By Daniel Axelrod The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Amilya Antonett, founder of Soapworks, a line of cleaning products without synthetic ingredients, says today's new crop of leaders shouldn't merely embrace themselves, corporations also should welcome their increasingly young, diverse and female employees' viewpoints.
Amilya Antonetti said she's been starting businesses since she was 17. But even now, in her 50s, the self-made millionaire and entrepreneur-turned-crisis management consultant winces recalling her attempts to follow some early career advice.
"The advice I got was 'Ameliya, try to downplay the fact that you're a woman' " in business meetings, Antonetti said.
"I'd pull my hair back and I'd sit there (in meetings) and think, 'Maybe I'm a guy. Maybe I'm a guy,'" Antonetti joked. "I learned not to try to be something you're not. Claim who you are, own it and love it."
That was one of the nuggets Antonetti shared Friday at the Orange County Accelerator's Hudson Valley Leadership Conference at the Culinary Institute of America.
The Accelerator is the Orange County Industrial Development Agency's incubator, a state-certified, Stewart Airport-based IDA division established to nurture and promote start-ups.
"One of the things we do as a regional incubator is to increase awareness about the new challenges and opportunities that come with the evolution of leadership," said Laurie Villasuso, chief operating officer for the IDA and the Accelerator.
All told, the Accelerator is helping 40 businesses in-house, or with off-site assistance, the majority of which are owned by women and minorities.
Antonetti's anecdote about accepting her gender illustrated her overarching points, which related to the conference's theme: "the Changing Face of Leadership."
Today's new crop of leaders shouldn't merely embrace themselves, said Antonetti, who's known in part for founding Soapworks, a line of cleaning products without synthetic ingredients, in 1995. Corporations also should welcome their increasingly young, diverse and female employees' viewpoints.
Senior leaders "can pull on that (tug-of-war) rope all day long, but it'll never work," Antonetti said. "You have to be smart enough to drop the rope and walk over and see that perspective -- it's the reality of a woman, it's the reality of a man, it's your reality ... You have to say 'Teach it to me because, when you teach me, I become a better leader.' "
Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro made a related point in his introductory remarks.
"Leadership means we have ideas and opinions and we seek those that aren't necessarily our own," Molinaro said.
"Leadership isn't just punch, counterpunch, attack, counterattack. Leadership doesn't mean you fight, fight, fight just to win, win, win. It's understanding how our actions impact one another and how we treat one another."