Lisa O'Neill

Lisa O'Neill

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Celebrating our differences and owning them is a gift.


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I love celebrations, birthdays, anniversaries, and achievements. Next week is International Women’s Day. A day where we get to celebrate everything that women are and do.

At Thought Leaders Business School, we are hosting a breakfast session to gather and celebrate all the extraordinary women in our community. 52% of our community are women. I am grateful to lead a community where women are supported and celebrated and honoured both by other women and the fabulous men who make up the other 48% of our collective. 73% of the team that I lead at Thought Leaders are women. Smart, capable women who use their initiative and expertise every day to build everything we offer.

On Tuesday, we will be celebrating just how much women bring so much to the table. The leadership, the expertise, and the efforts made across so many industries and organisations.

As leaders, women are intuitive, efficient, and compassionate. Many men I work with also have these qualities but rather than trying to make us all the same, I want to celebrate our differences. The power of difference is a wonderful conversation worth having. The fact is we are different. We are raised differently, treated differently, and approach things differently.  I love the difference and think more time should be spent on merging our skills and energies than opposing them. There are times when leadership needs to be soft and nurturing. There are times when bold strength is what is required. Working together, embracing the combined energy, experience, and expertise of men and women is the world I want to work and live in.

People love to make things wrong that they do not understand. For years, men and women have been making each other wrong. It’s not helpful. Celebrating our differences and owning them is a gift. I agree that many women have been wronged by men. I also know many men who have been wronged by women. The system that set us up in opposition is the issue. The patriarchy that’s made women worth less than men. The angry response and rage that women experienced and still do most days. I think it’s time that we looked at ourselves. That we looked at what we bring to the table and what we need to put down. Being angry never helps. Being open and understanding does. It’s the training that everyone has received that is the problem. The beliefs, the experiences, and the rigidness that has done us in.

Examining our beliefs, where they come from and recommitting to the ones that are useful is important work. Reframing our experiences, owning our behaviours, and moving through rather than staying stuck is the way forward. In my experience, rigidity never works. The world needs leaders who are open, expansive, and can yield to the circumstances around them. “Do as I say”, “Father knows best” and “I am right and you are wrong” righteousness is not modern. It’s not effective. And it doesn’t work.

I love being a woman. I love men. I love masculine women and feminine men and I love the idea that we get to choose and play at any end of this line regardless of gender. Making men wrong doesn’t make women right. It’s just not that simple. What makes women right is power and support and understanding. The same things that make men right! When we understand ourselves, we have the support we need and when we are in our power we can be the leaders that the world needs.

When we are not clear on where our energy is coming from, when we are overwhelmed or under-supported, we do not turn up as people who others want to follow. “Follow the leader” is an old saying. I need a good reason to follow someone. I need them to be inspiring, clever, convicted, and authentic. People who know who they are, what they want, and where they are going are people worth following and celebrating.

Regardless of gender.

Lisa O’Neill

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