Lead From Your Core: The Importance of Inclusion

by Ruth D Schwartz

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

There is excitement and a palpable buzz as people stream in, accompanied by pounding and rhythmic music. I have a rush of anxiety-I am just one of 500 strangers in the Marriott ballroom. I wonder: Who among them will become friends and allies? Will this be a welcoming environment designed to connect us? Or will I feel alone and left out?

It was an all-too-familiar feeling. I am a flooded with memories of all those “first day” back to school jitters. In elementary school, the first day back is beaming with innocence, excitement and wonderment.

  • Who I will meet and who will be my friend?
  • Will the teacher be nice and fun?
  • Will we sit in rows or groups? Will we be stuck in the same seat all year?
  • Will I find playmates? Or will I roam the playground feeling out of sorts and uninvited?

In the higher grades the first day of school loses it’s mystery. The first-day excitement is replaced with anxiety. Friends are established. Cliques are formed. Teachers became predictable. Discomfort, for me, was assured. Still, the craving for inclusion was welded into my fiber.

I ask my mother for advice: “What do I do and who will do it with me, Mom?”

For better or worse my Mom’s message is inscribed in my memory. “If you want something, go get it,” she said.

Back in the Marriott, I take a seat in the now crowded ballroom. The couple to my left is busy talking amongst themselves. The gentleman in front of me stares straight ahead and doesn’t look back. I spot a sharp looking 40ish man. He sits next to me. He is busy texting and doesn’t look up. When he does, he scans the room. This is my chance to make a connection.

“I’m Ruth. Where are you from?” I say as I stick out my hand, ready to be friendly.

He introduces himself. He’s here to meet some very important people and launch a very important project. That’s when I recognize him! It takes me a minute to realize that his emails land in my inbox weekly. I’ve watched a few of his videos. He has a product for coaches like me. What luck! This is a great opportunity for both of us.

I blurt, “Hey, you’re Travis. I’m on your list!”

In what seems to be slow motion, he turns to look at me and looks me up and down, summing me up. I am suddenly nervous, and I make some lame comment about collaboration, product synergy. Then he nods his head as his eyes glaze over, takes out his phone, stands up, and leaves.

Did I just get rejected by one of the cool kids?

Cortisol races through my veins. My heart pounds. With my mother’s words in my ear, I realize this is clearly not what I want.

After the conference, I deleted myself from Travis’ list. He will never get my business. But I’ll give him credit for this: I remembered that my leadership core value is inclusion, and every day we have an opportunity to lead from our values. From a very young age, inclusion has been important to me because I often felt left out.

Your turn: Tell me your story. What value is so deeply a part of you that when someone crosses it, even inadvertently, it brings up a visceral response like mine. Your uniqueness and authenticity come from your willingness to lead from this core value.

No matter who you are, I invite you to join me.

About the author

Ruth Schwartz started Mordam Records in 1983. By the time Nirvana hit the pop charts and Green Day went platinum, Schwartz was running a ten million-dollar company. In 2012 Schwartz chronicles her success in The Key to the Golden Handcuff’s – Stop Being a Slave to Your Business. Based on Schwartz’ business experience, the book gives entrepreneurs and business executives insight into shifts that can be made to create a transparent, open-book company. Today, Schwartz in an internationally certified business coach, motivational speaker, and the facilitator of business peer advisory boards. She owns High Performance Advocates, a management development and marketing company.