Leadership isn’t just for CEOs. We need good leadership everywhere, in the workforce, in government, in our schools, communities and homes. Today, the door stand wide open for women to step into these roles but modern female leadership doesn’t look the same as the male roles of the past. The rules are different, the mindset is different.
Join Molly Gimmel, entrepreneur and former chairwoman of the National Association of Women Business Owners as she explores the unwritten rules of successful female leadership. Through interviews with powerful women, from all walks of life, large corporations, small businesses, non-profits, Hollywood, politics and more, Gimmel reveals the mental attitudes that define effective leaders.
Here’s my conversation with Molly Gimmel.
Welcome into The Author Hour Podcast. I’m your host Benji Block and today, we’re thrilled to be joined by Molly Gimmel. She’s just come out with a new book and the book is titled, Master Your Mindset: How Women Leaders Step Up. Molly, thank you for joining us here on Author Hour.
Molly Gimmel: Thank you for having me.
Benji Block: Let’s start here; some are going to be familiar with you, others maybe new to your work, just give us some context, Molly, and maybe the lead up to this book.
Molly Gimmel: Sure. Well, I’m a long-time business owner. I started my company in 2001 and have had it for 20 years now, which blows my mind.
Benji Block: Congratulations.
Molly Gimmel: Thank you and have gone through a lot of ups and downs with the company and over the last, also, almost 20 years, I’ve been very active in the National Association of Women Business Owners, served on my local chapter board, served as chapter president, then got involved at the national level and finished a six-year stint on the national board of directors in 2020, which that experience is what really prompted me to write the book.
Benji Block: With that experience, it was basically the conclusion and you said, “I want to get this in writing” or what makes now the right time to actually write it?
Molly Gimmel: Well, being on the national board of directors gave me a very high-level perspective on the organization. We have 50 some chapters across the country and over the years, you would see some chapters really struggling and then a few years later, growing and thriving and vice versa, some growing and thriving and a few years later, struggling. When you look at the root causes, it was almost always leadership.
That is what is what got me interested in the topic and when my term on the national board ended, I decided, yeah, that I thought, this would be a good topic that was very relevant and didn’t really find many books out there specifically about women in leadership.
Benji Block: You would say, this book is for women in leadership, beyond that I wonder as you’re working on something like this, who are you imagining in your mind? Who are you writing for, maybe your ideal reader?
Molly Gimmel: My ideal reader I would say is a woman in a professional situation, not necessarily entrepreneur. Could be a woman in corporate who is stepping into a leadership or management role for the first time and doesn’t really necessarily know what they’re doing, their company maybe said, “Hey, you do a great job of X, you should start managing other people who do X.” That kind of thing.
Reorienting the Voice in Your Head to Being a Positive Force
Benji Block: Let’s dive into some of the content here, excited to do that with you. I think, because obviously, gearing this towards women in leadership, when that word, “Leader” gets tossed around, we may think of different things, person to person. Unify our vision a little bit of what, at least to Molly, what is good leadership? How are you defining that in this book?
Molly Gimmel: In this book, I’m defining leadership as influence so anyone can be a leader, it doesn’t necessarily have to do with a title or a position. It’s someone who can influence other people to do what they want them to do and so for the purposes of this book, I’m talking about the ways to wrap your mind around being a leader to connect with yourself as a leader and then to connect with the people that you’re leading.
Benji Block: You address this right upfront as well but obviously, because it’s geared towards women, we need to talk about gender and leadership. You mentioned, you don’t see a lot of books geared directly towards women in leadership, I would agree. I mean, I’m not necessarily seeking them out but I also know quite a few of the leadership books that are present and we’re not often talking about women in leadership books specifically.
Let’s talk about, how do you see leadership being different for maybe a female versus male leaders?
Molly Gimmel: Well, I think women have to be the whole package in order to be considered effective leaders. I think with men, if they’re strong communicators and they have a vision and they can get people excited about their vision then people want to follow them but with women, that can have a strong vision and be a great communicator but if they’re kind of a jerk, then people aren’t going to want to follow them.
I think the personal attributes are much more important in women that they are in men. I use Steve Jobs as an example in the book. He was very well-known for treating his people like crap, honestly, for yelling and screaming and throwing things and I think if a woman leader behaved that way then she would be fired. It would be, it wouldn’t be considered acceptable. With him, you know, people said, “Ah, he’s a genius” and they let it go and I think with women, you have to be the whole package, as I said.
Benji Block: Yeah, so because of that, I mean, it’s unfair but when you say the whole package, what does that mean? I mean, break that down a little bit more as far as what you’re thinking.
Molly Gimmel: Sure.
Benji Block: Yeah.
Molly Gimmel: I think you have to have that vision, be able to communicate the vision but also, be somebody who people want to follow, in terms of being approachable and empathetic and humble. That’s what I mean by the whole package, yeah, all of those qualities.
Benji Block: Yeah, starts to play into soft skills and I mean honestly, things that you’re like, “Okay, men in leadership, you better get your act together and become the whole package too” but…
Molly Gimmel: Yeah, well, I think society’s moving that way.
Benji Block: I do too.
Molly Gimmel: Yeah.
Benji Block: It’s a good conversation worth having but I mean, I appreciate in the context of this book that you’re inviting women into this style of leadership. We need more of it. You broke this book into two parts. Part one of the book, chapter one through eight, it’s about connecting with yourself, with ourselves, right? Then part two, chapter nine through 13, it’s developing a mindset of connecting with others and specifically with those we lead.
What I did is I plucked a couple of chapters from each part of the book for us to kind of highlight and spend some time on and it’s only fitting that we start right where the book starts as far as mastering your mental chatter and because I think this is the first hurdle, right? In any leadership journey, it’s not a onetime fight. I’m sure there’s still things Molly’s going, “Okay, I’m still trying to master my mental chatter” but okay.
Molly Gimmel: Absolutely.
Benji Block: Most people believe that if the voice in their head says something, it’s got to be true — you talk a bunch about this. How do we actively begin to try to turn down the volume or to the women that you’re inviting into leadership, how do you get them to actively begin to turn down the volume of that mental chatter, that negative mental chatter?
Molly Gimmel: Well, I don’t think you can turn down the volume. I think everyone of us has a voice in their head that’s going all the time. It’s not about turning it down, it’s about reorienting it to be positive instead of negative.
Benji Block: I like that. Where would you begin in that reorientation and I wonder, even for you and your personal journey, you’re like, “Okay, I need to reorient myself.” Where do you start?
Molly Gimmel: Well, you start by figuring out what it’s saying and then you take a look at that and how you figure out what it’s saying — I talk about in the book, an exercise I went through with the workshop I took several years ago was set the phone on your — excuse me, set the alarm on your phone to go off at random times throughout the day, when it does, write down what you’re thinking about, what your voice is saying.
You get an idea of what the trends are and what the more commonalities in terms of the themes of what your voice is constantly saying and then, review that and try to figure out where it came from. If your voice is constantly telling you that you’re not good enough or you’re not smart enough, why? Is that something that you heard a lot as a child that you weren’t smart? Where did that come from?
Was that a teacher who used to tell you that, was it a parent that used to tell you that? Then, once you figure out what the voice is saying to you on a regular basis, you can come up with ways to counter that. If the voice is constantly telling you you’re stupid, you’re probably really not stupid and you need to come up with examples to show yourself that you’re not stupid and then maybe come up with a mantra that explains to yourself — I know it sounds a little crazy — that you can repeat over and over because what happens is, the voice just repeats what it hears.
The voice in your head just repeats what it hears, what it hears from other people and what it hears from yourself. If you start saying, “I’m smart, I’m smart, I’m the most — I’m really intelligent. I’m good at crossword puzzles” or “I’m really good at my job” then once the voice hears it enough, it will start repeating it.
Your Values Define Your Decisions and Approach to Leadership
Benji Block: About that voice and changing the soundtrack you’re listening too. Let’s talk about your personal leadership for a little bit here, Molly. What were some of those early on voices that you needed to reorient? What were some of the trends that you recognized and had to try to switch soundtracks?
Molly Gimmel: For me, what I found was that my voice in my head is constantly replaying conversations. Conversations that I actually had, conversations that I might possibly someday in the future have, thinking about a situation that might come up and coming up with what the conversation would be.
My voice in my head was constantly doing conversations and it was driving me crazy. I also sing to myself a lot, which I was kind of thought it was funny to discover but talk about earworms. I constantly have a song going on in my head.
Benji Block: Love it.
Molly Gimmel: My friends never understand how I know all the words to whatever song comes on the radio but that’s how — because it’s constantly playing in my head. Yeah, I had to stop with the conversations. If I would catch myself having them an imaginary conversation with somebody, it could be a conversation that I had with somebody last week and I’m replaying, “Well, what if I had said this instead of that? How would they have responded?”
Sometimes I just have to realize, I’m doing that and say, “You’re not having that conversation again, this is not helpful, shut it down.”
Benji Block: It takes you away from the present moment when you’re living in your own past or in the future and it’s really hard to be a good leader when you’re not living here. I appreciate you going vulnerable with us for a second there. Let me read your quote back to you from your chapter on maintaining integrity. I like this insight that you have, you said, “To me, integrity means more than just being honest. It means, following through on my commitments, keeping my word and living in accordance with my values.”
Molly Gimmel: Yeah.
Benji Block: Obviously, when we think of integrity, at least I think of buildings, I think of buildings losing their integrity and falling over time but you highlight numerous examples and stories in the chapter. I wonder in this, and I’ll keep it personal for a minute here but, who comes to mind for you when you think of integrity within leadership and why?
Molly Gimmel: That’s an interesting question. You know, I just finished listening to the autobiography of Indra Nooyi, who was the CEO of PepsiCo. for many years and she, I think, is a great example of a leader with integrity. A lot of the stories that she told about her time, you know, in leadership positions at PepsiCo. have to do with integrity and deciding what the values were going to be and living by them regardless of the pressure, the outside pressure she was getting.
Benji Block: When we talk about integrity, how do we ensure, how do you ensure continued integrity because the unfortunate thing about this topic in leadership is you could live 19 years of great leadership in a moment where you lack integrity can ruin and sabotage the whole thing. How do you ensure continued integrity and encourage others to do the same?
Molly Gimmel: Well, I think if that happens, if there is something that you just make a big mistake, you have to acknowledge it, apologize for it and make it right and I think that shows integrity. Yeah, nobody is perfect. Everyone is going to make mistakes but it is how you deal with it and I’d say also with integrity, it is a matter of making your decisions around what your values are.
We’ve had situations where a client will ask us to do something and it doesn’t seem kosher and you know, we go back to, “Okay, what are our values and does this conflict with any of them?” and then we’ll go to the client and say, “You know, I’m sorry. I can’t do it that way. This is our value and what you’re asking is not in alignment with that.”
Benji Block: A lot of that comes down to predetermining what your values are beforehand so in the situation you can have something to reference.
Molly Gimmel: Absolutely.
Benji Block: I would say, I mean, I have stints in both non-profit and more in corporate world. It feels like and you can totally tell me I’m wrong on this but it feels like in corporate world because some of our drivers and values whether stated or unstated or more financial, it is harder to — we’re looking at what affects the bottom line more than we are constantly concerned with integrity.
Molly Gimmel: Sure. Well, for example, depending on what your corporate values are, if returning the highest possible profits to the shareholders is your number one value, then you are going to make decisions based on what helps you achieve that goal. If your values are that my customers are the most important and so doing whatever it takes to make my customers happy, then you’re going to make decisions based on that not based on the bottom line.
If your value is my employees are the most important, then you’re going to make your decisions based on how it affects your employees over the bottom line or over your customers. So that is what I’m saying in terms of you need to know ahead of time what your values are so that you can make decisions based on that.
Benji Block: Yeah, have you taken time to think through like personal values and is that something you walk through with the women that you are leading and how you instill that?
Molly Gimmel: Yeah, absolutely. For example, one of my personal values is kindness and treating all people equally and of value. For example, if I see people being rude to the wait staff in a restaurant, that’s the kind of thing if it’s somebody that I’m with I’ll say something about it. Those are the types of things how your values can show up in your personal life as well as your professional life.
Benji Block: I was going to pick a third one that stood out to me from this first section but I am actually going to defer to you and I am going to let you pick one that I didn’t touch on. When it comes to connecting with our self, what is one of the others that you highlight in the book that you might want to highlight for our audience, Molly?
Molly Gimmel: One that seems to be getting a lot of attention these days is imposter syndrome. A lot of people are talking about imposter syndrome and I do talk about that, one of the chapters where people attain a position or an achievement and they feel like a fraud and they feel like they’re not really qualified to have gotten this promotion or to be in this position or whatever it is.
They’re sure that everyone is going to find out that they’re not really qualified, they’re an imposter, a fraud and it’s actually a very common phenomena and it doesn’t affect just women, it affects men as well. So I talk about what that is and some strategies for getting over it.
Benji Block: Is there anything within imposter syndrome because I mean, I’m a man. I’ve definitely experienced imposter syndrome but is there anything that you think is different in the way that women encounter versus men and then let’s break down some of the potential solutions that you provide in the book.
Molly Gimmel: Sure, so I don’t know that there’s anything different in how men experience it. I just think maybe more women experience it probably because they haven’t seen other women, at least not as commonly attain those positions. I think the experience is the same regardless of gender. I think it is just probably more common for women and some of the solutions would be, first I would say, figure out what is making you feel like an imposter.
Is it that you don’t think you’re experience isn’t enough? Do you not think you’re educated enough? You don’t have the right knowledge to be able to do what it is you’re being asked to do? Whatever it is, figure out what specifically is causing this imposter syndrome and then maybe address it. If you think that you don’t have the right knowledge or experience to be doing whatever this new position requires, then maybe take a class.
Maybe go speak to a mentor, identify someone more senior who has that experience and ask them to coach you. I think there’s a lot of different strategies that you can use to figure out what weakness you’re identifying in yourself that is causing you to feel like the imposter and then address that weakness.
The Mark of Servant Leadership
Benji Block: You know, one thing I found super helpful in this area is I just screenshot any words of encouragement because words are huge to me. If there’s someone that recognizes something in me that I am like, “I have those” that imposter syndrome comes up, I can reference the words of people where they’ve spoken the opposite and that I always found that super helpful but thanks for that.
I do know imposter syndrome is everywhere. I’m very active on LinkedIn, I don’t know about you but I see a lot of talk on imposter syndrome and I think it’s great that you chose to address it. Section two shifts away from us, we start talking about connection with others. I’ll quote you again here, “Servant leadership is the mindset of understanding that the leader’s most important role is to serve people in organizations that she leads.”
That servant leadership is a section in that second section, so as you were just starting in your career — this goes back to being personal, Molly, another personal question for you but — when you think of early in your career and you are gaining momentum in life, who best embodied servant leadership for you?
Molly Gimmel: Ooh, that’s an interesting question. You know, I don’t think I really knew about the concept of servant leadership until I got involved with NAWBO, the National Association of Women Business Owners, as I said. Prior to starting my business, I spent eight years working in the Big Six at the time. Now, there’s four consulting accounting firms and there really wasn’t much servant leadership in that environment. That was really about —
Benji Block: Is that what made you aware of the need? Because you might not have words for it, right? But you can identify now that you have a definition of servant leadership, you can now probably look back and go, “Oh, this person had this trait that really was servant leadership” but if you weren’t seeing a lot of it, is that part of what makes you more passionate about it now is that past experience?
Molly Gimmel: It probably is and it’s probably why I don’t — I am not looking or interested in going back to working in that kind of corporate environment.
Benji Block: What is the mark now to you of servant leadership? Let’s define it because you mention in the book and I totally agree, in non-profit world that gets tossed around all the time and then you were saying like I never heard that phrase. Define that for us and what you’re looking for when you say servant leader.
Molly Gimmel: Sure. Yeah, in the non-profit world, absolutely because it is not about the bottom line, it’s about the mission. It’s about whoever it is you’re serving but I think it can work in corporate too in that kind of having to do, going back to the integrity thing, if you figure out what your values is, are your values about serving your customers? Are your values about serving your employees?
If even for a for-profit company, you could be saying, “You know my most important value is about giving my employees an awesome place to work so they have a great professional experience, they learn a lot, they have great benefits, their families are taken care of.” All of those things and so, that’s a servant leadership attitude because you’re serving your employees and they in turn will be happier employees, which they’ll stay longer. They’ll be more productive, all that good stuff that then benefits the company.
Benji Block: Right, what are some questions that you asked to keep yourself on track and keep servant leadership at the forefront of the way that you do life because leadership is influenced?
Molly Gimmel: Yeah, I think the main question is who does this benefit. When you are making a decision, you want to make sure that who benefits isn’t you, it’s who you’re serving.
Benji Block: Who does this benefit, I like that question. I wonder, when you think of how you ask yourself that question or even just the rhythms that you find yourself and anything practical when it comes to — like for me, if I had this question, who does this benefit?, I might sit down with my journal and actually take some time to process that way or just to grab a scrap piece of paper and jot down some thoughts on that but anything you found in your leadership that’s been helpful when you have a reoccurring question like that, a rhythm in your life of when you ask yourself that type of question?
Molly Gimmel: Not really, not that I’ve ever really thought about like that. No.
Benji Block: Well, I love this book. I love that you’re talking to women specifically in leadership. We need more of this type of content and conversation. As we start to wrap this up, for women that are going to pick up this book, what’s your hope for them as far as their main takeaway or maybe the feeling when they’re done with this book?
Molly Gimmel: Well, you know, one of the things about this book is that I interviewed like 30 different women leaders in a variety of industries and wove the stories that they told me and the insights that they shared about these various topics into the book. These women are all leaders in their industries, in their communities but they’re not famous. They are not Sara Blakely or Oprah or anything.
So, I think one of the things I want the reader to take away is that any woman can be a leader. You don’t have to be famous, you don’t have to be rich, anybody can be a leader and I think that the stories that the women shared show that they’re just regular people just like everybody else but they have stepped up and taken on these leadership roles and if they can do it, then the reader can too.
Benji Block: That’s so good and thank you for all the hard work in compiling those stories. I wasn’t quite sure in this conversation how are we going to highlight because you’ve talked to so many women and you have all of these stories so I think what’s great is today, we get to hear a little of Molly’s take and the inside look, right? Some vulnerability with us on your personal journey and then when a reader picks up Master Your Mindset, they’re going to be able to see all these women stepping up and leading and it is really compelling in the way that you compiled it.
Molly Gimmel: Thank you.
Benji Block: Thanks so much for sharing with us today on Author Hour. I’ll say again, the name of the book is, Master Your Mindset: How Women Leaders Step Up. Molly, for those that want to stay connected to you and the work that you’re doing, how can women do that and reach out?
Molly Gimmel: They can go to my website, mollygimmel.com, sign up for my newsletter, and connect with me through there.
Benji Block: Wonderful. Molly Gimmel, thank you so much for spending time with us on Author Hour today.
Molly Gimmel: Thank you for having me.