#LeadLikeAWoman with Anita Philip

HR Professional 

Being excluded from the table purely on the basis of gender is in one word, injustice. I have met more than my fair share of tremendously qualified and competent women in every sphere of economic and social activity who have felt “excluded” from a place at the table; this is a real issue.

What does leadership mean to you?

The ability to see a better future and the will to exercise personal influence for positive change in that direction. By that definition, included is the willingness to serve others joyfully, and at times sacrificially, as well as the disciplined focus to keep growing and learning for personal and community transformation.

Who has influenced your idea of leadership?

My parents had a profound early impact on my understanding of effective leadership. As a theological educator and college President in India, I watched my father lead with integrity, stay focused and humble, and serve others wholeheartedly with clear ethical principles. As a teenager, and only child, I often spent time with him in his office which gave me a unique perspective into his victories and struggles both private and public. He is the same person inside and out.  My mother stood by his side in leading the community. She also pioneered initiatives starting a small business and tirelessly advocating for the needs of those within her sphere of influence. Even now, in their later “retirement years”, they find ways to daily serve those around them. It’s a model I hope to emulate!

My husband, Matthew, is one of the most courageous leaders I know---unafraid of change and complexity, and often extending himself for the sake of others in a way I believe is rare and radical. I watch in amazement when my son and daughter exercise leadership often learning from their authentic courage to speak truth when they see injustice, as well as stepping in and up to help with the needed change.

Early mentors and supervisors like Susan Hurlburt, Rob Tritton and Lorna Miller led by example and provided much needed feedback that helped shape my leadership journey. The last eight years, working at Block Imaging, I was blessed to work with several leaders and co-workers who sharpened my understanding of the practicalities of leadership in the corporate space, and expanded my understanding of missional clarity, healthy teams, organizational effectiveness, and the shaping of a “People Matter” culture.

Writers, poets and thought leaders (both historic and living) have also been incredible silent mentors.

I’ve also learned from weak and ineffective attempts at  influence (not leadership, by my definition) and my own mistakes. No leader or leadership style is perfect—and I continue to respect those who fail, but fail forward, with the humility and courage to learn from their mistakes.

The current state of our world begs the question: with all the leadership content being pushed out by the gigabytes every second, why is there still such an apparent paucity of authentic leadership?

Why do we need more women in leadership roles? What do they add to the table?

The voices of women who lead are not yet heard sufficiently. It’s not that women don’t lead; it’s more often than not that they are given limited voice and visibility in organizational spaces. Carol Gillagan’s book, “In A Different Voice” (Publisher, 1982) was groundbreaking in this regard. Synthia Ann Hewlett, the economist and writer has also been one of those who shaped my thinking on women, work and leadership.

Being excluded from the table purely on the basis of gender is in one word, injustice. I have met more than my fair share of tremendously qualified and competent women in every sphere of economic and social activity who have felt “excluded” from a place at the table; this is a real issue.

“For the sake of our daughters”. So they have welcoming spaces for their voices when it’s their time to lead.

As more women are included at the table, we invest in a better narrative of the future.

As for the second question, What do they add to the table?

There are incredibly gifted women, competent and ready for greater leadership responsibilities. The non-inclusion of their talent, competencies, insight and organizational energy, makes every collective collaborative effort fall short of their inherent potential! As with any other dimension of diversity, women add a different perspective and lens to decisions and discussions. We are truly better, together.

Women, generally speaking, are more relational in the way they lead. I truly believe that including more women in organizational leadership will result in healthier and more cohesive teams. The good news is that with greater advocacy in recent decades, women are increasingly better represented with access to opportunities previously walled off. The intentionality of highlighting a need for more women in STEM, for example, has resulted in greater numbers in these fields. We are seeing more women enter the political space here in the United States. In many sectors, however, we still have miles to go.

These past few months the number of women being added to senior executive roles in global corporations is noteworthy and unprecedented. However, I’m concerned with this increasing presence at the C-suite level we may be losing ground at secondary levels. There are still spaces where women feel “stuck”, simply because of their gender. This needs to change.

How are you leading in your career/community?

From 2011 to early 2019, as Block Imaging’s HR Director, I had the opportunity to build and develop a multi-functional HR team, as the company grew from approximately 50 to over 130 team members. I loved the joy of being part of the lives of each team member, learning their stories, walking side by side in their vocational journey, investing in potential leaders and managers, and being part of critical leadership decisions to shape a better future for the organization. Being included at senior leadership level conversations allowed HR to be a part of crafting a culture where “People Matter”. Though not always a perfect journey, the intentionality  to keep our motto “people matter” always in view, resulted in the opportunity to shape company policies, programs and decisions.        

For personal reasons, I decided to take a sabbatical earlier this year. This also helped  me focus a bit more on my two graduating seniors (one in college, the other in high school), as they solidify their own vocational and career decisions.

This summer, I also had the privilege to serve on the program team of a global conversation on Work and Faith held in Manila, Philippines. I enjoyed being part of a global team of leaders from both the corporate and non-profit world. I learned a lot and met some amazing individuals especially young people who are pursuing radical change in different parts of the world, actively contributing to a better future for their communities. Around the world people are hungry for authentic and courageous leadership.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I appreciate the Michigan Chamber highlighting women in leadership in our community and am particularly grateful for Ashley Keimach's, vision and courage to bring different voices to the table.

Yesterday, as I spoke with my kids about life, pursuits and such, I shared with them an “ah-ha” moment I had in my own understanding of purpose and calling. In a time when everyone seems to be pursuing “purpose” it perhaps rings truer that purpose will ultimately find you if you pursue truth!

Live life truthfully, and measure your success by who you leave behind. Let leadership opportunities find you.

What is the best way for someone to contact you?

Email: mnaphilip@gmail.com.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anitaphilip92


Michigan ATHENA is a program dedicated to developing, supporting, and honoring women leaders throughout Michigan. This program is part of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce Foundation initiatives. To find out more about this program please visit us at www.michamber.com/ATHENA

If you have any questions or would like to nominate someone to be featured in our #LeadLikeAWoman series please email me at akeimach@michamber.com