Wobi Interview with Charlene Li (Part 2)
Part Two of the WOBI Interview.
Hayley Birtles-Eades: Why is it important to shift to a digital mindset in your presentation? You were saying how it’s essential to be the leader even if you’re afraid of the digital space, but you need to get to know it.
Charlene Li: You know I talk to all these leaders of all different ages, and they’re completely capable of doing it and the ones who do it see it as an extension of leadership. They are seen as an extension of the way they were lead.
It’s not something new and different. So the way that they lead is from a place of curiosity of wanting to engage with people. The former CEO of Telstra is a great example; he’s an anthropologist. So he’s always curious about what makes people’s click and how do people come together and because he has that as part of his leadership practice, he opens into that and he goes wait a minute this stuff is good. I can listen to people and understand them to be curious about them have empathy and then communicate with them; this is great. Digital was just a matter of the channel; he just saw it as another way to extend what he was already doing. The people who have the hardest problems with this are the people who don’t engage in conversations. They are a little bit more closed in the way they lead, hoard that power and they’re not open. If you are by nature, open in your leadership practice, the digital place looks fantastic and expansive. If you are closed in your leadership practice, it’s very threatening.
Hayley Birtles-Eades: This is not new stuff, is it?
Charlene Li: This is nothing new. And it has to do with your leadership style but also your philosophy of how you lead and the relationship you have with followers. Do you expect people to listen to you and do exactly what you tell them? Or are you a leader that inspires them and says this is what we’re going to go and have everybody go for it.
Hayley Birtles-Eades: And caring about what you do, it’s a relationship not just about chasing that dollar and chasing that the viral video like forget that.
Charlene Li: I mean look at it this way when I think about what I call these vanity metrics, we are talking about followers of crowds and replies. Those are not the things that matter to people. Those are the things that say look at me, that I care about you.
Hayley Birtles-Eades: Yes. You said on stage where it is it becomes less about you, but you are going to be the one that starts. Otherwise, they’re not going to follow.
Charlene Li: Right, and then you have to have that courage as a leader to step into the unknown to lead when no one else would go. I call it putting on that mantle of audacity to say I could be the person to make this change happen.
Hayley Birtles-Eades: So we’ve got big boots to fill because you say that there’s a gap with the women, I’m very competitive, and you say that that’s something that we need to champion.
Charlene Li: In general, when I think about developing leaders, and I think in particular we’re developing a type of leader that I think women are. The world is looking for a different kind of leadership. When I started speaking, I had all these speaking coaches that tried to get me to be a speaker that I was not. My style is very different than most men’s, but learning that and adapting that to me and the message that I wanted to have and the connection I can have with the audience is something I had to develop and work.
Hayley Birtles-Eades: I loved your presentation. I go to lots of different presentations, but yours was engaging, but I did notice there was so many men in the audience and only a few women. How does that feel for you as a female presenter?
Charlene Li: I don’t differentiate between men and women in the audience, I think of them as leaders honestly. I recognize that men listen and learn in a different way than women, and so; as a result, you have to take into consideration how well my message lands on them. They’re struggling just like any other leader, like how do I do this and how do I lead more compassionately with empathy with humility. We don’t allow ourselves to explore that part of being a leader and me being up there permits them to do that. So it’s fascinating to be able to have these conversations that they usually don’t.
Hayley Birtles-Eades: That is so good. Is there anything that you would like to add that you feel like would add value to our members.
Charlene Li: I think for women in particular, and this is very much a stereotype, but we’re waiting for the right time. We’re waiting for the right combination of things in our lives and the world out there, and we always think about balance.
I don’t believe in the word balance; I seek harmony. I think that life is a series of less than optimal compromises that you have to make.
My message would be, don’t wait, don’t wait. Because what waiting is doing is putting off something hard that you’re not ready. When you realize it, you’re never going to be prepared, and you accept that then it becomes so much easier to take action like what am I waiting. There’s never going to be a perfect time So that’s the one message I would say is, don’t wait.