by Marianne Biangardi and Jennifer Bardot
When you began your career did you ever imagine you would have a leadership role like you have now? What advice would you give your younger self?
In many ways, I always had a sense that I would end up in a leadership role, but it wasn’t a clear or definite path from the beginning. I had a strong drive to make a positive impact and a desire to work with people in a meaningful way.
As I navigated through different experiences and opportunities, I began to discover my natural inclination towards taking on leadership responsibilities. I found myself gravitating towards roles where I could educate, guide, coach and inspire others, and where I could contribute to shaping the direction of a team, organization or region.
However, it wasn’t a linear journey. I explored various fields and tried out different roles to gain a broader understanding of different industries and work environments. Along the way, I learned valued lessons, acquired new skills, and gained insights into what leadership truly meant to me.
Advice to your younger self? You are capable of great things. Believe in yourself, stay resilient in the face of challenges and never stop learning and growing.
Embrace the journey, and let your passion and purpose guide you to a life of fulfillment and happiness.
Who inspires you and why? What is your most valued attribute in the leaders you respect or mentors you have had?
I’ve always been inspired by my parents— Samuel (deceased) and Comfort Akande.
They demonstrated resilience in the face of challenge. They didn’t give up easily and always sought to find ways to overcome obstacles.
They led by example and approached setbacks as opportunities for growth and learning. Their determination and perseverance inspires me to keep pushing forward.
Most valued attribute in a leader: I admire authenticity in leaders. I find that authentic leaders inspire me with their words and actions. They have always earned my trust and respect because they create an environment where everyone feels comfortable being themselves.
What did it take in order to trust yourself to step into leadership?
I am grateful for the incredible fortune I’ve had in having mentors, coaches and sponsors who recognize my potential and actively support me by nominating me for positions that I’ve been well suited for. Their guidance and belief in my abilities have played a significant role in shaping my leadership journey.
I’ve also trusted myself to step into those relationship roles by recognizing my strengths and preparing adequately for the opportunities that arise.
Have you experienced any hardships and how did you overcome the obstacles? When did you know the business was going to make it?
Yes, I have faced several hardships throughout my journey, and one significant challenge was during the recent pandemic. Transitioning programs from in-person to virtual settings within a short period was a daunting task, especially for a company that heavily relied on in-person training and events. However, I approached the challenge with determination and resilience.
In the absence of a blueprint for navigating the new environment, I sought guidance from mentors, friends, team members and other organizations that were also grappling with the effects of COVID-19. I looked for strategies and best practices that aligned with our mission and adapted them to our specific programs and events. By drawing on the experiences and insights of others, I gained valuable knowledge that helped shape our approach.
What do you attribute your success to? Secret to your success…
Embracing failure and taking risks. Success often involves taking calculated risks and embracing failure as a learning experience. I’ve always prided myself on embracing discomfort and working towards stepping out of my comfort zone. I have found that trying new things, and learning from both successes and failures leads to personal and professional growth.
What advice would you give other local women leaders?
My advice – always have your own personal board of directors. Building a network of trusted advisors, mentors, sponsors who can support and guide you in various aspects of your life can be immensely beneficial.
Join the GRIT Community:
A professional women’s group that provides
support, encouragement, and tools for
women to thrive.
Jennifer Bardot (email@example.com, or
314-630-1451) is CEO and Founder of G.R.I.T. Community For Women.
Marianne Biangardi (firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-322-4871) is Sr. Associate, Marketing and Business Development, at UHY LLP.