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Takeaways from Carla Harris and Reshma Saujani at the 2023 Women in Leadership Institute | Day 2 of #WILinstitute

November 14, 2023 Kristen Howe
Takeaways from Carla Harris and Reshma Saujani at the 2023 Women in Leadership Institute

It’s Day 2 of the amazing Women in Leadership Institutetm (WIL), and the insights we are gaining from the main stage are simply life-changing.

This week, thousands of women leaders from premier companies and organizations around the world are with us in Orlando, Florida, or tuning in virtually, for four days of leadership development. Participants are experiencing a journey of self-discovery and transformation—as we dive into the 2023 theme of ReCHARGE, ReIMAGINE, ReIGNITE.

We are thrilled to give you an insider’s look with the Linkage Leadership Insights blog.

Today, we learned from  Carla Harris and Reshma Saujani, two exceptional women leaders, whose thought-provoking insights have the power to change the way we approach life and leadership.

We also hosted our annual Intersectionality & Advancement in the Workplace panel, which featured an inspiring, diverse cohort of women leaders who shared their experiences in corporate America and outlined how leaders can model better allyship in the workplace.

Be sure to check out our key takeaways from Day 1 of #WILinstitute, then dive into Day 2:

CARLA HARRIS ON “INFLUENTIAL”: Tap into Your Influence to Successfully “Make the Ask”  

Do you positively impact organizational decisions? Do you ask for what you want and need, and expect to receive it?  

The “Influential” competency is all about delivering a message—an ask—in a way that leads others to listen and act. Influential leaders have an impact on important decisions made within their organizations, and they skillfully complement formal authority with effective personal influence. Influential leaders aren’t transactional—they are relational, and they use their ability to influence to move the needle and make progress.

It’s time to use our influence to inspire those around us to move forward—empowering ourselves to progress in our careers and our personal lives. 

CARLA HARRISCarla Harris is a Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley, having finished a 30+ year career as a Vice Chairman and Managing Director. Throughout her career she managed and executed billions of dollars of equity and equity-related transactions, including the IPOs of UPS, Martha Stewart Omnimedia and the Immunex Corporation. She was Chair of the Morgan Stanley Foundation from 2005 to 2014 and sits on the boards of several community organizations.

Carla is also a gospel recording artist, with four commercially released CDs under her belt, five sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall, and two at the Apollo Theatre, and a popular public speaker who gives impactful career guidance to corporate audiences based on her books, Expect to Win (2009), Strategize to Win (2014) and Lead to Win (2022). She sits on the boards of the Walmart Corporation, Cummins Corporation and MetLife.

During her session, Carla shared her “pearls of intentional leadership” that enable us to become powerful and impactful leaders. She provided her expertise on how to “make the ask,” aligning with the INFLUENTIAL competency.

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? Understand that we are all multifaceted—own that in order to be a truly influential leader.

Key Takeaways from Carla:  

  • You can lead and influence others from any position. “Every single one of you in this room has influence,” according to Carla.
  • Don’t give away your power by denying it. “Part of having influence is assuming the posture of power,” said Carla. You deserve to be in the room and to exercise your voice.
  • Great influencers have three things:
    • A stellar reputation—if you are known as someone who can execute, you will be able to influence those you know and those you don’t know.
    • The skills of a good salesperson—you need to be able to listen, not just pitch ideas. People will always tell you what they value, which tells you what you need to deliver. Sell your ask through the lens of what matters to them.
    • The ability to motivate and inspire—let the other party know how the thing you’re asking for will benefit them, too.
  • One of the most valuable things you can do as an influential leader is communicate that you are listening. This helps you generate currency that you can inject back into the relationship, multiplying your influence.
  • 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 to influence others.
  • To be influential, you need to be seen as an inclusive leader. Always solicit other people’s voices.

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.


Every woman is different in how they experience the world. Factors like race, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, cultural differences and differing abilities “intersect” and overlap with one another. For women, the discrimination that stems from this intersectionality profoundly impacts their ability to professionally advance. Today, our panelists shared their stories and advice about advancing in a world that doesn’t always understand and appreciate difference.

Our panelists were: 

  • Marilu Galvez, President and General Manager, ABC7/WABC-TV New York
  • Shelly Kapoor Collins, Partner, Sway Ventures & Founding Partner, Shatter Fund
  • Kamille Richardson, Founder, iSee Technologies, Inc; Speaker and Author
  • Angela Simpson, Chief People and Equity Officer, DC Metropolitan Police Department

Starla Sampaco, WIL Host, moderated the panel and sparked a meaningful discussion about intersectionality, allyship and mentorship.

Key Takeaways:

  • The panelists spoke about allyship and accompliceship as being key to their success. “I have been elevated by women, which has given me the responsibility to speak up for myself and others,” said Marilu. Angela shared that she wants to “fight the fight” for the women who will come after her so they don’t deal with the same hurdles she did.
  • Paying it forward and becoming advocates for others is crucial. “We need to be door-openers and not gatekeepers for other women,” said Shelly.
  • Kamille spoke about reframing disability and using our privilege to be allies and advocates. “We don’t need charity because of our identities—we need access to opportunities that have been denied to us [due to systemic barriers],” Kamille said.
  • When asked about self-care, the panelists shared the importance of having a supportive community and taking time for yourself.
  • The panelists discussed combatting the false assumption that diversity means lowering the bar, highlighting the importance of finding men who are steadfast allies and showing people what’s in it for them. Angela discussed coming from a place of “curiosity, not criticism. I share my story,” she said.
  • When addressing the hurdles they overcame, the panelists addressed childcare, burnout, the importance of community, facing imperfection, and dissecting your own self-limiting assumptions. “When life and circumstances count you out, you have to count yourself in,” said Kamille.


RESHMA SAUJANI ON “INSPIRING”: Move Beyond “Proving Your Value” to Multiply Your Impact and Embrace Your Full Leadership Potential 

Do you engage the commitment of others? Are you an authentic leader?  

The “Inspire” competency is all about authenticity—knowing who you are, what you believe, and acting in accordance with those values. Inspiring leaders bring out the best in their people and teams. Regardless of how “tough” their style is, they balance this with warmth and compassion. They effectively engage and inspire the commitment, collaboration and contributions of others—instead of trying to do it all themselves.

It’s time to channel our unique authenticity to engage the people around us to new heights.  

Reshma Saujani is a leading activist and founder and CEO of Moms First. She is also the founder and former CEO of Girls Who Code. She has spent more than a decade building movements to fight for women and girls’ economic empowerment, working to close the gender gap in the tech sector, and most recently advocating for policies to support moms impacted by the pandemic. Reshma’s newest book Pay Up: The Future of Women and Work (and Why It’s Different Than You Think) presents a bold plan to address the burnout and inequity harming America’s working women today. She is also the author of the international bestseller Brave, Not Perfect, and her influential TED Talk “Teach girls bravery, not perfection” has more than five million views globally.

Key Takeaways from Reshma:  

  • Knowing who inspires you and why will help you find and cement your purpose. Reshma’s parents, refugees from Uganda who moved to the U.S., provided the inspiration that guided her life’s course—to give back to the country that had saved her parents’ lives.
  • As women, we learn to give up before we even try rather than risk failure. The revelation that “I could be brave, not perfect” was life-changing, said Reshma. The instinct to “coddle” girls and “toughen up” boys in childhood has long-term implications—girls forget how it feels to fail and to push past failure to learning.
  • The antidote to perfection is bravery. To unlearn perfectionism, we must be brave. Reshma offered the following tips for unlearning perfectionism:
    • Learn how to be imperfect. Practice right now by sending an email with a typo in it.
    • Embrace failure as a privilege and a learning opportunity.
    • Do something you’re not good at.
    • Start now—that side hustle, that long-time dream. If it seems too big, start with just one small step.
  • Don’t get tricked into thinking you are the problem. Imposter syndrome makes us feel like we are the problem, but we aren’t—the structure around us is the real problem. What we call “imposter syndrome” is a perfectly normal set of reactions and feelings—don’t let it distract you.


What’s next at the Women in Leadership Institute? Tomorrow, we turn our attention to keynote presentations from Anne Chow on the “Connected” competency and Magie Cook on the “Clear” competency. Be sure to continue to follow along on the Linkage Leadership Insights blog and on social media for in-the-moment insights.

The Women in Leadership Institute is taking place November 13–16, 2023.  

Didn’t get a chance to join us for the experience? The Women in Leadership returns in 2024! Find more information here.   

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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