Gwen, Inc. is positioning for the next phase of its growth as a company. Central to this growth is the addition of a talented team of consulting partners who will work with me to sustain our hallmark services and develop new programs to serve targeted groups of leaders. This month I introduce Judi Dixon, who will be our Director of Business Operations and Contract Management. I recently had a conversation with Judi about leadership. The following is a summary of that conversation.
Gwen: Judi, it takes a lot of courage to start a business. What fuels your passion for what you do?
Judi: We are hearing a lot about supporting and caring for each other during this global crisis. As I reflect on this heightened awareness to support others, I am reminded of my own passion and desire to be a leader that empowers and supports other women leaders.
I entered the world of entrepreneurship full time in March 2019. My company, Strategic Business Management, offers services to talented executive leaders that are in need of operations management but may not have the payroll or capacity to hire a full-time employee. In this model, I work as an independent contractor and bring my expertise as an organizer, planner, and pragmatic thinker to my clients. It is the core reason that my business exists: to help smart women leaders thrive every day.
Gwen: What does the premise of the “Unexpected Leader “mean to you?
Judi: At Gwen, Inc., we talk about the experiences of the Unexpected Leader. This term describes the unique experience of a leader who upon hire or promotion “breaks the glass/cement ceiling”. This person is typically a woman or a minority and is not the traditional expected choice for mid to executive level positions. This leader often experiences the dynamics of being the “first and only” in the leadership structure. This person struggles to gain and sustain credibility which is seldom due to a lack of qualifications but to unchecked microaggression and unconscious bias. This leader also must navigate the entry into existing leadership circles which can be disrupted by the new leader’s presence.
I work with professional executive women of color that experience the dynamics of the Unexpected Leader all the time. It is my job to quietly support them as they navigate their schedules that integrate who they are as a mother, sister, wife, and a boss on a daily basis. Being a professional woman has its challenges as we all try to be a super woman at every task. I have observed that being a woman of color has additional challenges. In addition to being an assertive female at work without being labeled as bossy or aggressive, women of color face comments and questions about their ability to lead just because they look different. They constantly have to work harder, be smarter, and look better.
Gwen: What insights can you share about your clients’ unique challenges?
Judi: As I support my clients, I view them having to go through the routine of preparing for their day by “armoring” up so to speak, i.e., do they wear their hair straight or natural today?…is their outfit professional enough?…will they be the only brown-skinned person at the meeting today?…how will people react to their presence? Exhausting, right? And this is before they even leave their house!
Gwen: How do you see your leadership role when working on behalf of your clients?
Judi: I see myself as a servant leader. According to www.greenleaf.org, “The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible”. It is the core philosophy of my business model to be a collaborator that supports other women leaders.
I whole-heartedly believe that my purpose is to sit in that space with them and allow them to be all of who they are without ever taking offense or trying to lighten it by comparing it to my challenges as a white woman. In other words, I am an ally and partner in their professional and personal lives. My mission is as such, I am a collaborator and I support women of color leaders to help them change the world for better. I am a quiet leader that will always have their back as we all move the needle forward in a positive direction that is more inclusive and diverse for us all.
Gwen: What a unique perspective you have. Where can I learn more?
Judi: Here’s what I’m reading right now:
Judi Dixon is Director of Business Operations and Contract Management with Gwen, Inc. Judi is
the glue that binds our partners to the mission and operations of Gwen, Inc. She is ready to take
action and ready to do what’s necessary to get a project done… and always alert for opportunities
to make projects go more smoothly. She keeps our schedule, manages our activities, follows up on
promises and keeps our hearts happy and our vision true. She’s funny and empathic and no matter
what, she and husband Dan must have at least one vacation in a warm place every year.
- Certificate in Office Management, Central City Business Institute
- BS, Business/Marketing, Empire State College/SUNY