10 Lessons in Leadership from the Lehigh Valley Women’s Summit 2015

Posted by Laura McHugh, Brittany Garzillo on

A record-breaking 600 people attended the Lehigh Valley Women’s Summit 2015, presented by the Women’s Business Council of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley Women’s Leadership Council, and Cedar Crest College. The event, which took place on Tuesday at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, was the sixth of its kind, and featured keynote speakers Lynn Stratford of UNICEF; Linda Cliatt-Wayman, principal of Strawberry Mansion High School in Philadelphia; and Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black.

The Summit also included panel discussions and breakout sessions led by some of the Lehigh Valley’s most influential female leaders. Each shared advice based on personal and professional experience, and several themes emerged throughout the day.

Here are ten leadership tips from the Lehigh Valley Women’s Summit 2015:

Have a vision – Lynn Stratford, senior vice president of program and community engagement at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, stressed the importance of setting goals for yourself and your organization. She asked the audience, “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you ever know when you arrive?”

Claim your power – “When we understand our power in the world, the consequences that our choices and our power have to affect others both positively and negatively, then we can really claim that power and make sure we’re directing it in the way we want to,” said Orange is the New Black author Piper Kerman. After serving time in federal prison, Kerman now directs her power to advocate for women in the criminal justice system.

Act with purpose – “Leadership moves must be made carefully and for the right reasons,” said Linda Cliatt-Wayman, principal of Strawberry Mansion High School in Philadelphia. Cliatt-Wayman’s purpose led her to leave her job as Assistant Superintendent of Philadelphia School District to reform one of the city’s most dangerous schools.

Keep your focus – Debra Fraser-Howze is Senior Vice President of Government and External Affairs at Orasure Technologies, Inc. and former President/CEO of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. Her advice to stay focused: “If it doesn’t bring you peace of mind, cut it loose. You don’t have time for it.”

Be yourself – Frazer-Howze also shared this lesson during a panel called “Women in the Lead,” moderated by Cedar Crest College President Carmen Twillie Ambar, J.D: “You’re your best when you’re yourself.”

Write your brand – Stratford advised the audience to “stand out before you fit in.” Lehigh Valley Style editor Lisa Gotto and Ashley Russo, president of ASR Media Productions, built on this theme in a breakout session. To make a mark and build your personal brand, they urged emerging leaders to define what makes them happy, embrace what makes them unique and differentiate themselves from the crowd.

Serve those you lead – During the “Women in the Lead” panel, Kim Checkeye, president of Truth for Women, said, “Leadership is not about you. Leadership is about serving those you lead. When they succeed, you succeed.”

Don’t fear failure – The lesson of failing forward and learning from mistakes was a powerful theme for multiple guests. “You unquestionably will learn more from your failures. A success is only built out of a succession of failures,” said Kerman, whose book about her experience in a women’s prison has been adapted into the Netflix series, Orange is the New Black.

Get involved – Gladys Wiles of Snyder & Wiles, PC, urges women to “get involved, volunteer, excel, be excellent, and help women in your community.” She stated the rewards of volunteering can supercharge your business, develop skills, make friends, and garner professional contacts, making it a win-win for you and your community.

Put leader first – “I do not consider myself a woman who happens to be a leader. Instead, I consider myself a leader who just happens to be a woman,” said Cliatt-Wayman. “Leader before gender. That is the way I prefer to see leadership.”

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