The politics of leadership with Sarah Thomson, CEO of the Women’s Post Media

Posted April 7, 2011 in Latest News & Insights, Leadership

Yesterday, we had one of our View from the C-Suite forums with Sarah Thomson, CEO of The Women’s Post Media and former mayoral candidate in the City of Toronto.  A lot of the discussion centered around the lessons Sarah learned jumping from the entrepreneurial arena to the political arena.  Here are a few of the key thoughts I took from hearing Sarah’s experiences:

  1. Rock bottom won’t kill you… we can get held back a lot by fear (fear of losing your job, fear of looking stupid, fear of what might happen if we take a risk).  As someone who hit rock bottom early, Sarah learned that when the worst thing that you think can happen, happens… you survive and move on.
  2. Growth happens when you’re uncomfortable… to really see what you can achieve you have to leap in, take risks and do something that makes you uncomfortable.  “Feel the fear and do it anyway”.
  3. Keep it simple… in politics, it’s the simple clear message that resonates with the largest group that will win the race.  “Stop the gravy train”.  Think about what your key message is when you’re selling your next idea and don’t over explain it.  Stay focused and clear and keep it simple.
  4. I scratch your back and you better scratch mine… politics is a lot of power brokering.  Placing your bets and securing your backers is very much part of the game.  Corporate “politics” get the name for a reason.  You have to know how to broker power.  Like it or not.
  5. Know your stuff… when jumping into new territory, do your homework.  Having the facts will increase your confidence and help you stand strong on the things that are important to you.
  6. It’s o.k. to fake it ‘til you make it… rather than focusing on what you don’t have (a big marketing budget, a large team, prior track record in the field) focus on what you do have and go for it.  With a campaign team of four, Sarah ran a race that surprised many hardened politico’s.
  7. Don’t build a “brand”… be who you are.  Smart, quirky, committed, savvy… Sarah Thomson is all of those things and when you meet her in person you get a great sense of who she is because of her unabashed candor.  Whether you agree with her politics, approach, perspective… or not, one thing everyone at our session felt was that she was “real”.  As a result, she also ended up recruiting several of our attendees to help with her upcoming provincial campaign.  Authenticity attracts people to you as a leader.  You won’t be for everyone, but that’s o.k.

There were many more great stories and lessons that remain in the cone of silence.  To get on the inside track, be sure to join our final session of the Spring series on May 4th.  We’ll be discussing the Leadership Lessons They Don’t Teach in School (which is basically everything, right?) with our three intrepid panelists – Simon Jennings (Olive Media), Anne-Marie Renaud (Pepsico Foods Canada) and Jerome Dwight (BNY Trust Company of Canada).

Happy leading!


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