My first lessons in women's leadership

When I think about the first example of women leaders, I think of the women in my family. My mother, my aunts, and my grandmother. In order to know where you’re going, you must first understand who you are and where you come from. So much of who we are as women has much to do with the qualities and traits we inherit from our very first role models. What did we learn from them? How do we model some of the same actions, behaviors, and beliefs? And how do we become our own version of a great woman leader so that we can model it for the next generation?

In a word, the women of my family were: strong. They were women who emigrated from their home country of Jamaica to come to the states in search of better opportunities for their family. All they knew was how to be strong. A trait that I am positive was passed down to them from their ancestors. Women of my mother and grandmothers generation were counted on to be many things. In essence, they were the glue that held everything together.

Growing up, I watched the women in my family raise us kids, run a household, work extremely hard, defy incredible odds, overcome difficult challenges, give of themselves constantly, sacrifice over and over again, be the matriarch, protect their loved ones, and hold it all together day after day.

They were also nurturers, lovers, caregivers, confidants, healers, and incredible pillars of wisdom.

My grandmother was the matriarch of my family and someone I would come to know as a big dreamer. While spending most of her life in Jamaica she always dreamed of coming to the states to build a life for herself and her family. In 1972, she finally did. Her choice to come here was incredibly difficult. She took a major risk not knowing if everything would work out the way she imagined. If she failed, it would not only affect her but her children as well. But she did it anyway knowing that there was a larger mission at stake. Here she had an opportunity to create positive change, to carve a new path, and lead her family to where they would thrive. My grandmother stepped up to lead despite being afraid because she could only follow what she believed would be best at the time.

This kind of leadership is so prevalent in so many households. The women we know as mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, wives, girlfriends, students, best friends, managers, CEOs, entrepreneurs who lead every single day and do so much to change the world around us. They do not take a day off, they do not complain, they simple rise with faith, courage, and the vulnerability to pave the way for the rest of us.

We come from a long lineage of great women leaders. It’s in our DNA. From the sheroes we saw as little girls, they helped to shape and mold us to become the women we are today. We create a ripple effect by deciding who we want to be as leaders and the impact we leave on others. The power we have as women is manifold.

Our words, our actions, and our belief in ourselves have the power to effect real change. It first starts in our homes, with our families, in our communities, the workplace, within our business, and finally the world. Rising up into our leadership has never been more imperative; it’s up to us to show each other the way through truth, kindness, and unshakeable courage.

Who were your first role models of women leaders? What did you learn from them? How have they shaped who you are today?