Inside IDeaS

Celebrating International Women’s Day with my top lessons from female leaders

By , Vice President, Organizational Development

International Women’s Day represents an opportunity to highlight and celebrate the outstanding achievements and successes that women accomplish worldwide.

That’s why I’m thrilled to be featured on the IDeaS blog and offer my many thanks to all the incredible women who have supported me in my journey to date.

In my career with IDeaS, I have also enjoyed a fair amount of success. Still, I know that my success stems from the previous work, generosity, courage, and sacrifice of women throughout history. I owe my success to female figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Sojourner Truth, Simone de Beauvoir, Marie Curie, and so many others who blazed the way for women everywhere.

But I also owe the success I’ve experienced to all the women who supported me personally along the way. We all do—regardless of our sex or gender.

The female family members, neighbors, coworkers, mentors, and role models who support us along the way—women who quietly make history through their dedication, persistence, innovative spirit, and willingness to serve—deserve our gratitude and celebration.

And when you put it like that, one day to celebrate these amazing women doesn’t seem enough—but it’s a start.

So, in the spirit of International Women’s Day, I would like to share a few of the key lessons I’ve learned through the grace and support of other inspiring, amazing women throughout the years.

These are some of the most important insights and lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Work hard & be of service

When you’re born to a single, young mother, you often get a front-row view of how resilient and hard-working women can be. At least, that was the case for me.

My mother taught me early on the importance of working hard and earning success. If you want something, you must put in the time and work for it.

Heidi and her mother.

At the same time, you must be willing to help others along the way because part of our success is always due to the generosity of others. That may sound cliché, but it’s true.

Even hard work and individual perseverance encounter limitations. All of us, at one point or another, benefitted from the care, support, and generosity of others. But more than benefitting from that support—we depend on it. No matter how resilient and self-sufficient we become, this will always remain the case.

So, this idea of supporting others, sharing generosity, and being of service brought me into hospitality. Although—at the time—I probably wouldn’t have seen it that way.

My career in hospitality began with me scrubbing pots at a small café in the Netherlands from ages 14 to 18. During this time, I slowly realized my interest in making people feel happy by being of service to them. Knowing this interest would work well in the hospitality industry, I dedicated my career to leading in this space, which brings me to my next lesson.

Leadership is a balancing act

Throughout my career, I found that when you exercise leadership, you often experience a mixture of excitement and frustration. That’s especially the case when you’re relatively inexperienced as a leader. As you learn the ropes, you try to balance being friendly and approachable with pushing your team to perform at increasingly higher levels.

At first, it’s easy to slip and stumble as a leader. Even the best of us go through that; however, you grow more skilled at the balancing act over time.

It’s not that it becomes easier. Instead, you grow more skilled at it. Leadership will remain a challenge, but it’s a challenge you can increasingly rise to as your strength, skill, and experience grow.

Feeling cynicism as a leader is natural—and it’s okay

As I became more established in training other client specialists, I grew increasingly aware of other important aspects of this balancing act called leadership.

In my personal experience, I noticed that you face the risk of complacency as you gain confidence. That’s because you get used to the same old same old. Some leaders get stuck in this phase. And one of the other risks you face is a feeling of cynicism sneaking its way into your consciousness.

Like any other thought or feeling, this sense of cynicism is natural. So, there’s no need to reprimand ourselves or feel guilty for experiencing this. In fact, quite the opposite is true. We can congratulate ourselves for noticing the feeling of cynicism in our hearts. Noticing this feeling means that we’re exercising mindfulness and awareness. It’s a sign of an emotionally mature individual.

So, rather than let the temporary feeling of cynicism trap us, we can use it to our advantage by letting it prompt us to make a change before our cynicism grows too deep. After all, if this sense of cynicism grows, your engagement as a leader can drop significantly—to the benefit of no one.

Change is good—even if it’s scary

Once I recognized the signs—that I kept feeling that sense of cynicism—I decided I needed to change.

As a leader, you leave a legacy one way or another. People either remember you fondly because of your positive impact, or they remember you as the boss they would rather forget.

So, to reinvigorate that spark in what interested me as a young adult—making people happy, being of service, and leadership—I took on a new role as Vice President of Organizational Development, which has me overseeing several leadership development programs. This includes the IDeaS Top Talent Program and the Learn and Lead Program. I also work one-on-one with individuals across IDeaS to help them develop leadership skills and boost organizational enablement. And that brings me to one of the most important lessons I learned from the women in my life and from my personal leadership journey.

Leadership means bringing out the best in others

Out of all the lessons I learned from my time in leadership, this one might be the most important—your job as a leader is to draw out the capabilities of your team and inspire them to lead as well.

Personally, I find immense satisfaction in seeing those I lead succeed and grow as leaders. That’s what I look forward to each day. It’s what gives me a sense of purpose. Helping those you lead evolve into better leaders might be the most important and enjoyable aspect of leadership.

But once again, that’s a lesson I couldn’t have learned without the help, support, and guidance of the many female leaders in my life. So, in the spirit of National Women’s Day, I invite you to celebrate the amazing women in your life.

Whether that’s a friend, mentor, past coworker or manager, teacher, or even your mother, I invite you to call them up and thank them for their support and for the gifts and lessons they’ve given you along the way. Trust me—you won’t regret it.

Here’s to the success of women everywhere! Let’s continue to build off it.

Heidi spending time with her husband and their pet dogs.
Vice President, Organizational Development

After 25+ years of leading small & large teams within IDeaS, I accepted the role as the Vice President of Organizational Development. As part of this new opportunity, I oversee the launch of several formal development programs, including the IDeaS Top Talent Program and the Learn & Lead Program. Additionally, I collaborate with individuals across IDeaS to develop leadership capabilities and enhance the organizational enablement skills of leaders within the company.

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