Do you ever look at a sisters like First Lady Michelle Obama, Condoleeza Rice, Oprah, Beyonce, Wendy Williams, Ursula Burns, Roslyn Brewer, Angela Bassett, or Serena Williams and wonder, “How did they get there?”
“How do they have it all?”
“Why do people flock to these women and help them soar?”
Sure you have. We all have.
We all love to talk about the women we look up to, admire and adore from afar hoping someday to emulate their meteoric success. The question we all want answered, however, is what is the key to their success. In short the answer is this: They manage their personal, professional, and social relationships well. Very well. They are not messy as the young sisters like to say. They keep it clean, above board, they elevate other women, they invest in other women, and they sponsor other women with their own credibility and networks.
In this new two part series, we are going to examine the one trait of successful sisters that leads not only to their professional success, but in many instances to super success across the board in all aspects of their lives. Last spring I wrote a set of articles for Essence.com that started with “Stop the Clock”, and the enormously popular “Sisters Heal” series that offered a much-needed look at the way in which we as Black women fail to properly spot, manage and resolve conflict with one another.
I continue to receive phone calls daily from corporate America, large law firms, colleges and industry about how I can come in and help them retain and advance Black women. More than that, I have received distress calls from these same leaders (mostly male or White females in leadership roles) asking me how to help them deal with the “sister on sister” crime of how we mistreat, and in some cases, outright haze and abuse one another. This series is not about what we do wrong though. This series is about teaching ourselves, and our younger sisters, how to model true success in our relationships.
How do successful sisters treat other women?
Former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright offered what I call the 11th commandment of womanhood at the WNBA dinner a few years ago when she said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
I could not agree with her more. I know many of you are nodding your head thinking, “Hell is gonna be pretty crowded.” Maybe so sisters, but it does not have to be that way. I want to offer a new narrative for how we can change the game, and shift the way in which we deal with each other certainly as Black women, but these principles apply to ALL women.
It is no great secret that we as women have a hard time getting along. But that has to change because the demographics of the workplace, and our day to day living have changed. Women rule the roost. Women are running corporations, small businesses, universities, and industry. If you were brought up to think of other women as the “competition” or as the “enemy” you better rethink your strategy. Women need other women to collaborate with, build up, inspire, encourage, transform, redefine, and challenge them to achieve great professional success as well as healthier life balance.
Here are five nuggets that I have learned from some powerful women I've met on how to treat other women and keep relationships that last a lifetime:
1. Successful women like themselves first and foremost. They have a healthy self-image, and self-esteem. They are confident, not cocky. They are able, not arrogant. They know that loving self first as a woman is critical to loving other women.
2. Successful women are humble. Don’t miss this. They surround themselves with TRUTH TELLERS, NOT yes men or women. These women surround themselves with people who can advise, guide, pray with, chastise, rebuke, and hold them accountable when they go off course. They welcome truth because they know truth leads to transformation and transformation leads to greatness.
3. Successful women do not engage in pettiness, gossip or slander about other women. They are human sure, but they know what is worth getting worked up about and what to get rid of. They don’t hold grudges, they apologize when they are wrong (even if they are right), and they are willing to go the extra mile to save a sister relationship or pursue peace even when it may be badly broken.
4. Successful women do NOT look at people or relationships as “seasonal." They look at them as strategic, necessary, empowering, and transformative. Sure, not everyone can be in your front row. But successful women know how to “untie” relationships versus cutting them off and doing unnecessary damage that can never be repaired. These women get that most bridges in life have to be crossed again and again. You see the same people coming down the ladder as you do going up the ladder. The key lesson here is knowing where to place people in your life, and how to position them to your best advantage for growth and wisdom. Be strategic, not seasonal sisters.
5. Successful women sponsor other women and help them achieve their dreams! They use their access, entry and cache to LIFT other women higher! These women honor the 11th commandment. This is something I pride myself on doing for women cross-generationally. I am a connector. I am not afraid to let another sister stand on my shoulders to reach her goals. I hope more of us move in this direction.
These five principles of success are the framework that we will use to go in depth next week when I bring in some experts and role-models to share some of their insights with you about why managing relationships well is the most important thing you can ever do as a modern 21st century woman.
Sophia A. Nelson is a regular contributor to Essence.com. She is author of the soon to be re-released & updated trade paperback book, Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama. Nov 1, 2012.