A common question I’m asked is “how did you get into this work”? There are many intersecting layers of my identity and my past that weave into my story. The short answer- it’s all about my higher purpose.
Up until my mid 20’s, I was the quiet, well-behaved, good girl. I was who my parents, pastor, professors and friends – everyone else wanted me to be. I listened to them because my self-worth and value was contingent upon everyone else’s approval. I had no idea who Deborah truly was.
My first real experience of leadership was at the age of 25, when I started a business with my husband. I was fresh out of graduate school with a degree in healthcare management. He had been working as a hospital pharmacist and wanted to launch a home infusion pharmacy. We both brought strengths into the partnership, but looking back, I can see that mine were not equally valued.
At this point, I didn’t really understand how important what I brought to our leadership team was. I could have taken a stand and didn’t have the courage. Instead, I deferred to his authority and backed down. As a result, I felt less confident and disempowered.
When I started my own business, I began to realize my strengths, as I said no to people, projects, paths that weren’t really for me. My self-awareness grew as I leveraged my strengths and learned to address weaknesses. I learned to marry being strategic with my more natural heart centered skills. Both were required to have impact as a leader.
Over five years into my coaching business, a colleague that knew me in the early days confided that I had been the “heart” of our pharmacy. Her comment astounded me; I really didn’t understand the impact I’d had as a leader.
When I fully embraced my sensitivity and my ability to collaborate as my strong suit, not my weaknesses as I formerly thought, and found confidence in my own voice and beliefs – everything changed.
The impact astounded me as I shared the truth- that how women lead is equally good and a needed perspective. To be a good leader, we need to strengthen and leverage what we are naturally good at, instead of leading like someone else.
I’ve come a long, long way and I realize it’s going to continue to be a work in progress. The reason I do the work I do is I just don’t want other women to spend another minute of their life denying and diminishing themselves, hiding their truths, experiencing self doubt, and second-guessing themselves-the way that I did. It keeps us from being truly seen and from stepping into our genius. And it breaks my heart.
I focus on celebrating and empowering women leaders so that we can change the culture of healthcare.
I feel like I am really living now. Being my authentic self, doing the work I love, work that reflects my values. My work, helping women in healthcare to lead authentically, be resilient and have greater influence and lasting impact – is how I live my purpose.
Feedback like this is gratifying because it tells me I am having an impact:
“I’m happy and encouraged that your work helps empower physicians and surgeons as powerful leaders. Thank you for using your talents and passion to create such an impactful reverb.” – Female surgeon, academic faculty
I’d love to hear how YOU got into the work you’re doing.