IACCGH ‘Women Mean Business’: World Affairs Council, ALF

By Manu Shah

Houston: Two extraordinary women highlighted the work of leading and redefining leadership in IACCGH’s Women Mean Business series held virtually on 15th December. Maryanne Maldonado, CEO of World Affairs Council of Greater Houston and Nory Angel, President of American Leadership Forum of Gulf Coast (ALF) who both head non nonprofit organizations were the featured speakers.

The series, sponsored by Shell, continues to be one of IACCGH’s most popular events and brings successful women from the corporate, entrepreneurial or nonprofit world to inspire other women in their aspirations.

Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia welcomed the gathering and thanked the organization’s long term sponsors – Brask Inc, Lyondellbasell, Piping Technology and Products, Shipcom Wireless and Shell for supporting the chamber’s work in promoting Houston’s economic growth.

Highlighting the Chamber’s 21 years of service to Houston’s business community, President Tarush Anand noted how the chamber pivoted to the Webinar format to deliver its programs and found creative ways to support businesses and professionals in this pandemic.

Co-creator of the series with Asha Dhume, Past President Joya Shukla spoke of the need to engage with women leaders as role models and mentors to other women  navigating the professional world.

CEO of World Affairs Council of Houston, Maryanne Maldonado believes that the word leaders  need to hear most in these testing times is “resiliency” or the ability to bounce back from adversities. The seven components of resiliency, she outlined, are competence (the skills and the talent to do what you want and the goals you want to accomplish), confidence (a certainty of what you want in life, career, business, family and community), connection (networking), character (building a reputation of being authentic), contributing (to others) coping (managing your time, money and talents wisely) and control (regulating expectations in our outcomes). These skills “don’t come overnight but, like any other skill, need to be mastered.”

Other nuggets of wisdom included having a dream or goal, writing it down and sharing it with others, using feedback constructively, selfcare, being purposeful, maintaining a gratitude journal and surrounding oneself with position energy. She also spoke of “a mindset change” and often needs to remind herself that in trying to build resiliency in her life, she “cannot solve problems with the same thinking that created them in the first place.”

Nory Angel heads the American Leadership Forum (ALF) and dwelt on how we look at leadership in our communities and the practice of adaptive leadership.

The daughter of immigrants from Central and South America who came here in the early 70s as undocumented immigrants, Nory believes that her circumstances and upbringing influenced her choice of career and drew her towards working with nonprofit organizations and creating opportunities for others. Having parents who attached a great deal of importance to education, she is a testament, she says, to what happens when “you invest in people, make mentors available and plant seeds in people.” Things that could go wrong are righted through “access and opportunity.”

Alluding to an article in Fortune (2015) on the world’s greatest leaders, she noted that of the 50 leaders listed, only 18 were women. Nory had two takes on leadership. In the first instance, leadership needs to be redefined not as masculine or feminine but just leadership. Secondly, adaptive leadership (she is a graduate of the Adaptative Leadership Program at Harvard) mobilizes others on behalf of a collective problem towards a solution. This, she stated, takes away “from the noun of leader to the verb of leading,” and focuses on the work that needs to be done in the community instead of laying emphasis on the leader and their attributes.

Nory also highlighted three skills or competencies that are important in the work of leading: the power of building relationships and maintaining them, the art of asking powerful questions from a place of genuine curiosity and connecting with our empathy and sense of humanity.

Appreciating the wisdom, Shell representative Alyssa Holmes Henderson thanked the speakers for her takeaways on adaptative leadership and building resiliency.