How to Be a Confident Leader with Melissa Dawn Simkins

Melissa Dawn Simkins of The She-Suite shares her tips on how to be a confident leader in every facet of your life.

As a strong, empowered woman, Melissa Dawn Simkins knew that being a leader was important within her family, her community and in her place work. She also knew that other women were also capable of leading across their spheres. With that, The She-Suite was born, a Reston, Va.-based company with a mission to “inspire transformation by empowering women to lead with your whole life™.” On Friday, March 8, The She-Suite Summit will offer a one-day virtual get-together for female leaders and those aspiring to lead. In honor of Women’s History Month, we asked Simkins to share her thoughts on women and leadership.

Melissa Dawn Simkins

Tell us a bit about She-Suite. What is the philosophy behind it and how did it get started?
I started The She-Suite based upon my own dilemma of ‘Could I have a successful career without compromising the life I wanted?’ I sincerely believe smart women want a modern way to lead in every aspect of their life. I wanted to reframe the leadership model to one that was sustainable and substantive. The model became one that was originally architected from our parent company, Velvet Suite. We became committed to a new form of elite leadership for women who want to have a successful career but also a complete life. The way we do this is through an ‘MVP’ model which stands for Mission, Vision and Purpose. We have been at the heart of shaping elite leadership from professional athletes, celebrities and executives–and have made this model accessible to leading women who work for enterprises, but our work stretches beyond.

Let's talk about women in leadership. Obviously, everyone is different, but do you think women have any 'superpowers'? What are some traits that might make them best suited to lead?
We have a high capacity. We have the ability to do multiple things well. I believe leadership has been largely marginalized for women to work. I understand why because women have had to fight to show their value in the workplace. However, I believe we are purposed to lead in our homes, with our children, our spouses, our community and the workplace. We lead in every facet of society. We drive 80 percent of the purchase decisions. We are leaders holistically. This is our superpower.

For those who are relatively new on their path to becoming a leader (whether in work or in life), what is your best advice? What are some first steps when you want to claim that leadership power?
Realize that leadership is an inside job. It starts with our inside voice. How do we see ourselves? Do we acknowledge our super power? Are we kind to ourselves when we make mistakes? Do we accept our flaws but celebrate our gifts? This is where we start. Self reflection and how we see ourselves often shapes how others see you. It is not about power or position. It is really about owning your purpose. Get clear on your ‘why’ is where you start.

You are hosting the She-Suite Summit soon. What are some steps you can implement to get your 90-day action plan together (whether you're launching a business, sitting on a board, trying to get promoted, etc.).
Well, come to The She-Suite Summit24 and together we will design our 90-day plan in a day. It starts with owning our mission, vision and purpose. Next, it is about getting clarity on a specific goal and then breaking it down into bit size steps with accountability.

We’d love to hear some tips on networking. It can be intimidating. Do you have any advice?
Yes, I realize it can be intimidating but when we focus on simply building relationships–it helps us to see it for simply creating connections. I love to start with breaking the ice, realize it is intimidating for most so mastering small talk is a great first step. Compliment early and often. Ask questions–giving people the space to talk about their favorite topic, which is often themselves. Also my favorite principle, which we talk about in our She-Suite programs, give to get. Find ways to always be a giver of time, advice, a contact, etc.

Your website includes some stats on the millions of women who left the workforce during the pandemic. How do you think we can bridge that gap and bring those who want to back to the workforce?
We are reinventing the world of work for women as we speak. It will be about how workplaces level up to understand the motivations of engagement. At best, Gallup has had engagement levels in the mid 30%. That means that nearly 60% of all people who work are not engaged, not fully present. This speaks volumes to not only what people are doing in the world of work but how the organizations are creating space for them to fully contribute. Women want to do purposeful work and they want to activate their own personal purpose at work. Finding ways to build this into the model of work today is where the organizations of the future will accelerate.

Do you have any leadership book recs (especially those by women) that are your go-tos?
That is a fascinating question. I do read a lot of books on leadership and entrepreneurship. The ones I’m reading now are “The Founder and the Force Multiplier,” “Buy Back Your Time” and “Forgiving What You Can’t Forget.” Some would say that is a personal book, but I believe that many leaders have hard times trusting which is due to having trust violated in relationships (work or personal). To be a whole leader we have to address every aspect of our being physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and relational.

In honor of Women's History Month, who has inspired you over the years?
My mom is a big inspiration to me. My sister, my grandmother and my aunts. My village. I find inspiration in our featured speaker at Summit24, Sandra Douglass Morgan, as our roots started with the National Football League who helped us build our elite leadership model for peak performance. I find inspiration in my girlfriends and sorority sisters and also the women I serve through our She-Suite global community. Their stories, their triumphs inspire me.

And on the flip side, how do you think you're inspiring others?
My purpose statement is that I want to live in such a way that as I discover my purpose and live it fully and freely, I unconsciously inspire others to do the same. I know I’m rising up a new league of MVPs–leaders who lead with mission, vision and purpose. This is how I know I’m doing my job well.

Finally, leadership can mean so many things. What is your definition of a leader?
Anyone who courageously goes after a vision reflected from their own purpose that inspires others to follow.

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