Updated: Oct 31, 2022
Recently I listened to Abby Wambach and Brene Brown riff about leadership in this podcast episode and it lit me on fire. Abby talks about the fact that she was never Little Red Riding Hood; she’s always been the wolf. That is to say: she’s veered off "the path" to redefine her own personal and professional journey.
For those of you who don’t know Abby, she’s a two-time Olympic gold medalist, FIFA World Cup Champion, and the highest all-time international goal scorer for male and female soccer players. She’s a serious badass on the field - and she’s also an activist for equity and inclusion and a founder.
As soon as I listened to Abby’s podcast, I made many of my female founder clients listen to it, too. They literally howled with me after listening. It's inspiring as heck about how to lead in our own way and it reminds us that we, as founders, are wolves. We are not Little Red Riding Hood; we have ventured off the trail. We are visionaries of a future that others don't yet see.
Abby’s podcast episode is an anthem for founders of all gender identities. It's a call to summon your power - and a reminder to find your pack.
When we take on the role of being a founder, there's a certain amount of confidence and calm that we need to portray both internally on our team and externally with funders and advisors in order to get resources, retain talent, and make progress despite uncertainty. Founder have to be careful about who gets to see their vulnerabilities.
My biggest takeaway from Abby’s book and podcast is: Find your wolfpack and lean in. We need to find a few like-minded founders who get it. Family members and friends are valuable, but it is other founders who will be most helpful to you navigating this journey. These are the people who speak your language because they're in the thick of it, too. Your founder wolfpack can offer you strategic and tactical solutions to help you move forward - and can empathize deeply because they've been in a similar situation.
I have a wolfpack.
I actually made a list in Notion to remind me that my wolfpack is out there. Sometimes, my instinct to retreat and try to solve problems alone. It’s always better, though, when I reach out to the pack and ask for help.
I want to give a particular shout-out right now to the wolf that nudged me on to launch my own company: Lori Lennon, who is the Founder and CEO of Thinkubator Media. Lori held my hand during those first few weeks with my company and let me lean on her while I got my footing. I call her regularly when I need advice.
I also want to mention a couple of other key members of my wolfpack: Professor Lindley Winslow, Dr. Angela Jackson, Dr. Shelby Doyle, Cait Tolman, Dr. Kathleen MacArthur, and James Beard Chef Cortney Burns. These are the women who remind me that I’m brave and can do hard things - and they challenge me to continually refine my business model and reach higher with my goals.
You can often feel alone as a founder - even if you're not a solo founder. What you have do, then, is find your peeps. Every founder needs a wolfpack to carry the weight when things are hard and shine the light on the possibilities of the future.
If you haven’t found your pack yet, don’t worry. Just keep putting yourself out there and slowly test the waters with people who inspire you. Take a risk and ask for help and see how they respond. It takes time to transition from stranger to colleague to friend - and ultimately to become a member of your pack. Take it slow and over time you’ll see who has the endurance to run alongside you.
One of my favorite quotes from Abby Wambach's book, The Wolfpack:
Leadership is volunteering at a local school, speaking encouraging words to a friend, and holding the hand of a dying patient. It’s tying dirty shoelaces and going to therapy and saying to our families and friends 'No. We don’t do unkindness here.' It’s signing up to run for the school board and it’s driving that single mom’s kid home from practice and it’s creating boundaries that prove to the world that you value yourself. Leadership is taking care of yourself and empowering others to do the same.
Leadership is the blood that runs through your veins - it’s born in you.It’s not the privilege of a few; it is the responsibility of all. Leadership is not a title that the world gives to you - it’s an offering that you give to the world.