Leadership and The Workplace

Women Who Lead

Lesley Southwick-Trask

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WebTalkRadio.net Host

Host: Lesley Southwick-Trask

Women Who Lead is a game changer. It’s about women embracing the next wave of leadership – one that replaces hierarchy and positional power with new ways of being. It’s about how women are “showing up” in the world as leaders. This is a show for women in all walks of life, from those in corporate environments to those making a difference as one-woman enterprises.

Meet visionary women breaking new ground in their professions and in their lives with an unshackled breed of intellect, passion and expertise. Join us weekly in the process of creating a new definition of leadership – one that births new realities. Join us in the transformation of our society.

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Women Who Lead – Starving to the Top – Cassie Davies

My guest this week has walked the catwalks of London, New York and Paris. In one of the world’s most competitive and deadly industries, Cassie’s shot to stardom started at 14 years of age. Listen in to my interview with a leader whose peak came at 18 – along with the consequences that have left […]

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Women Who Lead with Lesley Southwick-Trask

Hi There! If you are reading this, then you may be interested in knowing a little bit about me. I believe it is important to begin with what I consider to be the most important of my achievements. I am the mother of Graham (36) a paramedic, Reid (33) a business journalist, and Terralynn (25) a recent business marketing graduate. The greatest lessons I have learned in life have come from them. Each of these beautiful humans is strikingly unique – so much so that I am often taken aback by how three individuals raised in the same family could show up with such distinctive views on life. And yet, they are intricately connected by the same belief and value systems when it comes to the importance of family and friends, the need to make this a better world, and the most important aspiration – to find true happiness. These are indeed the very principles that I was given by my parents – Denis and Eileen George

My journey in life has not only been privileged due to my parents’ immigration from post-war England to Canada. I had the great fortune of traveling in life with my identical twin sister, Hilary. We are intricately tied together not only by our biology, but my our shared passions, interests and ambitions. She has been my mentor and my soul mate throughout the roller coaster of my journey. Amanda and Andrew, our much younger siblings would also carry such a role as they joined us in the world of business.

I was one of those lucky Baby Boomers who entered the field of business with a vast array of choices. My first real job was as the On Air Radio Manager for CKCU – the Ottawa am radio station that we were able to take to FM licensing with the CRTC – the Canadian regulatory body for radio and television. I had the good fortune of hosting two of these programs – which gave me a rush every time I turned on the microphone. Upon graduation with my anthropology degree, I was offered a position with CBC radio in Toronto. I declined this path in the road, by taking the fork that would lead me to a career in business.

After becoming a middle level manager for Segregated Funds with Manulife and their President of Women’s Advancement at the age of 24, I decided to pursue my post graduate studies in Adult Learning and Organizational Development. Equipped with this education I became the first Learning Systems Designer for Imperial Oil and the first developer and facilitator of their three levels of Management Development training. I was 28.

Being the first professional woman at Imperial Oil to ask for a maternity leave for my son Graham forced me to face the challenges of being a woking mother. In 1979 no policies existed for women who had to travel for their work, along with a nursing baby and nanny, (The maximum leave was 15 weeks.)That experience taught me that in order to be in the driver’s seat when it came to work/life balance, I would have to become my own boss.

In 1981, I founded the Proactive Group of Companies, starting with the oil and gas sector and then broadening out to all ectors, public and private, as well as NGO’s. Within four years we had become a national consulting firm with offices in Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax. Our specialty was strategic positioning and cultural change.

Over the years, my own background as a social anthropologist shaped the services and products that we offered to our 500+ clients in their efforts to position in increasingly complex markets. Our additional specialty was in helping them to transform their organizations in alignment with their new realities. It was tough, but unbelievably satisfying work as we led everything from the National Defense Strategy to the launching of the second most successful pharmaceutical launch – Plavix. (The first of course was Viagra!).

My entrepreneurial drive, in association with that of my husband, Greg Trask, opened up numerous opportunities – restaurants, a real estate company, and yes – even a hardware store. The most successful of our endeavors however, was the RDI / Proactive Group – a strategic marketing research consultancy and technology call center that housed 150 staff. As the CEO of the blended organization, I was able to experience first hand the real meaning of leadership – the roll up the sleeves kind – where the consequences of my husband’s and my decision making would produce direct success or failure. (This was a far cry from my life as a consultant to executive leaders.) My ongoing practice as a change agent, enabled me to lead political, business and governmental strategies, many of which remain in play to this day.

I was terribly fortunate to have been given this time in history to be a leader. Such experience allowed me to be recognized as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada in the categories of Entrepreneur and Trailblazer (lifetime recognition). My role as the CEO of RDI /Proactive Group brought me the recognition as one of the Top 50 CEO’s in Atlantic Canada, and one of the Top 100 Women Business Owners in Canada, My passion for pushing the envelop with change agendas was acknowledged by becoming one of the Top 25 Faces in Halifax and one of the Fourteen Thinkers to watch for by Progress Magazine.

Along the way I wrote /contributed to three books: Turning It Around – How 10 Canadian Organizations Changed Their Fortune; Leadership Gurus Speak Out and the Roadmap to Success with Deepak Chopra and Ken Blanchard. As a member of professional speaking agencies, I have had the fortune to speak in front of thousands of people – sharing with them the various lessons I have learned along the way.

In 2008, my love, husband and business partner, Greg, died, and with this, so did my focus for the work that had defined our lives in every way imaginable. I had just started a new enterprise – Burst Transformational Solutions with my business partner, Patty Cuttell. At the time, we were in the midst of strategizing the next ten years of a major police force; the reframing of public health services, the determination of the future of the legal profession and the launching of a national social movement for mental health. For 3 more years, I endeavored to give everything I could to this exciting work; and yet I was in no way dealing with the death of my husband.

Very few of us get a second chance to discover a new life. I am one of the lucky ones. In 2010 I walked the Portuguese Camino de Santiago. I did so with a man I had not seen in 40 years – the guy I took to my senior prom in Montreal in 1969. Geof Richards is the Gemini awarded cameraman and producer for his work on CTV News and W-5. He had spent his previous 40 years behind the camera in all of the “hot spots” around the world, covering everything from brutal wars, to the opening of Russia and China. Life and death had struck our lives in the same way within two months of one another, and so serendipity stepped in to bring us together to walk out these deaths over 880km. I was told on the last night of my 6 week camino that “the real camino begins when this one ends”.

And it did. We accidentally found a ruin on an abandoned 11 acre farm, 8 kilometers before Valencia, Portugal. In 2011 we bought the ruin, and over the next four years cleared the land and brought back to life the Quinta Estrada Romana (farm on the Roman Way) as an 18 bed hostel (Albergue) and restaurant. For 8 months of the year, we host international conversations nightly over dinner covering every topic one could imagine – from politics to child rearing; economics to vineyards – and the list goes on. The farm’s larger initiative is called the Beautiful Boot Project. It is our live experiment in sustainable living. Our mandate is to produce real time ecological practices that we can continue to share.

Now if you are thinking I left all my “other” life back in Canada – well that would be a waste don’t you think? As the European campus for Southwick-Trask Holdings, the Beautiful Boot project sponsors innovation projects and leadership journeys for all seekers of new ways of living and working. I am currently in the prototype phase of a radically different approach to decision making that I have garnered from my many years of facilitating complex decisions. The Decision Tool will be coming out early in 2016. As for the Quinta Estrada Romana, we are now operating in our second season, and are pleased to announce that the Quinta Estrada Roman has been identified as the “best Albergue” on the Portuguese Camino.

My newest foray is as the host of Women Who Lead – a WebTalkRadio.net show for women by women that explores the shifting landscape of leadership in our changing world


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