March 8 is International Women’s Day, a moment to celebrate the social, economic, and political achievements of women across the globe. Throughout my 27-year career at the helm of Atrium, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to speak with and also advise many budding female entrepreneurs and team managers, as well as those women who ultimately rose to the very top offices as successful leaders within their respective industries.  

What I’ve seen is that all leaders have a lot of characteristics in common that define their personalities and collectively contribute to their ultimate successes.  I’ve observed strong leaders to be adaptable, curious, decisive, persistent and both innovative and desirous of creating change in a particular business area where they believe entirely new possibilities can exist.  These great leaders pay attention to what is happening in the here-and-now while also tending to be exceptional at maintaining a long-term focus – which includes surrounding themselves with others who see the big picture plan.  Juggling busy lives, they do all this while constantly asking themselves and others, “What do our clients need? How can we make our business better? What can we do better that will help us grow and fulfill unmet needs?”

Over the past two years everyone has been challenged to manage ourselves and our work environments in entirely new ways. In many ways these challenges hit women especially hard. Yet, as any business leader and entrepreneur knows: It’s essential to accept change as an ordinary course of business and to be open and ready to adapt as necessary.  Sometimes hard decisions must be made, but we can still exemplify compassionate leadership with our ideas and go forward plans.  We can reframe our perspectives and plans, particularly as we look back at the past two years, and see that we all faced a moment of change.  But it is within these moments that leaders have created, developed, and found new ways to build our businesses which have helped many companies to flourish during unprecedented times.

Today, as more women are increasingly being recognized for their leadership qualities and moving into higher executive roles, they are bringing not only their strong leadership traits but also some important questions and new ideas to the C-suite. As consummate multi-taskers, women are asking, “How can we make things better?  How can we design more efficient protocols that answer real work/life balance questions?  How do we move forward so businesses can grow by better serving the needs of our clients and helping our employees embrace their roles and responsibilities within the organization creating win-wins for all?”

So much changed over the past two years and we have all had to pivot, as demands on our time and our work/life balance increased. For many leaders who have been successful, at their core has been empathy and team support in ways we may not have imagined prior.  Yet, I have watched so many – and in particular many women — seize the opportunity to create change, find new ways to conduct business, rely on the opinions of trusted colleagues and friends, and take those calculated risks – all while being compassionate and attuned to all kinds of countless, new obstacles and concerns.

In closing, I want to share this quote from Adrienne Rich, the American poet and essayist who said, “The most important thing one woman can do for another is expand her sense of possibilities.” This is a mission I am honored to pursue today and a life lesson that has resonated with me since college, thanks to a woman I admired greatly. She was a smart, independent, and business savvy entrepreneur who was making a name for herself which I witnessed in awe. Because of her example that showed me possibilities, I was able to envision myself pursuing my business dream.

So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History month, remember the many influential women who have “leaned in” to moments of change. They didn’t resist: They adapted, experimented with new possibilities, continued to build and take risks. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” With this mindset, women can take any moment of challenge and make it a moment to inspire.

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