…I found my voice, and I was heard…

We’re almost at the end of our final SLC programme for 2018 – registrations are now open for our new course starting in March next year.  One of our current participants, the wonderfully brave, brilliant and beautiful Mel, offered to share a little of her recent experience on our She Leads Change leadership programme.

“I am now half way through the She Leads Change programme. When I started I did not know what to expect and I felt that unsure and in truth vulnerable, because after all I knew very little about what I was stepping into, yes I did check out the website, but as with so many things you have to do it to really experience it.

On arriving on the first session I found a room full of woman all with their own stories to tell and I really felt that mine was not one to be heard. When we had to do the introductions, I waited and waited until all 29 other people had spoken and I knew that the people either side of me knew I hadn’t spoken, but I felt that I had nothing to say comparison to some of the other ladies in the room. But with a deep breath I found my voice and I was heard.

Over the weeks I think it would be fair to say we have had many highs, revelations and tears. This has been made possible by the strict code of practice which means that nothing discussed leaves the walls of the sessions meaning that we all can feel safe in addressing issues, fears and working on ways to overcome the barriers we have erected in our lives.

I am about to start with my coach[every person has four coaching sessions included in the programme] and decided that after going through various experiences on the course that I would embrace whatever presented itself no matter how painful or exposing it might be.

I am committed and in so doing I have challenged myself and I have and I am being brave.

My coach in the preliminary session asked me to do three things before we started our first session and one of them was to ask friends, family and colleagues: How they saw me. I have to be honest I was scared, what would people say? But then I thought that it would be a great place to start, because how we think of ourselves and how we present ourselves to the world can sometimes be chasms apart.

Thank you to all the people who completed the questionnaire and for your honesty. I now stand in my truth I feel great, why? Because I jumped right in and was prepared to be totally vulnerable and uncovered and going forward I genuinely believe that this has been one of the best learning experiences I have ever had and my purpose is so much clearer. I have been given a glimpse of the future and the path I can follow safe in the knowledge I am making a difference and a change, so world here I come…”

melanie williams browne picture

Please sign up here, to register for our new programme launching February 2019.

“I’d like to lead change for millions and I think I can do it – but not alone”

One of the most powerful quotes to come out of our She Leads Change programme in April, was from a participant who shared: “I’d like to lead change for millions and I think I can do it – but not alone”

She Leads Change is a community built on peer-mentoring – it’s at the very heart of what we do. Guidance from experienced women, is an invaluable source of support for our participants, particularly from individuals outside their immediate remit, who’ve demonstrated resilience against a similar set of challenges.

It takes courage and vulnerability to open up to others, sharing where we are at, where we are going and our struggles along the way, yet by doing so, we are able to empower one another: either through stories of how we succeeded (or failed), suggest alternative perspectives, or offer access to resources and networks otherwise not available…

Brene Brown, says vulnerability is “our most accurate measurement of courage… and is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”

Peer mentoring a powerful exchange: being vulnerable and sharing with others not only paves new ways of thinking – by allowing us to better manage our internal narratives – it also strengthens our ability to actively listen, ask clarifying questions and present offers of solution or opportunities to change. We asked Becky – a current She Leads Change participant – to share her recent experience of peer mentorship:

“Sharing my challenge with the group was really useful. It made me realise that the questions I was framing in relation to changing jobs, were not the real obstacles at all.

Many of the ways forward suggested by the group were excellent, a good number of them I had already done; others I had thought about doing, but hadn’t got further – asking myself why, was insightful. They challenged me on the real nature of the problem. Was it fear holding me back rather than connections? Were the excuses a barrier, or a truth?

I realised practical issues about changing my career were not my obstacles, it was fear, and the feeling I was no longer good enough.

[My] real questions should have been “How can I build my confidence and have faith in my ability to cope with a more demanding career again?” and “What strategies can I use to know that I am good enough?”

The knowledge that I was going to be asked to “report back” on what I had taken forward, gave me a kick-start into “doing” something to change my circumstances. A really useful first step, was to use the question: “Who do I know right now, that I want to speak to about this?”

In the fortnight since the session, I’ve asked a friend in HR to check over my CV, arranged lunch with an acquaintance who has a job in an area I would like to work in and got back in touch with someone at an environmental NGO where I used to volunteer! They may be small steps but it’s a start on the path to change!”

Interested in finding our more about our She Leads Change programme?  Join us for an open session on Monday 26th November at the Orient Capital Building in London from 5.30pm – 8.30pm – sign up here.  Registration is imperative as spaces are limited!

Live Illustration of our September 2018 open session of She Leads Change, by artist Jenny Leonard (jennyleonardart.com)

Connection, creativity and co-creation – in appreciation of an SLC open session

On a beautiful Monday evening, deep in the city of London, our She Leads Change participants, coaches, and interested friends came together to connect and learn from each other.

Rosanda Mcgrath, Nadine Exter, Melissa Abecassis and Jo Matthews showed us how powerful vulnerability can be. Their words on authentic leadership, finding purpose, empathy and emotional labour – are profound and will continue to echo in our hearts and shape our own lives.

Jenny Leonard (www.jennyleonardart.com) and Ellie and Zoie from the Shadow Travellers (http://www.theshadowtravellers.com/) brought creativity and magic. They reminded us of the power of creativity. laughter and play.

At the end everyone there answered “what it is they took away from the session”. Below are the answers:

  • Power of Friendship
  • Self-reflection
  • Showing up
  • Deep listening
  • Vulnerability
  • Stepping up
  • Embrace power
  • Restorative power of laughter
  • Why you want what you want
  • Love for stories
  • Beautiful music in you
  • Power of co-creating
  • Gratitude
  • Being human is perfect enough
  • Power of coincidence
  • Be in the moment
  • Take time to tell stories
  • Reminder of the collective
  • The wonder of imagination
  • Thrive for purpose does not have to be difficult
  • Community is key
  • Music
  • I am not so weird at all
  • Life puts you in the right place at the right time
  • Don’t control empathy but command
  • Purpose is fluid
  • I love stories
  • Create beauty for its own sake
  • Just be
  • Life in cycles, knowing when it’s over, finish, start again
  • Purpose can be small and grand
  • Importance of places
  • Recognise creativity
  • To be wrong
  • To be challenged
  • Embrace difference
  • Realised how much SLC has changed me
  • Openness
  • Let go of wanting to be right
  • Be aware of your emotional labour
  • Learned so much
  • Inspired by bravery
  • Importance of serving leadership
  • Power of friendship
  • Each of us has something wonderful. When you remember to feel it, life and perseverance so much better
  • Easier to deeply listen than respond
  • Think what you want before you want it
  • You can make beautiful music even if you think you can’t sing
  • Surprise, engage
  • Good to take stock
  • Mindfulness
  • Take time to tell more stories to kids

Thank you everyone! Our next open session is on Monday 26th November from 5.30 pm at Orient Capital. We do hope you can join.

For more on She Leads Change and to enquire about a programme, please look here.




Live Big!


Don’t live in the basement of your potential! We love this quote. It makes us think of what’s possible when we decide to move out of our basement and into our living area: that space where we can invite others to join us. Where connection happens, where conversation takes place and where collaboration is possible…It’s not always easy to throw open our front door and invite others in…it can feel uncomfortable, it requires bravery, it calls for vulnerability and it takes guts.

But, it opens up possibility, it creates opportunity and it builds community.

This is an open invitation to join us for an informal evening of connection, conversation and collaboration with some like-minded, courageous, purpose-driven change-makers!

Come and meet those involved in She Leads Change – either as a past participant, coach, mentor, advisor, core team member – future participant – or even curious friend! Do spread the word…we’d be delighted to meet you, to understand both what you are looking for and what you could bring!

Come. Join.

Live big. Our door is wide open.

Places are limited, so registration is imperative and please, if your circumstances change and you are unable to join us, let us know so we can open the space for another…

Sign up here: Open Session Registration

Five fists bump together in a star shape, over a desk covered in laptops, phones, coffee cups, notepads and files. The people whose fists these are have clearly been working together around this desk.

We have a mailing list! Do sign up…

She Leads Change began with a big idea and a small group of women in November last year. Our community has grown, and we’ve welcomed incredible people from all spheres who are participating, mentoring, advising and supporting the programme’s inception and growth.

So we’re delighted to share that we now have a mailing list! Many of you have been following us through our news blogs; we’ll now be able to communicate more effectively, as well as keep you up to date with our events, new cohorts and invitations to get more involved and shape She Leads Change as we grow.

You can choose what you’d like to hear about and sign up here: http://eepurl.com/diMmlf. Please do!


Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Weathering life’s hardest knocks

“I can be changed by what happens to me.  But I refuse to be reduced by it” Maya Angelou

Our 4th She Leads Change session on resilience was made all the more powerful by the contribution of our expert speaker, Alister Scott. He shared on resilience, how to be present, appreciate life and perceive what is important, as we navigate the course set before us.

Alister brings his skills to bear supporting catalysts and their teams to achieve change.

His book, ‘The Little Book of Making Big Change Happen’ is available at all good booksellers, or via this link here, where you’ll also find audio extracts and a link to buy directly from the publisher.  (Discount orders of 10 or more copies receive a 30% discount…could you order more, and pay it forward?)

You can also find his short note on resilience from the book, mentioned at the end of this video, on the enabling catalysts website.

Know you want to work on your own resilience, amongst other things? Apply now to be part of the next She Leads Change cohorts, starting 3rd and 4th September 2018.

Celebrating change-makers everywhere on Nelson Mandela’s birthday!

Congratulations to our community for the phenomenal change they are making…

If you had 100 minutes to make a change, what would you do?

What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” – Nelson Mandela

Build the foundations within yourself to create the change you want to see in the world, with courage and confidence.

Join our four-month peer-mentoring programme for purpose-driven women: a support collective building confidence, resilience and forming powerful connections. She Leads Change amplifies and accelerates the positive social impact women are making in the world. Apply now for September start: www.sheleadschange.org/sign-up/.

In Pursuit of Purpose

In my line of work the buzzword for the past few years has been ‘purpose’. Whether its large companies re-framing their sustainability strategy around purpose, recruiters looking for a “purpose fit” for graduates or individuals stepping forward to declare their ‘reason for being’ –  the word purpose is everywhere. Purpose and happiness have been presented as inextricably intertwined. It is supported by the rise of positive psychology, by research on millennial’s that states “young people want more than a pay check and a job title”. Its importance has been further reinforced by leading thinkers like Victor Frankl and the seminal book ‘Man’s search for meaning’ and popular writers like Simon Sinek and his “Start with why”.

I work with leaders for positive social and environmental transformation. Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that this need for purpose is creating considerable anxiety. “But what am I here for…?” one person asked. Another said, “I love my work, but it is not aligned to my purpose in the world – how do I change this” and still another bemoaned her “lack of a clear purpose”. All these people feel guilty, restless, disappointed or lost for not having a clear purpose to direct their lives.

I support the overall societal goal to contribute and believe we all have a role as citizens to work towards a better society. And yes, people can be happier when they are able to see the relevance of their life and work with the context of a grander design. However, I’m starting to question the centrality of the ‘purpose’ conversation. Let’s scratch beneath this ubiquitous word…

purposeSometimes the need to find a purpose is an inner cry to find a reason to exist. It’s a sneaky cover-up for that old, rough feeling of ‘not being enough’. In this case it’s often a way of externalising inner need instead of addressing the root cause. Yet, anyone who has truly found purpose understands that it can only come from a deep sense of and understanding of ‘self’. Perhaps Socrates had it right when he said that to ‘Know Thyself’ is the route to all wisdom. So, start with who you are not why you exist.

At its worst this push to find purpose can play into the idea that we are only on this planet to serve and that our value is measured solely by our value to others. It’s a mirror of the current socio-economic systems that measures the value of humans against contribution to GDP, sets meaning top-down and sees people as homogenous, interchangeable units. This is a nasty trap both because it erodes the basis of our humanity and because it sets the value of a human life as extrinsic. A healthier alternative is to believe that the only thing we are compelled to do is live each day fully and gracefully, in gratitude for our place here on earth and with no pressure to focus our energy on finding any additional meaning. Surely people can be happy and feel satisfied with their life simply by getting up each day and going for a walk, hugging someone they care about, being kind and watching the clouds go by? The catch-all umbrella of ‘purpose’ mimics the existing system of control by creating a collective aspiration that is outside of individual needs, aspirations, talents and, therefore, humanity. Tom Mansfield, a fascinating thinker, comments “Perhaps we cannot reconcile our present individual fulfilment with systems level purpose until we have an economic paradigm that forces the system to work for individuals not the other way around to value the quality of our subjective, sensorial present. A collective purpose may emerge from a society predicated on the enrichment of each individuals sensorial present rather and the pursuit of extrinsic goals.” Perhaps he is right.

The idea of a single purpose may also be misleading. As we journey through life new vistas are revealed and, with that, our purpose may shift and expand. Trying too hard to cling to an outmoded world-view may stop us from growing and learning. Perhaps the ‘purpose’ of life is only to grow and learn our way through and into different ways of unfolding our unique talents against emergent positive societal needs.

Lastly, the idea of purpose sets a longer time frame on our happiness. It shifts our focus from enjoying the present to a loftier future time. Yet, it is precisely in the moment that we create meaning for ourselves. By being truly present in the moment we connect better with ourselves and others – two potential sources of joy!

Perhaps then, for those millions who can’t state their purpose, there is a softer way to move toward it. They can start by asking themselves what gives them meaning and then each day noticing those things that make them feel more fulfilled.  By doing more of the things that deepen their experience of being, they are consciously building a life that grows around both knowing themselves and, ultimately, serving a higher collective purpose.

With gratitude to Tom Mansfield and Gita Parihar for their thoughts on this topic.

What do you think…? 

Building resilience

Whatever change we’re leading, we all need the ability to fail, cope with shame and humiliation, and get back up again, to face down criticism and confusion, to navigate frustration and journey through grief. As Hillary Clinton, and many others before her have said “When you’re knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on.”

But when you’re knocked down, getting back up can be one of the hardest things to do. In session five of She Leads Change, we explore our own resilience. In the spirit of the ‘noticing’ theme that runs through every She Leads Change session, the pre-read begins with consideration of what resilience means to us personally.

What does it mean to you? Take a moment to note down your reaction to the following words. Where the question mark is, write down and look at any other words that came up for you and you’d like to add.

What this makes me feel What this makes me think/do How this relates to resilience

Reading back through your responses, ask yourself – what does resilience mean to you? This does not need to be a dictionary perfect definition. It needs to feel personal and relevant to your life.

To return to Hillary Clinton, she said in a 1995 speech “It is often when night looks darkest, it is often before the fever breaks that one senses the gathering momentum for change, when one feels that resurrection of hope in the midst of despair and apathy.”

We closed out our session with this guided meditation, “Be the Mountain”*.

How do you find the patient strength and stability within yourself to weather changes?

Curious to find out more? Apply now for the next She Leads Change cohorts, starting 3rd and 4th September 2018.

*Be the Mountain meditation adapted from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s “Mountain Meditation” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/my-brothers-keeper/201709/be-the-mountain-guided-meditation-video-script)