To lead means to influence, to guide, to inspire, to invoke change and motivate towards a common goal.
But what does it mean to be a leader, in the true and authentic sense of the word? What does leadership truly mean for women in this day and age?
For Belinda Clemmensen, the founder of the Women’s Leadership Intensive, it means power, purpose, community, and finding your own voice in the world — notions that Clemmensen hopes will resonate with anyone who comes across her organization.
Clemmensen has long been a feminist and has more than 20 years experience as a leadership development consultant and trainer in organizations and corporations across North America.
When she realized that in the world of leadership, women’s voices had always been either dulled or were non-existent, the Women’s Leadership Intensive was born.
“I had this moment where I realized that pretty much everything I’ve been teaching was developed by men and nobody was really questioning that. Men were the default on leadership, just like they’re the default on so many other things in our world,” Clemmensen says. “That sent me down this journey. I know that women’s leadership journey is very different, so if we’re going to do women’s leadership development for women, by women, what would that look like? That was the seed of shifting gears, changing my focus and starting a whole new business.”
Programs for positive change
The Women’s Leadership Intensive offers both a year-long program and a six-week program, as well as a free weekly video series.
The year-long program comprises online learning, coaching, and retreats. It is extremely interactive and intensive and is about “a pretty big transformation and leveling up in your leadership,” Clemmensen says. This program is the most effective of the two, as it gives students the opportunity to utilize and practice the skills they have learned over a long period of time.
The core pillars of this program focus on purpose, power, and presence, and emphasize the idea of finding one’s own voice as a leader.
The next six-week online course, which is an accelerated version of the year-long program, teaching the same principles, simply in a condensed and quicker format, begins October 28. (Register here!)
The Women’s Leadership Intensive also offers the Inspired to Lead Series, a free, online series of one video a week for six weeks. Anyone can sign up to view them. These videos take the core principles of the Women’s Leadership Intensive and turn them into day-to-day practices.
A new approach to women’s leadership
The Women’s Leadership Intensive approaches the idea of leadership with new and innovative eyes. Their programs differ from many leadership development programs, as they start with looking at the root of who a person is — with topics like value, purpose, perspective, and life experience — before teaching skills that can be used in the world. The organization helps women to discover themselves; to unveil their strengths and values before teaching how to utilize them.
“What we’re trying to do is to help women to lead as themselves,” Clemmensen says. “You’re leading as you, not the way you’ve been told to. Our community is all about reconnecting to what you actually think, what matters to you, and then how to lead accordingly.”
The Women’s Leadership Intensive focuses on finding your voice and discovering what your voice has to offer the world. Clemmensen points out that most women in leadership ranks often have their voices shut down, and have for centuries. The WLI works to change this, and give women the power and confidence to have their voices heard.
“Unless we start changing the way we think about these things, it’s not going to get solved,” Clemmensen
says. “It’s not just that the world needs more women and we need to get to equality, which we do, it’s what kind of a voice do you have once you get there?”
The Women’s Leadership Intensive views leadership as something that is about community and inclusivity, and that in order to lead effectively, one must accept help from others.
“Leadership has been positioned as this individual achievement, as one person who knows everything and is exceptional and special,” Clemmensen says. “We position leadership as partnership, collaboration, and community-based. We do these things together rather than the individual model. Community is a huge part of this, doing it in the community of other people, other women.”
The Women’s Leadership Intensive emphasizes the idea of women’s empowerment, and does a lot of work on understanding the meaning of power. Rather than focusing on “old power,” a patriarchal, masculine type of power that focuses on independence, says Clemmensen, they practice “new power,” which is much more collaborative and inclusive, and focuses on community and the idea that leadership can be achieved as a group.
Clemmensen’s wish for the Women’s Leadership Intensive is that women of Muskoka are benefit from her programs and make positive change in their lives. She wants anyone to be able to benefit from the WLI, no matter their social or economic standing, be they a business owner, entrepreneur, or someone simply wanting to improve their leadership skills. Clemmensen points out that there is financial help in the community through Muskoka Futures, YWCA, and the Northern Ontario Women’s Program, resources that can help cover the cost of WLI programs.
Clemmensen wants women to know that it is okay to accept support, and that the support is
there in the community.
“What I hear from a lot of women I talk to is that they don’t feel worthy to be supported by the community or government grants, that they’re supposed to be able to do this on their own, that it’s not valid if they’re not struggling,” she says. “What you’re doing matters and it’s worthy of support. You are worthy of development, and people don’t get there without help. And the help is there, it’s there in the community, and it’s there in my programs.”
For more information on the Women’s Leadership Intensive and their programs, visit: womensleadershipintensive.ca.
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