4min readCulture 30 September 2019
Leadership, like a great meal, requires the right blend of ingredients and a smart recipe. Add seasoning. Set the cooking temperature. Prep the ingredients. Follow the plan. Recipes are meant to be personalized and adjusted to fit one's taste. But deviate too far from the necessary steps, and your meal won't turn out the right way. My own recipe for leadership involves four essential ingredients: understanding, thoughtfulness, patience and control.
I try my best to be understanding of people, situations and issues. Listening and critical thinking are vital to leadership.
During the early days of Fresh n' Lean, the organic meal delivery company I started in 2010, I performed every job — from washing the dishes and cooking the meals to portioning them out in trays and doing customer service.
I ended up working countless 20-hour days, pouring every ounce of my waking energy into the company.
In the moment, it was a lot to tackle. But looking back on it now, that experience was significant and meaningful. Working every job gave me an understanding of what I want from my employees, and it allowed me to relate to the work that I ask employees to do across all departments.
That background gives me a huge appreciation and deep respect for every person on the team. I know exactly what they contribute. The company is one big puzzle, and everyone is a piece of that puzzle.
I was 18 years old when I started Fresh n' Lean.
Photo credit: Laureen Asseo
My father's health struggles inspired me. After he faced a crisis, eating fresh organic meals helped him regain his health. I want everyone to have access to nutrient-rich meals that are convenient and affordable, just like my father did.
Navigating the corporate world as a young woman has come with its obstacles. During meetings with mostly older men, they'd ask me my age, and I would feel compelled to lie and say I was 27.
I would be in meetings, and instead of asking me questions, men would direct their questions to my male counterparts. I'm right here! Hello!
Other times, people would come into the office and try to tell me what to do, or how I should do things differently, suggesting I must not know anything because I don't have the proper experience.
Those conversations were difficult and intimidating. They caught me off guard and troubled me deeply. But I stuck to my guns, and I'm happy I did.
Too many people discount others because of their preconceived notions, and that mistake can be costly. I consider who I'm dealing with and address them accordingly — my expectations and responses are not one-size-fits-all.
Change takes time.
Society has evolved during the decade I've been running Fresh n' Lean. People are doing more to empower women to be entrepreneurs and leaders and really showcase them, especially young women. That change is reflected on the cover of magazines like Forbes or Inc or Time.
Is everything 100% equal? No. But compared to the way it was 10, 20, 50 years ago, there's been a lot of progression, and I see it continuing.
It's important to remain patient in the process and realize that some things are going to take time. It may take you months or years for you to implement the changes you'd like to make.
I feel very fortunate. There are many countries that don't allow women to run their own business.
I'm grateful to be able to wake up and do what I do each day, even if there are roadblocks along the way.
Being a business leader is never easy, whether you're a man or woman, young or old.
More people are becoming empowered to take that risk.
My advice for women looking to be leaders: don't let the naysayers put you down. We can't change the way people perceive us, and in some cases, even if we are the most competent person in the room, we won't always get the attention we deserve. And that's OK!
A lot of times in a meeting I'll sit quietly and listen and observe, waiting for the right moment to make my voice heard. You don't have to be the loudest person to be the most powerful.
As a leader, it's important not to wear your emotions on your sleeve. The last thing I want to do is show my employees that there's a problem or that I'm stressed, because that sends the wrong message.
I try to always have a smile and remain calm in every situation.
I never yell — all that does is tune people out. Remaining level-headed is vital. No matter how stressed I am, I make sure it's never apparent from the outside.
Empower others, empower yourself
The key to leadership is empowering people to believe in themselves and encouraging them to be the best they can be.
I want my employees to trust their judgment. A lot of people second-guess themselves. Maybe they're worried about failing or afraid of taking risks. But we can surprise ourselves when we follow our instincts and trust our gut.
Take the risk. Don't be afraid to fail. If things don't turn out the right way, you can always double-check your recipe, make any necessary adjustments and try again.
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Help! My Friend Is a No Show
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
Dear Sadsies,I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.
I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!
- The Armchair Psychologist