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Five Insights from the NFL’s Chief Marketing Officer and a Pakistani Social Enterprise Leader

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It’s not often you think about leadership insights collectively from the National Football League (NFL) and a Pakistani-based social enterprise organization. But last week’s WILD Summit provided that opportunity.

The WILD Summit is an annual women’s leadership event offered by The Leeds School of Business Women’s Council at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Linhart PR joined many local companies to sponsor this year’s summit. WILD has earned a reputation over its short lifespan of inspiring and reenergizing women at all career levels who are dedicated to building fulfilling careers that matter. This year didn’t disappoint.

The morning keynote speaker was Dawn Hudson, CMO of the NFL. Twenty-six year-old Khalida Brohi was the afternoon keynote. She heads an organization she founded called Sughar Empowerment Society. Sughar means “skilled and confident woman.” It’s in the spirit of impacting “sughar” that I share these insights from both dynamic women – one, a baby boomer with decades of business experience, and another, a Millennial with the passion and self-assurance to make a difference for women in her country and beyond:

1. Confidence-building is child’s play. Hudson, raised in the U.S., and Brohi, raised in Pakistan, had parents that taught them early on that they could do anything they set their minds to do. As the daughter of a librarian and a truck driver, I feel fortunate to have had that same gift of encouragement. If you’ve had that gift, continue to tap into it to propel you forward. If you are raising young kids, do it for the next generation.

2. You can learn most and push organizations to change when the going gets tough. Hudson accepted her NFL post a few days before the Ray Rice assault charges hit the news. Hudson’s friends asked, “You are going to turn down the job now, right?” “Of course not,” she countered. And she used it as a way to help the NFL be part of the conversation about providing support for victims of domestic violence, as witnessed by this Super Bowl PSA from 2015.

3. Lead with vision. Hudson’s leadership advice is straight-forward: “Give people a vision of what success looks like and focus. Keep it simple.” We can make leadership overly complicated – or we can stick to the basics. Hudson advises around the latter.

4. Don’t take a U.S. upbringing for granted. Growing up in America, especially for today’s young woman, is an opportunity many women in other countries look at with awe. Brohi shared a story of a simple encounter she had asking some young women in Arizona for directions. She was struck by the straight-forward confidence they had in interacting with a complete stranger. In contrast, when Brohi was 16, her best friend was killed by her friend’s father and uncle in an honor killing. Brohi’s mother constantly reminded her to cover her face as is the expectation in her culture. While life in the U.S. may not be perfect, we do have simple freedoms that give us solid footing to thrive, if we just remember to tap into them.

5. Follow your heart and more. Hudson is a great storyteller. She expanded on these themes with her stories, but here are easy-to-remember lessons to guide your career: “Follow your heart. Be flexible. Focus on hip-pocket skills – what you do well. Leverage your strengths.”

I always feel reenergized after attending WILD. It’s worthy of a day away from the office. If you couldn’t get away, I hope this short post helps you reenergize. After all, as American poet Mary Oliver reminds us: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

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