Consulting Conversations

A Conversation with Consultant and President/CEO Karen Lehman – Leading With Courage

It is hard to put down on paper all the “a-ha” moments I had while at the Holleran women’s retreat on November 27-29. To have 60 women representing the top senior living organizations in the country—including women leaders from influential industry sponsors—was a 2018 highlight for me. Being with so many open, brave, confident, sincere, smart, and collaborative women in one space for over 48 hours was truly powerful!

On the first day, we heard a challenging and thought-provoking presentation from keynote speaker, Lois Kelly. The following day we enjoyed insightful input on senior living from several participants who provided a panel discussion on current trends and opportunities for strategic consideration. Later, a different panel shared from the heart about personal obstacles they overcame during game-changing times in both their personal and professional lives. I think the absolute greatest part of the retreat was the energy, synergy, and connectedness that we all felt with each other.

Lois Kelly asked us to consider how we cultivate an adaptive-thinking organization and find personal meaning amid demands of leadership. She had us consider traits such as bravery, honesty, enthusiasm, and perseverance—all of which lead to increased courage. With short videos, group discussion, and personal reflection, I gained new insights into my personal and professional self: how self-compassion and self-kindness increase my ability to be resilient, and how resiliency and the capacity to change—to adapt—is critical. Thoughts influence words, and words influence behavior.

Given the “#MeToo” movement and post-Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings, many women are taking a new look at systems and ways of working in the business world. What we may have accepted or tolerated in the past is now viewed with clearer eyes and little or no tolerance. Paying attention and speaking up about our instincts, perceptions, and feelings is now acceptable, even expected. Women should be working in a business setting that promotes empowerment, equality, and collaboration. 

As a leader and a woman, I recognize a need to serve in a greater capacity as mentor and model for leaders coming up, and I will take my place. The nature of our MHS work in health and human services attracts a higher percentage of women than men, and that is why there is a greater need in our arena for women to sponsor and encourage women. Lifting each other up in times of need, supporting each other, and challenging each other when the tough questions need to be addressed: these are all ways in which we make ourselves and each other better, more authentic and courageous leaders.

Karen Lehman
MHS President/CEO

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