Women in Leadership: Reflections from Lenovo Software’s CMO

If you want to be a more inspiring leader, take a cue from Hidden Figures’ Katherine Johnson: Rather than focusing on your desired outcomes, show others what they can accomplish. You may be surprised at how much more you can achieve by elevating peers and employees.

This was one of many memorable leadership strategies discussed at the Women in Leadership Summit I had the honor of attending. Of the countless conferences I’ve been to, this one stands out as significant — in large part because it relates directly to so many of the things we’re doing here at Lenovo Software and parent company Lenovo. Even several months later, I’m still reflecting on all that I experienced.

Lenovo has long viewed diversity as the key to future-proofing a business. Recently, the company received a 100% score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index. In addition to being named a best company for working moms, Lenovo embraces partner organizations, such as Girls Who Code, to help close the gender gap in technology. (In an era where careers for women in technology is a global challenge, this is a big deal.)

Currently, Lenovo is in its third year of hosting a 10-month Women’s Leadership Development Program (WLDP) designed for Lenovo’s female senior leaders. Approximately 20 women are selected from around the world to participate in this intensive professional development program.

As part of this year’s group, I’ve had the immense honor of spending time with inspiring women in my WLDP cohort — plus mentors like Laura Latrello, Working Mother magazine’s Working Mother of the Year, and Executive Sponsor Yolanda Conyers,  Lenovo’s Chief Diversity Officer and VP of Global HR. It was alongside these and other incredible women that I attended the high-intensity, four-day Linkage program designed to accelerate the advancement of women in the workplace.

Women’s Leadership Development Program

It was amazing. 800 powerful - smart, kind, driven - women in a room together. All there thanks to supportive bosses and forward-thinking companies.

Sharing everything we learned would fill a book, so here are a few of the keynote highlights:

Event co-founder Susan Mackenty Brady reminded us how important it is to show others respect rather than judgment. Her theories on the Inner Critic resonated deeply with a lot of people. If you’re not familiar with this topic I highly recommend reading her Forbes article on the subject.

And if you haven’t yet listened to Brené Brown’s TED Talk on the power of vulnerability, that should be next on your list…especially if you’re one to continually strive for perfection. Brown reminds us that it’s not until you’ve created a culture of vulnerability — one where it’s OK to succeed and fail — that people become truly connected and supportive.

Other memorable takeaways came from the team of Second City Works, who reminded us to build trust and respect through active listening, and neuroscientist Tara Swart, who encouraged us to become better leaders by taking care of our brains

As I reflect on this mountain of inspiration I climbed, I’m reminded more than ever of the need to embrace successes as well as failures — to seek those all-important moments in the everyday, and to recognize that so much of what we accomplish has to do with the mistakes we’ve made and lessons we’ve learned along the way.

I’ll never forget the mentors who helped shape my own career, and now I have the incredible opportunity to help others dream big.

I’m looking forward to another great year with the women of Lenovo, and can’t wait to see what we’ll accomplish together!

Picture of Sabra Willner

Written by Sabra Willner

As Chief Marketing Officer, Sabra joins the leadership team to drive the introduction of Lenovo Software to education, mid-market and enterprise corporations. Sabra strives to build a culture where marketing initiatives not only deliver significant business growth but also contribute positively to the whole community. Sabra has cultivated a career around the full end-to-end marketing experience. Developing expertise in account and project management, brand development, customer experience, digital media strategy, channel marketing, and partner enablement, Sabra’s dedication is unparalleled. Since her start in the agency world, she understands the value of a brand and attributes her success to working with great brands, alongside abundant talent and mentors who are nationally and globally recognized for their excellence. A recent transplant from New York City to Boulder, Colorado, Sabra appreciates family time with her young daughter and husband, exploring new experiences, and enjoying the outdoors.

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