Leadership Lessons for Entrepreneurs: Gems of Wisdom From The NextWomen DWEN Interview Series

As the fabulous The NextWomen DWEN Interview Series draws near its close, we'll be bringing you some of our favourite gems of wisdom from the series, focusing on certain key subjects. Today's hot topic is: Leadership

"Being a good leader takes being a big being. And by that I mean that when you only have to manage yourself you can deal with your own foibles. Once you start to manage people you need to get beyond yourself and be present to what is going on with the other person".

Suzi Dafnis, Community Director, Australian Business Women's Network

"My biggest challenge was to get respect in a male dominated environment. When I joined Gradual the Exchange was still a mutual company, controlled by the owners of broker dealers. Most of them were around my father´s age (70s) and there were no women. Back then I was 37, so you can see it was difficult to gain respect. But after 5 years in the business, no one treats me as the new kid on the block anymore. I remember back then, I wanted to listen as much as I could to learn what the best management model would be, but eventually I learned to trust my leadership skills and started doing things my way.

"That is when I gained respect. So the lesson is an easy one; trust yourself".

Fernanda de Lima, CEO Gradual Corretora

"I suggest we have to be great observers and researchers. We have always to behave as students to be great leaders".

Silvia De Tommaso, President, A ITAARTE

"Hire well in the first place compensate generously, set clear, measurable expectations, focus on motivation and retention that is customized to the employee, remove obstacles to success or motivation, create an environment that strikes a balance between competition and collaboration, supply performance data and metrics to drive a self-motivated team to excel, “counsel out” poor performers quickly".

Anneke Seley, Founder, Phone Works

"Hire sooner! I waited far too long before hiring my first employee. Before hiring my second, etc. You can’t grow if you do everything yourself. My leadership style has always been consensus building, open book management; that’s never changed and never will".

Rhonda Abrams, 'USA Today' Small Business Columnist & President, PlanningShop

"I’ve learned very early in life to challenge the rules and to not be afraid of innovating. And you only can do that and be successful when you love very much what you do and you “walk the talk”.

"A good leader of people is mainly a great server of his people".

Andiara Petterle, Digital Strategy & Business Development Director, Grupo RBS

"As I get older, I opt to be more and more open and transparent.  I just don’t have room for politics and game play.  I drive to simplicity and clear agreement. It makes everything -from motivating your team to negotiating complex deals and relationships – much, much easier. And it proves to be a great filter, too. You very quickly find out who’s on board with you, who does or doesn’t share your values. And that allows you to shift your focus to the challenges, opportunities, and relationships that have the greatest value and stop wasting time on those that don’t and won’t likely ever generate value for the business".

Chris Shipley, CEO, Guidewire Group, Inc

"I have learned to let others take the lead if they are up to the challenge. It has been surprising to me which people step up when a task is given to a group.

"You can lead from the middle as an alternative to leading from the front, and I find this most effective on corporate boards of equals."

Kay Koplovitz, Founder, USA Networks

"When I was in business school, so much emphasis was placed on finance, marketing, strategy etc.  Nobody tells you the hardest thing about running a business is the people side of the equation.   There is no class on how to hire the right team, keep them engaged and build an amazing culture.
We had a lot of mis-steps in this area in the early days, having made some expensive mistakes and learned the hard way.

"I now spend over 50% of my time on hiring, managing and developing people as I believe it is the single most important aspect of building a great business".  

Catherine Graham, Co-Founder Commonsku & Managing Director RIGHTSLEEVE

"My most valuable lesson as a leader is that the job is to listen, to facilitate and to empower. It isn’t to know everything and enact your own ideas. I used to believe I needed to have all the answers, but today I realize that the teams have many valuable inputs to the business if we, as a management team, know how to institute them".  

Kate Swann, COO, frog

"I used to feel that everything was a high stake decision or outcome. Now I look at everything more as small iterations. I have high expectations for my team, but I don't micromanage on how to get there.
My rule is only do something if it gets us money or traffic. If it gets neither than don't do it".

Michelle Madhok, Founder & CEO SheFinds Media

"I’d say I am a “clockmaker” and not a “time teller” by empowering my staff to devise their own solutions in their work.  

"After all, I want to see those around me succeed. There are always methods to improving our work and it’s gratifying to see my staff members create a design or plan that’s better than the original. I also believe in being a fair leader and having a balance between life and work.  So when there’s downtime, which is a rarity at Buzz Marketing Group, I encourage my staff to rest and recharge for the next big project.  Over the years, and after 15 years of running my own company, I understand vacation time is needed!"

Tina Wells, Founder & CEO, Buzz Marketing Group


The Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) celebrates the wonderful accomplishments of women in business, whilst looking forward at how we can progress and learn from each other. Natural networkers and relationship builders, women have innate flair for entrepreneurship. With DWEN, Dell is helping women in business to expand their networks while offering technology capabilities designed to help them innovate and grow their businesses.

The NextWomen is in partnership with DWEN to bring you a series of 40 interviews with the world's most influential female founders, investors and decision makers: The NextWomen DWEN Interview Series.

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