By Dr. Geil Browning
ICAN Co-Founder and Founder and CEO, Emergenetics International
As I look at the ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference, with over 2,500 attendees coming from all parts of the world and every kind of organization imaginable, I am struck by how accurately and perfectly this year’s theme fits with my own perspective on leadership and the role that women play in our business and our society.
With leaders like Sheryl Sandberg making the case for an even more empowered female populace in business, I truly do see this as an ignition. We are firing up our individual and collective engines—ready to propel everything we touch forward. But to see clearly where we are and where we can go, I always find it helpful to reflect.
As one of ICAN’s Co-Founders, my reflections are of a time less open and more stunted, where the navy suits, shoulder pads and bowties were supposed to make women seem more business-focused.
More than 30 years ago, as I stood with Fran Root and our board, we weren’t necessarily thinking of how women’s leadership could be impacted on a broad scale. We were simply beginning to understand that our own drives, ideas and connections—our passions—needed an ignition switch.
We knew that women were brilliant and that we could make the same kinds of differences and impact in business that men were making. In fact, we thought that by giving women an outlet for growth and development, we could bring a different set of skills, styles and leadership to the business world.
My study and work for over 30 years has led me to understand that anyone (women and men) has the capacity to lead. It is inherent within us, but how we get there is different. Leadership is about insight and development from the inside-out.
We each need to distinctly understand ourselves—the way we think and behave and what drives us—to know how we can ignite our passions. The Women’s Leadership Conference is an exemplary realization of this vision and this approach, as it continues to provide a forum for new leaders to emerge.
ICAN was started to create a new generation of women leaders and I am proud to say that our goal is still being achieved in helping leaders understand themselves, so that they can ignite the passions of others and create a legacy of positive impact.