There are not enough superlatives to describe the powerhouse that is Lydia Fenet: by day, global director of strategic partnerships at Christie’s New York and a leading benefit auctioneer who has raised over half a billion dollars for over 400 non-profits around the world by night. She is also a mother to three children and has done a great service to womankind by writing her first book, the Most Powerful Woman in the Room is You. I had the pleasure of interviewing Lydia recently about her book for the inaugural in-conversation of Jimmy Choo’s “in my Choos”, which is at once a manual filled with time hacks as it is an exploration of deeper life lessons.
There are many subjects that Lydia tackles which made me sit up and take note. Subjects which will encourage you to lead richer lives – and I mean that both in a literal and metaphorical sense- including how to fight for what you deserve (specifically, being financially responsible and how best to negotiate a salary increase) and why we all need to embrace failure.
But there was one topic that really struck a chord. It was the reminder that there is nothing as powerful as a community. Lydia explained how she harnessed her community, namely the audience at one of her paddle raises in order to smash her target. How by harnessing our community, we can all scale unimaginable heights we could never hope to reach on our own.
We all know it takes a village. Instagram loves to remind us of that. But have you really thought about how important your community is? We no longer lean on the communal benefits of the past – traditional ties to family and birthplace which provide natural, lifelong connections. In 2019 our communities have, to a certain extent replaced our families.
What’s the key to happiness? It’s a question that we have been asking (and trying to answer) for thousands of years. Studies at Harvard and the London School of Economics have consistently identified that happiness is achieved through rich social bonds. It’s where I borrow Gill’s podium and bang on about life being about people and not stuff.
When people enjoy deep, meaningful relationships with other people in their community, it enhances their overall happiness, and allows them to collaborate with and support others to achieve more than any one person could ever achieve alone.
Shared experiences are a very powerful way to build relationships between very different people. And hurdling the most challenging or difficult experiences together is an incredibly powerful thing.
A community bolsters us, it is within our community that we find our strength. That strength of community runs deep, like the bridge between the world and ourselves. Without a community, it is hard –impossible even – to share our enthusiasm, our passion, our experiences, our wisdom. Our community is the ultra support system that carries us through challenging times or when we’re losing steam and motivation. It means we don’t ever have to stand alone.
It can be lonely at the top, in work as well as in life. While most entrepreneurs dream of a market all to themselves, research (and my gut) suggests that you are better off in company.
There are many benefits that competition brings to similar businesses within an industry, not least the most obvious one, which is that it keeps you on your toes, always encouraging you to move forward and to not stand still. “If nobody is competing in your space, there’s a good chance that your market is too small. Any good idea has 10,000 people working at it, “says the angel investor, Ben Yokowwitz. It’s another way of legitimising what you are doing.
It takes some confidence (yet is good business practice) to thrive in a market place filled with successful others. Confidence is also required to be obsessively focused on your competitor whilst apparently ignoring them. That is, identifying your rivals, understanding their success, their shortcomings while not reacting to every move they make. The ideal community is made of like-minded people who share the same goals.
As Lydia explains, a truly powerful woman doesn’t thrive by putting other people down; she does it by lifting people up, and benefits from that as much as driving herself to live to her fullest potential.
She is someone who leads by example and shows those around her that there is strength in numbers, in those who choose to lift others up to lead with her. It is a woman who sets a goal, articulates that goal and follows through, who understands that leadership is about the human connection, about inspiring and connecting not only by herself but encouraging other people to do it well.
There will always be some who can’t handle your success, but frankly you don’t need them to believe in you. Decide that your plane is going to be filled with other people you have motivated and inspired along the way – the community of people you have surrounded yourself with and spent time building and cultivating. In Lydia’s books, Dee Poku, founder and CEO of Women Inspiration and Enterprise implores us to remember that when one woman rises, we all do.
And so, I leave you with Lydia’s very sage words: “The most powerful woman in the room doesn’t do it alone; she doesn’t want to do it alone. She wants everyone to succeed as much as she wants to succeed. Strength in numbers. Power in numbers. But most importantly, power in leadership.