International Women’s Forum (IWF) is an invitation-only network of more than 7,500 women leaders sharing the mission to advance women’s leadership and champion equality worldwide. Members include CEOs, heads of state, astronauts, Olympic athletes, artists, and more.

In October, four female leaders from across Edelman were selected to serve as Edelman’s global delegates to IWF’s in-person World Leadership Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. Women leaders from all corners of the globe – representing different businesses, sectors and industries, as well as races, ethnicities and ages – united to discuss finding new solutions to the most critical challenges facing society today.

Topics spanned climate change, economic recession, mental health, extraterrestrial life, and everything in between. Edelman’s own Ann Clark, executive vice president of our Social Impact & Sustainability team and a 2017 IWF Delegate, facilitated a panel discussion with leading experts on meaningful ways to address the world’s increasing demand for – and shrinking supply of – clean water.

IWF President Helen Rule kicked off the conference by naming the single trait she believes all leaders must embody to steer the world in the right direction: generosity. “For leaders to maximize the impact of their leadership, they must be generous above all: Generous with their knowledge, generous with their networks, generous with themselves.” Over the course of the two-day conference, we felt the power of generous leadership both within the conference walls and outside them.

Here we share three key takeaways for stepping into generous leadership – to ultimately make the world a better place.

  1. Invite difference of opinion to get all potential solutions on the table and to ensure everyone feels heard
    A powerful session examined the challenges today’s leaders face speaking out in a world divided on issues. Dr. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School professor and best-selling author, discussed the importance of leadership facilitating open dialogue and a bottoms-up vs. top-down approach. True understanding of different (and often opposing) views is only achieved in a space where people feel safe to share. Within small groups – not in forums like town halls – is where real sharing happens and where a variety of perspectives and possible solutions are placed are surfaced.
  2. Embrace what you don’t know
    Leading with generosity means sharing your knowledge and experience willingly and freely, but it also means carving out real space to embrace the knowledge and experience of others. Throughout the conference, we heard from many leaders whose careers had followed unconventional paths – like Dr. Dana Bennett, former president of the Nevada Mining Association who was a historian by training or Sandra Douglass Morgan, a world-class lawyer who became president of the Las Vegas Raiders. In each case, these women became more thoughtful, strategic, and well-respected because they seized opportunities to learn to do things differently and told others along the way that they welcomed (and needed) their knowledge.
  3. Seek out opportunities to catalyze the success of others
    Becoming a more generous leader means knowing when to seek out opportunities to help others advance in their career through new tasks, roles, or job functions. However, often times we do not know how and when to do it. A recommendation that continually came from the speakers across the different panels was to activate “generous listening”, a core skill for business leaders. “Asking more questions than you think you need to, will foster both clarity and trust – vital for solving the world’s biggest problems”, as one panelist put it.

This piece was co-written by Edelman’s 2023 IWF delegates: Juanita Barrios is General Manager of our Colombia operations; Katy Evans is Group Client Director in our EMEA-based Brand team; Lauren Liebermann is Executive Vice President of our U.S.-based Integrated Brand & Brand Purpose team; and Hilary Sloan is Senior Account Director in our Corporate Communications team in Canada.