I am asked time and again why I decided to start the Women in Leadership Nexus, an organization committed to empowering women to recognize that it’s not title or hierarchy that defines a leader; rather it’s a mindset to actively and intentionally choose to lead.
I wish I could say the idea sprung from some cinematic moment, ala Sara Blakely deciding to cut the feet out of her pantyhose because she needed an undergarment suitable to wear under white pants. Enter Spanx.
But how I got here is much simpler than that.
A Move to Rhode Island
In the fall of 2015, my husband and I moved to Rhode Island for a new career opportunity. I was knee-deep into the job—building a demand generation and content marketing strategy by day for an IT services firm and exploring the Ocean State and trying to build a sense of community by night.
My job was everything I had hoped for—the type you dream of having but are incredibly skeptical exists. I was challenged every day, while at the same time supported. I was in an environment that bred innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. And I met some pretty amazing people right away.
By March of 2016, it became evident that while I was meeting some of the brightest, most creative professionals, they were mostly men. And while I am lucky that I formed an inner circle of supportive men, it did make me wonder: could I also find some awe-inspiring women in Rhode Island to round out my community?
Coffee and Blogs
As a writer, and someone who is naturally curious, I sought out local women who held various leadership roles—from IT Directors to CEOs—to profile their unique stories through a Q&A blog series. We would meet for coffee, trade tales and uncover commonality, no matter our line of work or years of experience.
We would lament the fact that while there are a number of wonderfully supportive women in leadership, there are also far too many who don’t advocate for other women. Or, as the wonderful Madeleine Albright said: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
We would express dismay over the fact that hierarchy and title are still holding too many women back from seizing leadership moments. We wondered what we could do to change that—to help them recognize that title and years of experience don't make a leader. Conversely, the right mindset does.
And we wondered when workplaces would start more wholeheartedly embracing leaders who embodied true authenticity, vulnerability and collaboration instead of simply hiring bosses.
Though I met with everyone from CEOs to Directors to mid-level Managers, what united these women was not their titles and the hierarchical gains that can come along with that. Rather, it was the core fibers of their DNA that were compelling them to seize every moment to lead, create and apply the tenets of a next-gen leader. They were leaders because they choose to be, not because a business card made them one.
That was probably the closest thing to an “aha moment” I had with the Nexus. With this realization reached, I knew I wanted to do more than just blog. I wanted to formally concept women who were fiercely committed to defining and exuding what it means to be a forward-facing leader.
Leadership is a Choice
In October of 2016, I formalized officially created the Women in Leadership Nexus. The Nexus empowers women to recognize that it’s not title or hierarchy that defines a leader; rather it’s a mindset to actively and intentionally choose to lead. Through in-person events and an interactive online community, the Nexus unites women looking to explore, shape and apply the principles of a next-gen leader.
What my interviews with more than 30 women have taught me is that I don’t actually believe we are born as either leaders or followers. Rather, I think we have a choice in the path we will embrace.
We also have a choice when it comes to how we support others, particularly women. We can nourish each other’s talents, rather than suppress. We can be allies rather than competitors. In fact, I’d actually contend we have a responsibility to do so.
Today, the Nexus exists to bring together likeminded women who are looking to share space, to transfer energy, to leave one another feeling inspired to take action. We meet at Nexus events; we schedule regular coffee dates; we sip wine after a long day of work; we share our sentiments via the Nexus blog. And, most importantly, we talk.
My favorite quote has always been from Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” I don’t know about you but I am ready to see change. I hope you’ll join me on this journey.
There are so many ways to become part of the Women in leadership Nexus—from joining our annual events to blogging for our website. To become a part of this special community, click here.
Carrie Majewski is committed to affecting change. As Founder of the Women in Leadership Nexus, Carrie is fueled by a desire to create safe space for female luminaries to convene to redefine the notion of leadership. She has forged a career around strategic writing and storytelling, having led a digital marketing agency for almost three years and today working as Marketing Principal for Trilix Tech. Carrie was named to the 2017 Rhode Island “40 Under 40” list and is a 2016 Rhode Island Tech10 Winner. In her spare time you'll find her trying out a local hip-hop class, exploring parks with her rescue dog Tori, and sipping coffee with other powerhouse women.