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More than a woman: lessons for all of us

Melissa Waggener Zorkin

I attribute my success to something absolutely everybody can, and should, be doing: I lead from my values, every single day

Melissa Waggener Zorkin, WE Communications


It happens all the time: A woman achieves success in her field and is swamped with requests to tell her story. Does she “lean in,” putting her shoulder to the hamster wheel and pushing it to the top of the corporate ladder? Or does she lean out, stepping off that wheel and finding her own path? Does she feel she has to overcome an invisible Venus symbol next to her name on the door of the C-suite? Or has she made that symbol her secret weapon? How does she handle being so different?

I used to feel slightly patronized by these stories, but now I see how important they can be. They encourage women to start out, and, more importantly, stick it out in male-dominated fields. They also reassure us that there’s hope out there in a world that can be awfully hostile. They remind us that we’re all in this together, that we owe each other a helping hand when we can give it, and a high-five when we can’t. And they push us to have necessary conversations about diversity and inclusion in our industries — conversations that grow more urgent every day.

But I attribute my success to something absolutely everybody can, and should, be doing: I lead from my values, every single day.

What does this mean? I’ve tried to build an organization that’s all about moving people to action by taking a 360-degree view of who they are, how they work, and what matters to them. We’re great communicators not because we talk, but because we listen. In spite of our moms’ advice when we were in junior high, we genuinely care what people think of us – and that’s how we’ve built client relationships that have lasted for decades.

I often say that if we’re doing our job right, we’ll be the best part of our clients’ day. That’s not just feel-good girl talk — it’s got a real impact on the bottom line, too. And if I’m doing my job right, everyone who works for me will feel seen, valued, and free to do her (or his, or their) best work — and to do it their way, not my way.

This is all part of why I believe strongly in the power of earned media: To me, trust is the most valuable currency there is. Especially in these turbulent times, it’s the relationships we build and the values we display that will keep our brands leading the pack.

At the end of the day, a more purposeful, values-driven approach will make us all better people — and better companies, too.


Melissa Waggener Zorkin is CEO and founder of WE Communications.


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