“What Makes a Leader?” was the title of an article that I read in the New York Times by Jessica Bennett the day before our Women in Tech panel on the topic of “Thriving as Leaders.” Leader is such a funny word to me. It has a connotation of someone leading or dragging others along towards a goal, willingly or unwillingly. That is why I resisted calling myself a leader. I much rather be called a servant leader. I enjoy the ability to enable others around me to be successful. In her article, Bennett explored unconventional leadership traits. Being “assessable” and “empathetic” are excellent traits to have but are traditionally viewed as not being tough enough. Yet there is not a single type of leader. And there is not a single way to behave and thrive as a leader. I was further reminded of this during our thriving as a leader panel, in which I along with my fellow panelists, Alyssa Gonzalez, Senior Director of Workplace Engineering for CBS, Jill Angelo, Founder & CEO of Genneve, and Shaillee Chopra, Chief Digital Innovation & Global Strategy Officer for Lumina Health Partners joined together to discuss leadership as a woman in technology. The panel was moderated by Tausha Robertson, founder of Experi Consulting. It was exhilarating to be amongst women technology leaders from such diverse educational, cultural and professional backgrounds. We discussed barriers for women in technology, challenges we faced in our careers, how we found our paths to leaderships and other aspects of thriving as leaders.
However, a moment that was very impactful during the event was when our very own Rita Stafford, VP Crisis Management & Security Programs at CBS, shared her story of resiliency. She described a time when she had great responsibilities at IBM as a National Emergency Operations Manager and led the crisis response during 9/11. As a recently divorced mother of 3, it was difficult to keep any work life balance. Her work and her family equally demanded extraordinary effort from her. When she had moments of self-doubt, questioning whether she was doing the right thing by pouring so much of her energy into her career, her sister told her “You are doing what you are supposed to. Keep going.” Rita thrives as a technology leader and as a proud mother and grandmother. She credits her success to the network of people who supported her along the way. Rita taught us that resiliency doesn’t mean you have to do it all. It means to be flexible and to adapt during difficult moments. As a CBS technology executive and leader of the Women in Tech group, she inspires more women to step up into leadership roles in the technology field.
You can see the playback of this “Thriving as a Leader – Women In Tech” event on CBS Webcast.