As a leadership coach, I am so interested in women in positions whose focus it is to inspire and encourage other women to unite behind a cause and make a difference. What I've noticed about these leaders is a marked shift in their energy and their presence as they make the switch from leading for personal gain and seeking status, to leading through being of service to others - to give back. Those who give back are calmer, more focused and their presence is more powerful. They are ready to take on anything, nothing is too big. They are called to lead. Life begins to flow...
Here are five key characteristics that women who give back have in common:
She trusts herself
A woman who gives back and chooses to be of service over ego-driven goals has already developed a level of personal contentment with who she is. This grows over time and it is a commitment to both managing her fears or self-doubt and to plugging into her intuition - to receive her unique inspiration which informs her choices. This creates a woman who trusts herself and trusts her path. There is nothing more attractive!
She has conviction
A woman who gives has a vision and a passion to fulfill it. She is called to this purpose, it resonates with her soul and she is driven, for reasons bigger than she can explain. There is no stopping her and she will use everything in her power to ensure she gets there. This conviction to her vision is compelling, others can't help but feel inspired and want to support her, and follow her lead.
She chooses abundance
Women who give cultivate the mindset of plenty over lack. For many, to give away energy and time promotes fear of loss - a fear of losing whilst others are gaining, and a sense of needing to keep their resources to themselves, lest they end up with nothing. However, women who give understand it is a great source of freedom from thoughts of scarcity. When they put their attention on others they build connection and unite in building something bigger than they could do alone. The world starts to open up and new offers, ideas and inspiration comes in from unexpected places and people. This is where it gets interesting!
Some may view surrendering as giving up. However, this type of surrender is to let go of control and open ourselves up to the possibility of the unknown; to have our eyes open to the daily magic and opportunities that are presented to us. Not to control or tightly plan what you think they should be. Those who choose to let go, who loosen their grip on their set ideals and expectations, are the ones who are open to receiving and being shown the way. Before Oprah became famous, her daily prayer was of surrender: "God use me, use me use this life, I don't know what the future holds for me, but I know that there is a vision for my life that is greater than my imagination can hold." Her path brought her to television.
She receives love
It takes faith to receive. The art of giving opens up our capacity to receive, and a woman who gives looks to manage her ego and pride that once prevented her from accepting the assistance and love that she now knows will only help her to give more. The miracle is that when you're a woman who gives, you learn to accept the gifts that are presented to you too so you can be of greater service.
Giving back in action
One woman who is giving back - and inspiring many other women to do the
same, is Kirsten Edwards-Warren, who came up with the idea for the fundraising initiative 'Donate the Dress' to raise money for the victims of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). When Kirsten read about the horrific realities of FGM she felt compelled to do something to raise money and awareness around those affected. Around the same time she had been considering what to do with her wedding gown and realised that in selling it, and asking others to donate their bridal wear and services too, together they could make a difference for the women affected by this personal atrocity here in the UK.
Kirsten has felt a shift in her leadership through the art of giving back in this way. "At first I was nervous about asking people to help me embark on such a significant initiative. But I was amazed by how many people jumped up to help. An incredible team of women offered their time and skills, helping to organise and publicise the sale; many women offered their dresses and other accessories; and many men asked how they could help and have donated suits and money. To make this project work, I had to overcome my fear of failure, relax my expectations about how I wanted it to happen, and be open to support from different and unknown channels. It has been an eye-opening experience for me, incredibly rewarding, and I have seen the most positive sides of human nature in friends and family as well as people I have never even met."
Kirsten is featured in the photograph with her friend, Dancy, modelling Kirsten's wedding dress which is now available to bid for on ebay, with 100% of the sale going to the Desert Flower Foundation.
The initiative launches on Friday 6th February. If you would like to donate your wedding dress to this cause, please go to www.donatethedress.org
Photography by Kim Hardy