Often, good leaders are made, not born. Leaders don’t have to be outgoing extroverts, but they do have to be passionate about helping their team members grow and thrive. The best leaders have learned to conquer their own demons by rewriting the rules that may have been written for them, and daring to pursue greatness on their own terms.
Dima Ghawi is a world-renowned, self-made businesswoman, entrepreneur, and keynote speaker. She is a globally recognized thought leader and draws on two decades of corporate experience to coach leaders and executives in cultivating a vibrant, healthy workplace culture and re-imagining their potential.
As a self-proclaimed “global citizen,” Dima speaks on her unique leadership transformation journey that catapulted her into over twenty years of working with several Fortune 100 companies all over the world, including IBM, Intuit, and Merrill Lynch. She’s the best-selling author of her award-winning memoir, Breaking Vases, and has been featured in numerous publications for both her professional and philanthropic endeavors.
During her interview with Josh on the Making Bank podcast, Dima shares her own powerful story, from growing up in Jordan, to marrying into an abusive marriage at 19, to shattering her family’s expectations by leaving her husband and pursuing an education. At school she surrounds herself with friends and mentors who guide her in growing her confidence and pursuing her very first leadership roles.
Dima emphasizes the importance of unpacking any limiting expectations that may have been placed onto you by family members, your community, or society in general. She explains the liberating experience of what she calls “breaking the vases” in your life.
According to her, this can be done by smashing any pressures and expectations you don’t wholeheartedly agree with and desire for yourself. Doing the brave work to examine and shed these beliefs is what Dima says will allow you to truly thrive, feel confident, and step into your strength as a leader.
The Weight of Expectations
Your first step toward becoming an incredible leader is to completely overhaul the stories, rules, and expectations you hold yourself to. With neutral curiosity (because this can be a deeply emotional and vulnerable process), ask yourself who’s expecting these things from you, and where did you learn to believe these stories you tell yourself. Whether it’s cultural traditions or family pressures, you’re likely to be walking straight into a lion’s den of restricting barriers to your growth.
So, start questioning. Get clear and intentional about the stories that you choose to believe about yourself, and your own expectations for your life. Don’t let anyone else decide those for you. Dima says, “When we start questioning and becoming curious, that’s what gives us more motivation and more courage to take action and change it.”
It can feel scary and radical to go against the grain at last, especially if you know there’s going to be consequences to face. People may pull away, lash out, or make threats. While sharing her own story, Dima shares how her own family sent her death threats after leaving her abusive husband to pursue liberation and education for herself. She describes how it can be hard to be courageous when it feels like there’s so much risk involved, but that ultimately, breaking those “vases” are the most important ones of all.
Finding a Mentor and a Support System
To help guide you on your new path, you’re going to need a welcoming circle of support. If you can anticipate past relationships falling away, depending on new choices you make, actively seek out a positive, uplifting community to support you in the meantime.
After Dima shattered the vase of her toxic marriage and family’s expectations, she went to study at university. One of her professors that she met at school, Dr. Starling, ended up becoming one of the most important mentors in the trajectory of her life’s path.
Dr. Starling encouraged her to run for President of her student organization, and she won. She fully credits him as the catalyst that sent her into a lifetime of passionate leadership service, a career she adores and thrives in. Thanks to great friends and a mentor who saw that spark within her, Dima landed on a joyful, fulfilling, and successful path that is vastly different for the one first imagined for her by her culture and family.
Stepping into the Full Power of Your Leadership Potential
Dima discovered her love for leadership when she realized how passionate she was in helping others thrive and pursue their next level. This, after all, is leadership. She tells Josh, “Leadership is not ‘the boss,’ leadership is being the one that helps other people around them rise.”
From highlighting the importance of getting a better understanding of our implicit biases, to encouraging a 360 approach to team feedback, Dima’s leadership philosophy is all about lifting others up and giving everyone a fair shot.
Learning to unpack and rewrite the stories we tell ourselves is a lifelong process, and there will always be more vases to break along the way. But the journey is undoubtedly worth it. At the end of her powerful episode, Dima reminds Making Bank listeners that “life is too short to just live with all of these limitations that are stopping us from believing in ourselves.” Keep breaking the vases, and keep leading with compassion.
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