No, it’s not a new take on ‘ladies who lunch’, it is simply an observation which occurred to me in the most unlikely of circumstances – while I was getting my hair done in the early morning of my daughter’s wedding day in November 2017 - exactly a year ago.
Personal and professional growth
Two weeks before the wedding I had retired after a 22-year career in the voluntary sector. For around 20 years I have been privileged to coach, mentor and lead a team of “bright young things” at the start of their careers. This involved helping them develop skills and expertise in funding, marketing, design and communications. I can’t begin to explain how fulfilling this role was, and how much I loved my work. There were obvious downsides as many of my proteges tended to move on after two or three years to bigger and better things. But the flipside was that they had acquired the confidence, courage and commitment to grow and develop and move into more senior roles.
Witnessing their personal growth was equally rewarding, seeing them pass some of life’s key milestones like buying their first home, passing their driving test, getting married, having their first baby and returning to work after maternity leave. Where possible I offered flexible working at these key times, and this built loyalty and trust within the team. They were also developing their own leadership style; a process that will continue to be shaped by how they themselves will respond to the opportunities and challenges they will face in the future.
So, back to my own daughter’s wedding day, and my hairdo! The wedding was held at Brig o’ Doon Hotel in Alloway a venue which rightly claims to have gained the reputation of being Ayrshire’s and (possibly Scotland’s) most iconic, romantic, wedding venue.
The night before the wedding, the bridesmaids, bride-to-be and myself had stayed in Doonbrae House – a lovely traditional 5 bedroomed villa adjacent to the hotel.
This made for a relaxed, albeit very early start on the wedding morning, with the hairdresser arriving at 6.45 am, followed by the make-up artist at 8.30 am. Gillian, the hairdresser, had driven the 40 odd miles from Glasgow and arrived exactly on time, bright, chatty and friendly and quickly set to work.
While she was working her magic on my hair, we chatted about work and children. She knew that I had very recently retired and was keen to know how I would pass my time. I told her of my plans to embark on an encore career.
I'm not a leader!
I explained the mission of our new business would be to provide support and guidance to business leaders of all ages and stages, and across the three key pillars of leading, learning and living. She was intrigued, and keen to learn more, but prefaced her interest by stating that she was not a leader.
When I gently probed the reason for this, she said she had neither the confidence nor the ability to be a leader. I suggested to her that she was in fact an excellent example of a leader.
She has carved out a niche, specialising in dressing hair for wedding parties which is a very demanding and high-profile market segment. She has only one chance to get it right, and must contend with the event itself and social media as her judge and jury.
Self-employed and with a young family, without a leadership mindset she would not be able to achieve a healthy life-work balance, or run a successful business. For the slightly anxious wedding party, she was the locus of control. Her professional and confident approach calmed the nerves, and once she had styled the bride-to-be, three bridesmaids, mother-of-the-bride and mother-of-the-groom the nerves were replaced with excitement and anticipation.
On a similar vein, Lyn, the make-up artist - another self-employed ‘lady who leads’ demonstrated true professionalism and commitment. She arrived with all her magic tools ready to transform us and get us ready to face the day. Despite having to deal with an A &E visit for her toddler earlier that morning, she kept her cool, listened carefully to everyone’s wishes and let us relax and enjoy the makeover. Most importantly she met all our expectations.
Take care. Lead well.
"The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example. "