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A Leadership Paradigm Worthy of Circling

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Presently enjoying a Leadership Paradigm that started 20 years ago

Is There a Full-Circle Paradigm Shift Going On?

An old adage claims that life goes in circles and it frequently does.

I spent a week full-circling a leadership paradigm that embraces and empowers rather than excludes and subdues. Entertaining, edifying and enriching, it is one circle definitely worth repeating!

In one week’s time, I reunited with an old business associate, circled back to the business complex I’d worked in years ago, and experienced my former leadership paradigm displayed during a networking event. The week signaled a return to a paradigm I occupied before leaving my position in corporate America. It also reminded me of a mindset that always makes me happy.

For starters, I attended an event at The MacDonald Training Center. Literally a block away from my former business office, this training facility for the disabled opened its doors to a Trends in Social Media networking event hosted by Working Women of Tampa Bay.

Jessica Rivelli is well known in the Tampa Bay business community as the founder of Working Women. She left a promising career in media to focus on her passion: motivating, educating and inspiring fellow business women.

I met Jessica a few months ago when we welcomed her as a guest on The State of Happiness talk radio show. But I experienced first hand how Jessica’s desire to help others played out in real life.

While I could focus on the insights I received about social media, my greater point here would be lost. Instead, I’d rather share how witnessing the leadership paradigm of collaboration among a community of business people made me happy.

Bit before I continue, let me first fill you in on my back story . . .

Until recently, I remained pretty unaware that my previous career was housed in a vacuum. For nearly a decade, I worked in leadership for two telecom corporations whose national headquarters were based elsewhere.  Though part of huge corporate structures, the southern branch offices I’d managed enabled me to set the standard – and the paradigm – according to my own preferences.

What I liked was collaboration and teamwork. As leader and launcher of a few branch offices, my paradigm was synonymous with my personality: happy. Internally, our branches operated as a collegial community of mutually empowered, quality people. Externally, we projected professionalism with a focus on long term, customer-focused business relationships. Our branch offices were comprised of uniquely talented individuals who reciprocated their talents and ultimately functioned as one.

This decade-long telecom vacuum where I got to set the collaborative, edifying paradigm wasn’t the genesis of my business background. For two years prior, I’d overseen operations at a national search firm. My staff included the owner's wife, a close friend and a distant cousin who wrote part-time for the firm's human resources newsletter from her Simmons College dorm.

Despite our differences in responsibilities and titles, there was never a pecking order, power play or personality cult. Maybe I didn’t know any better; maybe I knew I needed help. We were always a team. It took all our talents and creative wits to satisfy Fortune 100 clients and we shared in challenges, triumphs and laughs alike.           

I left telecom years ago after giving birth to our daughter. Years of playing home schooling mom and working the back-end of our family’s computer firm kept me in a relative cocoon.

It wasn’t until recent years that I re-emerged on the business scene to an eye-opening vista: others in leadership didn’t share my world view. While I certainly knew that other minds were out there (I’d frequently quelled them from above), I was astounded by how many business leaders were afraid, insecure and even insular in their roles.

Didn’t these leaders know that that success is far sweeter when it’s community-centered rather than ego-driven? Hadn’t these leaders realized how sharing the wealth of relationships, skills and insights could prove professionally rewarding and personally enriching? Didn’t these leaders want others at their side during difficult times and co-celebrating at the party of success?   

It’s a different world than it was two decades ago when I left corporate America. Pensions are extinct, 401K’s have been lost and the concept of a clearly-defined job description is practically passé. Former occupations have been replaced with hi-tech business solutions and countless jobs have been exported overseas. Today, those with a penchant for business must create their own careers rather than wait for someone else to employ them.

Back to the present and my networking event this week . . .

Leader Jessica Rivelli’s Working Women of Tampa Bay social media trends event was a welcome treat. A leader seemingly without pretense or privilege, Jessica’s taken a passion for helping others and developed a successful business model. In tandem with her personal mission, she creates assemblies for other women to do the same. In this pleasant leadership paradigm, Jessica shifts from lead personality to relative obscurity and the communal effect is positive.

During the evening’s wine-and-cheese social, I chatted with women in realty and in radio. I also met those who were physically disabled and others daring to set out on their own.  Everyone was welcome, free to express, create and develop a personal business identity within this networking community.

The communal paradigm continued with the evening’s panel of speakers which emanated sincerity instead of hubris.

For starters, there was keynoter Kim Garst. Kim ranks among the Forbes50 Most Influential in Social Media. Despite an impressive reputation, Kim views herself as the woman who created a career by necessity after quitting work to be a stay-at-home mom. As a result, she and I shared tales about her original aspiration to attend law school - and my quest to leave it. We also spoke about our common experiences as home schooling moms and how we both enjoyed helping others see the possibilities in life.

I met another panelist named of Deborah Shane. She’s a recently transplanted branding/media strategist and author of Career Transition-Make the Shift. A New York accent made her instantly familiar to my native north Jersey tongue, but her thoughtful intelligence paved the way for future plans: the two of us will soon get together for lunch.

Panelist Charise Strandberg,a Marketing Manager for Celestar Marketing, offered to give me some tips on launching a personal presence on Google+. Charise’s unexpected gesture was telling about a kindness and generosity of spirit. I’ll take her up on the offer. I’ll also be connecting Charise, an uber fan of photography, with my Boston-based daughter who serves as on-line administrator for the World Photography Organisation.

In a week of the broad circle leadership, I need to complete this narrative about paradigms with a personal note about my own. . . .

After a twenty year hiatus (gasp!), I got back together with a former colleague from my telecom days. Just last Friday, my husband and I met with Bill Lusk and his wife Kelli for an evening of catching up over dinner at Ceviche, my favorite Spanish restaurant.

Bill Lusk wasn’t one of my first hires in telecom, but he was certainly a memorable one. Bill’s cubicle was positioned immediately in front of my office and I was daily lifted by his presence. An Irish wit coupled with buttoned-up business savvy proved a winning contribution to our already happy atmosphere and successful sales team. I thought of Bill often in the ensuing years and was thrilled when he reappeared through LinkedIn.

With two decades behind us and spouses in tow, we reminisced about the past, caught up on the years since and talked about current and future pursuits. Bill and I previously shared a common past in business, but the evening highlighted hilariously funny stories. We were joining as friends as well as former business acquaintances.

The four of us enjoyed the evening sharing our lives, our upbringings and our expectations for the future. Bill’s wife Kelli and I engaged in private conversation about our personal backgrounds and business experience (she’s one of Verizon’s top national sales managers). Kelli is lovely in spirit and character and I know we’ll keep in touch.

Meanwhile, Bill and my husband Jimmy traded increasingly outrageous sales stories, entertained one another by their distinctly different, yet highly innovative, paths to national sales success. Bill got wowed by my husband’s growing series of MIKE Sports Comic Books embedded with the world’s top sports affiliate links. Jimmy got dazzled by Bill's business escapades with his favorite limousine driver.

All in all, it was a fun, fantastic and special evening that began twenty years earlier. It started with my positive and happy leadership paradigm. The paradigm recognizes that we all play a part in a larger community and it’s the engagement between us that makes lives richer, stronger, fuller and - at least in my case - a lot funnier, too!

The four of us will get together again. Bill’s got more stories to share with that endearing Irish wit. Kelli doesn’t know it yet, but I'll be calling on her business expertise as I prepare for an upcoming speaking engagement to business students at USF.

So how do I conclude this subject about a full-circling leadership paradigm that empowers, embraces and sees the larger picture?

I'll punctuate the matter by saying that this kind of leadership paradigm pays off long term with the biggest treasure of all: relationships that enrich lives way beyond our wallets.

Community-centered leadership paradigms - they're one circle I don’t mind repeating!

Maura is an International Speaker on Self Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

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