A group of leadership professionals invited me to attend a large community forum on feminine leadership. Although they knew that I had been consulting on leadership in the international arena for over 2 decades and had written books on the subject, they invited me to just attend. Many of the leaders had also gleaned from my expertise and had called on me to help them solve feminine leadership issues. But being the person I am, I decided to go and support the group.
I vividly remember entering the room and feeling that I had entered a hostile environment. I braced myself for what I believed would come and even told a friend who came with me about my feelings. My friend assured me that I was just imagining things and to let it go, but I had been here before and could feel the vibration of the room. As we made our way to our seats, I took a deep breath and hoped that I was wrong.
Once the program started, things appeared to calm down and flow and I enjoyed being in this sea of over 200 women leaders. But then the facilitator asked the audience to participate in a group exercise. At the conclusion of the exercise, she instructed each group to choose a spokesperson to report their findings to the audience.
My group chose me to be their spokesperson. As the facilitator went around the room, she passed her microphone to each spokesperson so the others could hear their reports. When she came to my group, the facilitator discovered that I was the spokesperson and in front of the entire audience told me that she would not pass the microphone to me and that I didn’t need to use it. I remember hearing women gasp at her comments.
Rather than being offended, I did something that no one expected. I told facilitator that she was right. My voice was strong enough to deliver the report without the microphone. I then thanked her for giving me the floor. I stood for a moment and waited for her because the ball was now in her court. When she did not move, I began my report. I remember women initially whispering but soon, this stopped because they became engaged in what I was saying.
As I spoke to this audience of feminine leaders, I picked up my tea and sipped as I spoke. Talk about bringing my own tea cup! I did not get angry. I did not yell. I did not leave the room. I did not point fingers. I sipped my tea and talked to audience as if nothing happened except, now I had the floor.
When the facilitator saw that I was unmoved by her negative behavior, she passed the microphone to me. I stopped my report and thanked her for her graciousness. At the conclusion of the event, I was swamped by a sea of women, wanting my contact information. I also then went to the leadership team for the event and thanked them for hosting the event.
I also gave the facilitator a special thank you. I pulled her aside and gave her a personal thanks for helping me to demonstrate a leadership virtue to the group. She stood there with tears in her eyes as I spoke because I’m sure she expected me to attack her in some way. Instead, I hugged her and wished her well. I lost nothing by doing this but gained another jewel in my leadership treasure chest. Where did I learn to operate in this way? From working with men! But that is another story I’ll share later.
There are few things more powerful than understanding your power and understanding that “things happen” in almost every setting. What matters is how you respond. What I learned is that you just have to love yourself enough to not be moved by the whim or behavior of others. When you remain unmoved and not allow others to color your behavior, you can joyfully bring your own tea set and change any atmosphere. In other words, you don’t have to jump into the quicksand of another person’s life when you’re standing on safe ground!
So, if you want to thrive and create your own atmosphere, remember your power and my motto. Have tea set. Will travel!