – no shortcuts, no easy answers. Curiosity means asking questions, learning from mistakes, taking feedback, and continuing to improve. I have the opportunity to work with small business owners who are living examples of how these three points come together. That’s inspiring to me.
Lori George Billingsley: I’m a Christian so I approach work and life through the lens of my faith. I try to organize my work and my life around my purpose and it’s how I filter any opportunities. I also try to inspire, be a cheerleader and encourager to everyone that I come in contact with. Helping others fulfill what’s important to them, fills me up.
Becky Huling: From challenging myself with new subject matter to being on the cutting edge of business opportunities, courage is key to pushing the status quo. Integrity is all about being authentic and always bringing your best self. And for me, setting and reaching goals is key. As a leader, helping others find their full potential, and reach and exceed their goals is what gives me the most joy in my role.
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