The life of a leader is always packed with challenges, and sometimes, one can’t help but feel stuck, tired, and frustrated. But these obstacles are not insurmountable, and they often come out in the end as experiences that offer valuable lessons to push leaders further.

In a leadership forum last August 19, Emapta Executive Director Inge Zwick shared some of these valuable lessons that she learned over the years, which could help aspiring leaders break the barriers that seem to hinder their growth.


1. There is no “one answer”

One of the earliest mistakes Inge made was believing that there is only one answer to every problem, and leaders should always know this ultimate solution. But her experience taught her over time that there is no single answer to every problem, and it is alright for leaders to not know every single solution.


“There’s not only one answer. There are many answers. There are many different ways of doing things. And as a leader, you don’t always have to know the answer. There are people around you who may have the answer or have a better way of doing it,” she said.


2. Success goes beyond titles and positions

For many aspiring leaders, every step up on the ladder is an important milestone. But significant as they are, Inge, who also had to climb the career ladder herself, learned that success does not have to be measured by positions, roles, and titles alone. It should also be measured by balance and impact.


“When I became a mother, I found myself combining all the goals in my career. Suddenly, I found myself trying to achieve balance and how I can make an impact on others. Previously, success for me was self-centred. Now, it’s about balancing career and family, and the impact I have on others.”


3. Learn when to say “no”

Everyone is taught that to be successful, one should not back down from any challenge and grab every opportunity at hand. While it may still be true for most situations, Inge said leaders should know when to say “no,” especially when the most important things are involved.


“At the beginning of the pandemic, when everyone is in the same situation, I really learned to say no to many activities and social gatherings. Personally, I found that saying no and focusing on things that are important to me, which is my family, is one of the proudest no’s I ever did,” she said.


4. We run different races

In the age of social media, it is easy to see the progress of everyone else, but ironically hard to see our own. It often leads us to compare ourselves with others when in truth we all run different races and progress is always relative.

“It’s very easy to confuse your own dreams and situation with someone else’s… Maybe, when we say we’re stuck in a situation, you must ask yourself first if it is really about you or about someone else you saw,” she said.


5. Breaks are important

Strongly motivated by success, aspiring leaders tend to overwork and push themselves to the limit. While there is merit to hard work, taking breaks is as equally important, according to Inge, whose own time off from social media helped her relieve stress, gain focus, and even reassess her dreams.

“Take a break and assess your dreams. Taking a break is always important, especially now during the pandemic when there’s a lot of emotional stress on us. My breaks allowed me to reassess and redefine my dreams,” she said.

Inge spoke in a forum that was part of Kaizen Leadership Asia’s free lunch and learn series. Some of the leaders invited to speak at the event were university law dean Atty. Chel Diokno, fitness advocate Zarah Hernaez, motivational speaker Sha Nacino, and other business leaders. You can watch the full recording of the webinar below: