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Women’s leadership development has long been a passion of mine. Few things energize me as much as spending time with strong women leaders.

This week I had the opportunity to attend Smart Business Magazine’s Smart Women Awards & Breakfast in Columbus. Throughout the event, we honored more than 20 trailblazers, progressive women, progressive entrepreneurs and progressive organizations, as well as two men who were recognized as advocates for women’s advancement. You can read about the honorees and their accomplishments in Smart Business.

The morning also included an inspiring panel discussion. The panel was moderated by Smart Business’ Dustin Klein and featured Sandy Doyle-Ahern of EMH&T, Vinita Clements of Nationwide, Natalie Crede of Safelite Auto Glass, and Michelle Kerr of Lightwell Inc. Each of the four panelists was candid and provided insights into her journey, while also sharing useful tips we can all use as we progress on our own leadership journeys.

Some of the most significant takeaways from the panel discussion from my perspective are below.

  • Leadership isn’t a role, it’s an action.
  • We tend to push ourselves to prove ourselves. Instead, push for a purpose.
  • Be comfortable with being vulnerable. In tough times, be transparent and ask for help if you need it.
  • To be a leader, you have to tap into each individual’s motivation.
  • You must strike a balance between conformity and confidence.
  • Diversity brings strength. If you’re agreeing with everyone all of the time, something is wrong.
  • Transforming an organizational culture takes three steps: creating and communicating the vision, teaching the skills and behaviors to the team, and then establishing accountability.
  • You don’t have to have all the answers or be the smartest person in the room. It’s all about collaborating with others.
  • If you haven’t been authentic and transparent, people will scatter when you face challenges.
  • Focus on your team’s strengths, instead of their weaknesses.
  • Hire and fire based on your core values. You can teach skills; you can’t teach values.
  • We all have our own story and diversity of thought. Be your authentic self, and share your gifts with others.
  • “ASK” acronym for leadership: Authenticity, Servitude, Knowledge.
  • Know your stuff, know your people, know yourself.
  • Operate with a sense of gratitude.

For more highlights and photos from the Smart Women awards, you can view the #SmartWomenCOL feed on Twitter.

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