Embrace Your Feminine Leadership Skills- As a collective, we are less exposed to women in the C-Suite, so I think it can be challenging for women to find their leadership style and voice. I know today, that some of my more feminine qualities of emotional intelligence, creativity and intuition have proven to be incredible assets in business for me, but it took time to embrace these qualities in the boardroom especially because there weren’t many leading examples to follow.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rhiannon Rosalind.
Rhiannon is the President, CEO & Owner of The Economic Club of Canada, Founder of The Jr. Economic Club of Canada and CEO & Co-Founder of The Global Institute for Conscious Economics (GICE). Rhiannon is redefining what it means to be a corporate leader in this country. She is passionate about highlighting the most important issues our nation is grappling with — from Truth & Reconciliation to racism and exclusion on Bay Street, Rhiannon is challenging corporate Canada to see its role in creating a more prosperous and equal future for everyone. Rhiannon has hosted countless thought leaders and changemakers at The Economic Club of Canada through the years including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Former First Lady Michelle Obama, and human rights advocate Amal Clooney. A go-to for Bay Street, tech, healthcare, domestic, and international political leaders, The Economic Club is a 21st-century public policy platform where the leaders of today and tomorrow connect. Rhiannon became CEO, President, and Owner in 2011 at just 26 years old after joining in 2008. Rhiannon has been acknowledged as one of the most accomplished influencers in Canada, having been named one of Canada’s Change Agents by Canadian Business Magazine, one of WXN Canada’s TOP 100 Most Powerful Women in Business three times and became the youngest ever WXN “Hall of Fame” award winner in the fall of 2018. She is a tireless advocate for youth, developing seven national programs under the Jr. Economic Club banner that have impacted over 50,000 young Canadians and provided over $150,000 in academic scholarships. Inspired by her own lived experience with child poverty as the daughter of a single mother, Rhiannon has become a warrior for women and youth facing barriers.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always been entrepreneurial, I actually started my first business when I was 10 years old, and I believe that my natural curiosity and creativity really helped lead me to where I am now. I’ve also always been someone who is interested in the study of systems, business, and politics. Upon graduating university, I was offered an entry level event coordinator job at The Economic Club of Toronto. I took the job because I was eager to learn something new and I also felt that the organization was small enough that I might be able to have my voice heard around the table. When I began working at the company, I took on the attitude that no job was too small and I did my very best to learn as much as I could and demonstrate positivity and professionalism at all times. My hard work and positive attitude helped me develop relationships with the management team and soon enough I felt comfortable to begin sharing new ideas for strategy and growth. My ideas were not only received but I was able to implement many of them, the most significant being a change in the brand from a regional platform, The Economic Club of Toronto to a national platform -The Economic Club of Canada. Over time, the senior management team began to put more and more responsibility on me and I continued to deliver results which eventually led them to offer me the position of Vice President. In 2011, our CEO and founder made the decision to run for federal office. As he focused on his campaign, I stepped in to run the organization and then the unbelievable happened: he was elected and I officially was offered the opportunity to be President & CEO. It was an unbelievable turn of events and a huge opportunity.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
Becoming a CEO of such a prestigious organization was difficult as I was often the youngest person in the room and the only woman, or one of very few. In the early days I really let that impact me and I began to feel imposter syndrome, feeling underqualified and unworthy to be in my role even though I clearly was great at my job. My tipping point came when I realized that my own lack of confidence was not only keeping me down but it was also a misuse of the power I had been granted. I began to realize that being the first woman to lead this organization was special, and that it was ok to be different; in fact, it was progressive — and if I did a good job, I could blaze a trail for other women who would come after me. Once I embraced myself and started to be more authentic, things began to change and people began to respect me more. This was my tipping point.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In the early days, when I was struggling with my confidence, I actually went out and got a pair of fake glasses to try and appear older and more sophisticated. It’s hilarious looking back, as anyone who knows me, knows that I have perfect vision. Eventually, as I embraced my authentic self, I got rid of the glasses and stepped into my own power. The lesson is that sometimes just being you is revolutionary. We often feel that we have to hide parts of ourselves or fake it until we make it, but the truth is that authenticity is always your greatest asset.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I have recently launched a new platform called The Global Institute for Conscious Economics. The goal is to create an intergenerational platform where we can innovate and create solutions to some of the key challenges facing our economy and the world. The platform focuses on a people, planet, profit framework that puts the wellbeing of our labour force and planet in alignment with profit and corporate infrastructure. I think it’s time that we start having more progressive conversations around equality, reconciliation and the future of work and I think that this platform will help advance that agenda.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.
- Ask for help- In the early days, I felt like I had to do everything myself and was unwilling to ask for help. I know now that this is the exact reason so many leaders burn out. Asking for help is one of the most important parts of being a good leader, and when you do this, you set an example for others to do the same.
- Don’t Hire Too Many Generalists — early on I made the hiring mistake of having too many “jack of all trades “types on the team and not enough experienced experts. Strong talent is always worth the investment and this is a lesson I had to learn over time.
- Every CEO Struggles with Confidence — I used to believe that CEO’s were people who never questioned themselves and always felt confident and worthy in every situation. However, I now know that CEO’s are just regular people and we all have moments where we question ourselves or lack clarity or confidence.
- Embrace Your Feminine Leadership Skills- As a collective, we are less exposed to women in the C-Suite, so I think it can be challenging for women to find their leadership style and voice. I know today, that some of my more feminine qualities of emotional intelligence, creativity and intuition have proven to be incredible assets in business for me, but it took time to embrace these qualities in the boardroom especially because there weren’t many leading examples to follow.
- Be a Visionary — I think it’s important for CEO’s to always be looking ahead and thinking about the long term. It can be easy to get caught up in day to day operations and the details of the moment, but a good CEO always has their eye on next month, next year and next decade. A visionary approach is essential in my opinion; especially in today’s age of innovation and disruption.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
My advice would be to schedule in a “self-care” practice as though it’s a business meeting with yourself. Think about your body and wellbeing as a priority. Schedule time to eat healthy meals, exercise, meditate and also schedule time that you are going to relax and unplug. If you don’t make an effort to do these things they can often slip through the cracks. I find that using the same tactic that keeps you organized at work can help keep you organized personally.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
When I became the CEO of The Economic Club of Canada, I had also recently become a new mother. This was a very challenging time for me and I would not have been able to be successful in either endeavour if it hadn’t been for the support of my own mother. She stepped in and helped me in a major way and I am forever grateful. It really does take a village of support in raising our children and growing our businesses.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
I believe my movement has already started through conscious economics. If we can, as business leaders, learn to embrace personal well being and environmental wellbeing as equal in value to profitability, I think we will have a much more sustainable world and system. This is what I want to see happen and I believe it’s possible.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Find me @rhiannonrosalind or @consciouseconomics @economicclubca