Any of us can claim to be leaders, but who among us can inspire?
We all have different definitions of what makes a good leader, but this also comes with growth, exposure, and individual experience.
Three amazing ladies from YWLC have generously shared how their understanding of leadership has evolved with their journey as part of our community.
1. Prior to YWLC, what were some of your ideas of leadership?
Lynn: I started my career in investment banking, and it was “baptism by fire” as I worked with a myriad of characters and leadership styles. Having learnt from the best, the most impactful style to me is when we drive best performance and inspire by example.
Nisha: Many of our perceptions may be shaped (or even mis-shaped!) by media portrayals of a leader with the biggest presence, or loudest voice in the room. Prior to YWLC, I had the chance to witness diverse leadership styles - ranging from dominant and assertive, to quietly persuasive. In fact, my former boss was the latter, and it made an impact with her unassuming, empathetic, and effective approach.
Joey: I used to think leadership was an innate ability that resides in a select few, while the rest were bound to be followers. Some people indeed have the “it” factor, that makes others naturally gravitate to them. However, that is rapidly evolving as now I understand leaders can also be nurtured.
2. How has your journey in YWLC shaped or changed your definition of leadership?
Lynn: I have met ladies from all walks of life in YWLC who are motivated to close the gap between who they are, and what they want to be. They are intelligent, educated, and share the same goal to help women blossom as leaders.
When leading the 5th Executive Committee, I found everyone had different interests, skills, desires, and priorities when contributing to YWLC. This required me to play on one of my key strengths, individualisation. While it was important to inspire and drive performance, I had to customise my communication to every Committee Director’s unique qualities, and started asking more open-ended questions to understand different perspectives. Nisha: First, it’s important to actively seek leadership opportunities for yourself. As an introvert, I tend to shy away from them because of the attention it brings - which is quite nerve-wrecking for me! Over the years, after pushing myself to take on bigger roles, my confidence grew with each successful project. I am now conscious that you owe it to yourself to create opportunities for growth. Second, you do not need the title of a ‘leader’ to be a leader. I believe each of us, in different capacities, have taken on leadership roles whether we realise it or not. You can influence people by showing empathy, awareness, and compassion - someone who can invoke enthusiasm, or a certain level of energy to a group. I recall reading an article that says leadership is an attitude, not a title. Joey: Anyone can call themselves a leader, as long as they raise their hands and rise to the roles available. But becoming an effective leader is harder than it looks. Good leadership requires passion and investment to positively influence a team. When I started out as the Deputy Director of Event Marketing in the Marketing and Communications Subcommittee (Marcoms), I had to redo graphics for a few campaigns over and over again, because they were not in line with brand guidelines. As I struggled to troubleshoot, Kristin, who leads Marcoms, guided me patiently and provided detailed feedback for improvement. She cheered me on, and motivated me to strive better. She didn’t need to invest so much time for a voluntary role, but I could tell she takes pride in high quality content, and that rubbed off on me. 3. What was one challenge that you experienced? How and what did you learn from it?
Lynn: One interesting fact about YWLC’s Executive Committee then (and now!) is that we have many “need to achieve tangible things daily” Achievers, and “when can we start” Activators. So it is no surprise that a key challenge was to ensure the team did not suffer burnout. While managing the delicate balance between motivating and overdriving, the ability to create a safe space for open communication is critical. Emotional contagion - where one’s mood can be caught on by others - was something I was very mindful of. It was heartening when someone can tell us “I had a long week at work, and don’t have capacity for this now. Give me time till next week.” I attribute this to the genuine relationship we built; the team trusts I do prioritise their needs as human beings over the work we want to achieve.
Nisha: Accommodating a range of working styles and personalities - though I see this as a chance to better understand relational dynamics, to ensure projects run smoothly.
I have worked primarily in small teams, and I’ve learnt it’s important to set and manage expectations early, even before a project commences.
More often than not, many issues can be resolved by taking time to understand everyone’s concerns. By reaching out, you help to build rapport, camaraderie, and more importantly, trust. As a leader, you need to earn your team’s trust, and that requires effort.
Joey: Marcoms is a welcoming subcommittee, even to those without a marketing background. It became a challenge as I had to explain marketing guidelines via long text messages, which made it time-consuming for me, yet fragmented for members’ reference.
Thus, I decided to actively train new members, and create an Event Marketing guide to streamline processes. It consolidates instructions and resources for easy access, onboards new members, and is constantly refined through team feedback. This taught me to keep an open mind, embrace change, and be willing to listen to other opinions.
4. What is one quote or personal mantra you live by? Lynn: I came across this quote years ago and this still remains a work in progress for me: “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he's always doing both. ”
Nisha: During the circuit breaker, Clairie, Director of the Leadership Development subcommittee, sent over a box of cookies with a lovely card which read “There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living”.
It struck a chord and has become a mantra for me – that I should seize opportunities to live a more fulfilling life, personally or professionally.
Joey: “Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?” This is from one of my favourite books, “Becoming” by Michelle Obama. It sparks my motivation to keep pushing boundaries!
This interview is part of the Leadership Development campaign, which aims to explore how young women develop leadership skills, within and beyond YWLC. We will continue to highlight deputy directors across other subcommittees. Stay tuned!
Organising Subcommittee: Leadership Development, Marketing & Communications