Aug 31, 2020 | Leadership

Last week, I attended the 11th Annual San Diego Women’s Week Leadership Conference. Since 2009, the full-day conference has capped off a week of events hosted by the North San Diego Business Chamber designed to inspire, empower and connect women of all ages and professions in honor of Women’s History Month. This year, the conference was moved from March to August and from in-person to online. I still found several highlights and “aha” moments of value. I share them in this post in hopes that you, too, will find some inspiring nuggets.

1. Amy Trask is the former CEO of the Oakland Raiders, and current football analyst for CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network. During her nearly 30-year career with the Raiders, Trask was the highest-ranking female executive in the NFL.

Topic: Leadership Vulnerabilities

Key Takeaway: You can’t be an effective leader if you try to pretend to be something you’re not. Don’t be afraid to say, “Here’s what I’m not comfortable doing,” or “Here’s where I need help.” Being a leader who shares her vulnerabilities gives the space for others to share theirs with her.


2. Linda Cureton, the former CIO of NASA, certainly knows a bit about inclusion and what types of leadership behaviors help to foster an inclusive environment. Working and succeeding in a male-dominated industry, Linda has been credited as a respected leader by her colleagues at NASA.

Topic: Leading in a Tough Environment

Key Takeaway: I experienced microaggressions many times during my career. Many of those came in the form of questions like, “Who do you think you are?” and “You were the CIO of NASA?” Sometimes, microaggressions require a macro response, but most often if you lead with anger, you’re not able to show up as your authentic self.


3. Daymond John is an entrepreneur in every sense of the word. His marketing firm The Shark Group offers advice on how to effectively communicate to consumers through innovative means and connects brands with the world’s top celebrities for everything from endorsements to product extensions. John is also an author of four best-selling books and released his most recent book, Powershift, in March of 2020.

Topic: Powershift: Transform Any Situation, Close Any Deal, and Achieve Any Outcome

Key Takeaway: Our why is all-important. Understanding your why is the first step to move the needle on your life and career in a meaningful way. If you don’t have a compass, you’re not going to be able to find your north star, or where you should go next.

4. Natasha Watley’s story is a powerful one about starting over. After a lifetime focused on the singular goal of winning an Olympic gold medal, Natasha was lost when she realized that the Olympic Committee provided no guidance or support. She had no idea what her “next” would be. A powerful and inspirational story about starting over and doing good. 

Topic: Powershift: Reinventing Yourself – What’s Next?

Key Takeaway: Where do you begin if you’re faced with a time in life when you have to start over? Find your gold. Nothing we do in life is wasted. All that you have experienced is valuable.

5. Ed Smart, the father of Elizabeth Smart, believes he has experienced two miracles in his life. The first, he said, was when his daughter Elizabeth was found alive nine months after she was kidnapped in Utah in 2002. The second miracle is that, when he decided to come out as gay at the age of 64, he was warmly accepted by his neighbors, friends and family.

Topic: Two Miracles and Forgiveness

Key Takeaway: Come to terms with yourself. When we don’t accept who we are, own the impact that our decisions have on ourselves and others, and forgive ourselves, we’re holding ourselves back from being who we might have become. Being consumed by fear, guilt, and blame is like carrying a bag of stones on your back. Live your life without the baggage.

6. Tina Hay is the founder of Napkin Finance, a visual guide to money management. A strong believer in financial literacy, Tina created a platform for users of all ages to learn finance in a simple and engaging way. The company is committed to helping individuals make smart financial decisions at different life stages by providing unique visual learning tools and resources.

Topic: Napkin Finance: Build Your Wealth in 30 Seconds or Less

Key Takeaway: An unprecedented amount of assets will shift into the hands of U.S. women over the next three to five years, representing a $30 trillion opportunity by the end of the decade. Yet, wealth planning and management is a male-dominated endeavor. Start participating in the Board Room of your life by focusing on the top one or two things that worry you the most about your financial future. Then get educated, stay engaged, and take action.

7. Patti Perez is founder and CEO of PersuasionPoint Inc., a consulting firm dedicated to teaching leaders and teams how to create and sustain healthy, inclusive, and profitable workplace cultures. Patti is the best-selling, award-winning author of “The Drama-Free Workplace” (Wiley 2019) and uses the concepts from her book to lead interactive, action-oriented workshops, provide consulting services, and deliver keynote addresses.

Topic: The Drama-Free Leader

Key Takeaway: Workplace drama has the potential to derail business goals, including goals related to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Drama-free leaders set their north stars in values and live them in true authenticity and love. Move from allyship to kinship. Be a leader who people can have faith in. Base your management style on compassion, rather than fear.



8. Peggy Johnson currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of Magic Leap, a spatial computing company building augmented reality to bring the physical and digital world together. Prior to joining Magic Leap, she held the position of Executive Vice President of Business Development at Microsoft where she was known as the company’s chief dealmaker.

Topic: Leadership With a Changing Mindset

Key Takeaway: Not fitting into the pattern of the who came before you might just be what your organization needs to reach the next level. Don’t be afraid to point out when the system is skewed when you don’t see yourself fitting it. If you’re working with the right leader who sees your potential, you might just open doors for yourself and for others to follow you.


9. Romi Neustadt is a former corporate executive who traded in the billable hour to become an entrepreneur. She draws on her own experience and the wisdom to share the tools and mindset a woman needs to figure out what to focus on, what to let go of (and why), and how to live the life she really wants to live and become the person she really wants to be.

Topic: You Can Have it All, Just Not at the Same Damn Time

Key Takeaway: Women especially deal with unrealistic expectations about who we should be, what we should accomplish, and how to look in the process. Stop putting the power of your life in the hands of others, and create a roadmap to guide where you should focus your time and attention. Shift from “doing it all” to “defining your all” by relentlessly editing your life and doing what really matters most.

10. Christine Van Loo is a professional aerialist, co-founder of Airborne Arts Retreat Center in Costa Rica, founder and CEO of Van Loo Productions and of VisionAerialist, LLC. She contributed to the mega-bestseller Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

Topic: Transcendence: How to Rise Above Your Limiting Beliefs

Key Takeaway: How do you believe in yourself when you don’t? First, if you feel that you’re an imposter, you’re in good company. Four out of five people have low self-esteem. No amount of success will prevent you from having self-doubt. Break your dream down into its basic components and tackle one at a time. Create a launch team of people who believe in you more than you believe in yourself. Expect your dreams to make you prove yourself to them. And fly!

11. Mallika Chopra was the founder of Intent and co-founder of The Chopra Well with her brother, Gotham Chopra, and father, Deepak Chopra. She is an American author, meditation teacher, motivational speaker, and businesswoman. She is the author of four books, and the founder of, a website focused on personal, social and global wellness.

Topic: Stress, Anxiety, & Mindfulness in the Age of COVID-19

Key Takeaway: Use simple tools that are available to you every day to connect with yourself and find strength for the next season of life. Do this by sticking to the basics: maintain regular routines throughout the day, maintain regular sleep routines, and make healthy eating and drinking choices. Daily intentions have the remarkable power to shape the journey from stress, fear, doubt and procrastination into a life of happiness and self-acceptance. 

Question: If you attended an event honoring Women’s History Month this year, what messages resonated with you?

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!



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