PWN Global President’s Blog: Making an impact by letting go

February 10, 2022by Carina furlong0

We all want to make an impact, still, the effect is not something you can steer in life. Everybody wants to leave a legacy, one that adds value or improves the lives of others. So do we.

Making an impact for us involved not just noticing and acknowledging our world’s problems in terms of gender inequality, but also looking at how we could contribute towards a better future and be part of the solution. This is one of the core motivations of our involvement with PWN Global – to support the organisation in its mission to accelerate gender balanced leadership in business and society.

When you are in a leadership role, you know that your actions will influence others, and they will have an impact. Making an impact could mean starting something new or a focus on improving the current situation by applying more time and energy to drive initiatives which offer solutions to pressing problems.

It could also mean to stop, pause and decide to let go.

One of the most valuable lessons we have learned as Presidents is the power of ‘letting go’. The decision to take a step back in certain situations and resist the temptation to take the lead, or assume responsibility for solving the challenges, has turned out to be a significant learning experience.  Letting go could come across to some as giving up or surrendering. This is not what we mean. For us, it means having the strength and courage to let go of control, accepting the outcome, and trusting in the people and processes surrounding us.

One of the most beautiful examples to illustrate this was our recent PWN Summit, held on March 8th celebrating inspirational women around the globe. We had 13 Speakers, 20 PWN organising teams, 38 countries with 90 nationalities involved and over 1200 + attendees to mark International Women’s Day 2021. We enjoyed fireside chats, keynote speakers, video messages, music and celebration from world-renowned thought leaders over the course of the event.

In the past, PWN Global had a decisive say in global events. We took the lead on international activities and engaged with our colleagues in the city networks to bring them on board with us. This time the decision-making process and leadership was with our city networks, and we all worked together in collaboration. As a global board, we supported them. The roles were turned—it transformed into one of the best and most memorable events in the history of our organisation. Trusting our colleagues to steer this event and letting go of control has been a good experience for us. The collaboration we all experienced through this event was in itself inspirational and the impact that happened that day for our community simply cannot be measured.

Holding onto structures and processes that have proved their value in the past is a natural thing to do. Especially when the future and what is possible to achieve is not clear, or what your organisation needs at this moment is not clear. We feel that letting go of the urge to control and predict has turned out to be just what was needed.

BCG Partner Rosalinde Torres has, over the past 25 years, asked the question ‘What makes a great leader?’ She explained that one of the things a great leader asks him or herself every day is ‘Am I courageous enough to abandon a practice that made me successful in the past?’ and ‘Do I dare to take a different approach, not knowing what the outcome will be?’ These are powerful questions.

For us, it means letting go of past expectations, whilst developing new ones. It means letting go of old constructs and structures that have served well in the past but became a blockage for future growth. And it also means being agile in our roles as President, acting in the moment whilst keeping a close eye on the needs of our city networks and the changing environment.

Letting go is not easy. It might feel uncomfortable and uncertain. It certainly did for us. But, letting go has proved its worth and added to our development as leaders.

We wanted to share this learning experience with you as we all endeavour to navigate these uncertain times and plan for our future to ‘build back better’. Letting go could be the first step in that journey. Take time to reflect on whether there is anything in your professional, volunteer or personal life that you need to let go of in order to move forward.

Carina Furlong & Sheila Gemin, Co- Presidents PWN Global

Carina furlong

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