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Susan's blog

What's in a Name?

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Have you ever been responsible for naming a pet, a child, a company? If you have, then you know how overwhelming the process can be. A name is important. It is lasting. I was both excited and overwhelmed with the responsibility of picking the perfect name for my company back in 2005.

I knew that the company was going to focus on women's leadership, and I wanted a strong and creative name that spoke to professional women without being too girly.

My initial attempts at a name played with the idea of using an "XX" to represent the double X chromosome that differentiates women from men. I thought of names like "Exxtreme Leadership" and "Exxceptional Coaching" until my male colleagues politely pointed out that any name using "XX" in a search field was just one X away from unwelcome on-line trouble. Red-faced, I returned to the drawing board.

The name Leadhership1 came to me one day and I knew immediately it was the right name for my company. It had all the components I was looking for in a name – strong, descriptive, memorable, and unique. It clearly and creatively articulated the company’s mission.

Yes, spell-check hates the "h" in Leadhership1 almost as much as the airlines' reservation system hates the hyphen in my last name. That's OK. I've spent the last 16 years spelling "Davis-Ali" for people and now if I get the chance to spell "Leadhership1" for the next 16+ years, I'll feel like one very lucky girl. Let me know what you think of the name.

Fill Up the Candy Dish!

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Over 10 years ago, I got my first promotion into management. At the time there was not a lot written about women in management, but I read what I could find. One particular article stands out in my mind. It was a list of the top 10 things a female manager should never do - a proverbial list of career limiting moves for high-aspiring women.

I can't remember all 10 items on the list, but one stood out in my mind more than all the others. Thou shall not have a candy dish in your office . A candy dish is apparently too stereotypically female and motherly. No woman who wants to be taken seriously as a leader should have a candy dish in her office. For any one who knows me, this poses a significant problem since I am fairly sugar-obsessed. Candy is practically my middle name.

I decided at the time to throw caution to the wind and ignored this piece of advice. I started off with a small candy dish assuming that if the advice was in fact correct that a small candy dish would do less harm than a big one.

My candy dish introduced me to people that I might not have otherwise met. There was the colorful character in the IT department named Corvis who liked black licorice, and then there was the British programmer who liked chick-o-sticks almost as much as I did. He and I might be the only two people on the planet who even know what a chick-o-stick is. I also came to learn that more people like dark chocolate than I would have ever imagined. I am allergic to chocolate so keeping lots of it in my candy dish ensured that I would not eat the entire bowl on a stressful day.

Over the years, as I got more comfortable, I got a much larger candy dish. People would come in for a piece of candy and sit down for a minute to chat. The candy dish helped me stay connected with people. Even on days when I did not get up from my desk, people stopped by to see me (as they grab a few pieces of candy). Spending time with people is a very important part of leadership, and having a candy dish in my office helped me stay better connected with people.

Eventually I came to appreciate that being a good leader is not about following a list of "Do's and Don'ts." It's about being real. It's about letting people know who you are as an individual. It's about sharing the aspects of your life that bring a smile to your face. For me, it was about having a candy dish in my office. What does being real at work mean to you?

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