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Carla Harris Inspires Us at the Women in Leadership Institute | Day 4 of #WILinstitute

November 4, 2022 Kristen Howe

Can you feel that? That’s innovation, inspiration, and passion—the spirt of the Women in Leadership Institute (WIL), which concludes today.

Throughout this week, thousands of women leaders joined us in-person and virtually for a transformative leadership development experience focused on them. We are recharging, reimagining and reigniting our leadership journeys, and the impact is tremendous.

The past four days have been jam-packed with incredible speakers, timely insights, advice from trailblazing women leaders, and more. Be sure to check out our full blog coverage, including takeaways from Shannon Bayer, Maryam Banikarim and Caroline A. Wanga, and Liz Wiseman and Laila Ali.

Today, on Day 4 of WIL, we closed out the 2022 conference with an exceptional keynote talk with Carla Harris, who was recognized at the Institute last year as the 2021 Legend in Leadership Faculty chair.


Are you actively working to build and expand your network of trusted relationships? Do you understand the power and importance of building beneficial relationships with your colleagues?

Through the “Connected” competency, we unlock the power of relationships. When we are connected, we leverage a broad network of relationships inside and outside of our organizations, and we demonstrate openness and appreciation of viewpoints and support the credibility of our colleagues. Above all, we look for opportunities to truly connect with others and contribute to their success.

It’s time to unlock the power of relationships (especially in a virtual world!) to best leverage the resources available to us and seize opportunity.

Carla Harris is a Vice Chairman, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley. She is responsible for increasing client connectivity and penetration to enhance revenue generation across the firm.

Carla is also a gospel singer and has released three albums, Unceasing Praise, Joy Is Waiting (featured on BET Nightly News), and Carla’s First Christmas, a bestseller on Amazon and in record stores, and she was featured on CBS Evening News with Dan Rather in his “American Dream” segment. She has performed five sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall. Additionally, Carla is the author of the books Strategize to Win (2014) and Expect to Win (2009).

During her session, Carla shared her “pearls of wisdom” that enable us to become powerful and impactful leaders. She provided her expertise on building and leveraging relationship currency, aligning with the CONNECTED competency.

As we appear a step closer to the end of a time of great disruption, we must grapple with this important question: What’s next?

Your introspection, your ability to ask questions and define your own value proposition for yourself—and your work—will be vitally important as we enter this next stage, shared Carla. You must engage with others in a way that empowers them. And always—always—bring your authentic self to the table.

Carla taught us how we can lead authentically: Know who you are. Who are you today? You are not the woman you were yesterday, and you’re not the woman you were at the start of the global health pandemic. Understand that we are all multifaceted—own that.

Carla left us with a powerful message about shaping our own futures, and the futures of our organizations as we navigate a constantly changing environment: “Do not allow yourself to be dictated to when you have an opportunity to design.”

Key Takeaways from Carla:
  • Two types of currency dominate transactions in the workplace—performance currency and relationship currency. Performance currency is important early in your career, but it has diminishing returns—as you advance, focus on building relationship currency. As Carla said, “Your inability to ascend will rarely, if ever, be a function of whether somebody likes you. But it will absolutely be a function of whether somebody knows you.”
  • When you connect with others, you have the power to curate that moment—how do you want others to consume you? “If you’re going to be a connector, you have to think about your relationships intentionally,” said Carla.
  • Two fears often keep us from connecting: the fear of rejection, and the fear of saying the wrong thing. Remember that “fear has no place in your success equation”—simply move on if your connection is rejected, and apologize if you say the wrong thing.
  • If networking seems hard, leverage your strengths—set small, attainable goals you can easily execute, and build up from there.
  • Remember that “your authenticity is your distinct competitive advantage.” There used to be a prescriptive playbook for getting to the top, and it didn’t require you to show who you are—but now, particularly with the rise of remote work, you need to bring your authentic self to work in order to connect with others.
  • For busy women leaders, the process of networking can seem overwhelming. Carla offered a simplified process for networking: “show up, hook up, speak up, and follow up.”
More from Carla Harris:
  • BLOG: #WILinstitute Inspiration Series: Carla Harris on Who Gets a Seat at the Table| We can rise to the moment to empower women and other underrepresented groups to continue to lean into their work and advance in the workplace. Read the blog.


The Women in Leadership Institute is taking place November 1–4, 2022. Didn’t get a chance to join us for the live experience? On-Demand passes are now available, giving you on-demand access to the recorded conference from November 14, 2022, through January 31, 2023. Learn more about On-Demand passes.

Dark haired woman watches from audience of conference event

Women in Leadership Institute

NOV. 13–16, 2023 | Orlando, Florida, or Virtual
A 4-day immersive learning experience designed to equip women leaders with actionable strategies to overcome the hurdles women often face in the workplace.

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