What are the personality traits a leader must have to turn a simple networking dinner into a world-class conference?
Equal Pay Day – Women to Themselves is the biggest empowering women’s conference in the Czech Republic. The conference helps thousands of women to develop their interpersonal and professional skills, such as leadership, mentoring, and conflict resolution, which are essential to any career. This year the event brings together 1,400 participants from the Czech Republic, Great Britain, Slovakia, Hungary, Germany, and Austria.
In this interview, I wanted to back up the story a little bit because I don’t think you can talk about the event without talking about the host. Please let me introduce Lenka Stastna, the president and the woman behind the Equal Pay Day – Women to Themselves conference, the largest event in its space.
Lenka Stastna: I have more than thirty years of working experience both in business and corporate worlds. I started my career as a Senior Economic Advisor and a Deputy Head in a relatively large business, and after working for fifteen years in a private sector I moved to the banking industry. As the Head of Commercial Bank, I oversaw and managed several local branches, created dozens of new outlets and focused largely on sourcing deals and maintaining relationships with other businesses.
As for my educational background – first I studied Hotel Management and then furthered my education at the Prague’s University of Economics, which I graduated with a master degree. Later I earned an academic degree from two postgraduate studies in the USA. I always say that I started my education in a state-planned economy and completed it in a totally different political and economic system. I consider myself extremely lucky to have lived and worked through the main changes in economy, politics, and culture that my country has gone through after the collapse of the socialist regime in 1989.
Do you really enjoy change? Usually, the opposite is true – we love progress, but don’t like change. Change is uncomfortable and we tend to retreat back into our comfort zone, so how can we see it differently?
LS: Change is the inevitable part of life and no matter how happy and attached we are to the present situation, life will always change. We are forever growing, expanding, and changing. I realized that the only thing I could do is to learn to let it work for me, that by observing the emergence of new trends, I can benefit from the change. I would define my life strategy is “Connecting the dots”, this is what always helps me to make better decisions both in business and in my personal life.
Would you agree with Henry Adams who said: “All experience is an arch, to build upon”?
LS: Absolutely! I couldn’t agree more. One of the greatest things we can do for ourselves is to learn from every single experience we had. I see every experience as an opportunity to learn and I try to transform it into a practical lesson that will drive me to become better at everything I will undertake in the future. That means that I am in a constant process of learning new things. I learn from my past experience, from media, books and I learn from people.
All of my life I invest in my personal and professional development and I don’t keep what I’ve learned for myself – I share my knowledge and experience with others. It is a great honor for me to convey something of what seems to me to be beneficial to the others.
The sharing and supporting others give me a sense of purpose. It helps me to focus my time and energy on what’s really important and it motivates me. This is my “why” in the question of why I do what I do.
Share-and-support is the purpose of the Equal Pay Day – Women to Themselves Conference. But how such events can help women to learn and develop skills necessary to get ahead in their careers?
Well, we often say that we simply do not have the time to do something for ourselves. Because it is already a lot – we are working, running a household, raising children, taking care of elderly parents… and the list goes on and on… But, when we get together and get involved in a community of like-minded people, where we feel comfortable and confident to participate in discussions, build partnerships, learn and share ideas – we grow, because we take part in a unique form of “real life training” that no school can offer.