As I write this article, the smell of a new perfume subtly impacts my consciousness.  It is a smell that should be foreign, and yet at the same time is very familiar to me.  Normally I would not include this particular level of detail, but today is the first day that I am wearing Vetiver of Haiti, produced by The 7 Virtues’ Barb Stegemann.  Today is also the day that I had an opportunity (and good fortune) to listen to Barb – she was the Defence Women’s Advisory Organization’s keynote speaker in celebration of International Women’s Day later this week.  Her presentation infused the room with leadership lessons as well as perfume.

I first heard about Barb on CBC’s television show, “Dragons’ Den” – I remember cheering for her since she is from the Halifax area.  Her segment on this show, as well as her compelling story, can be found at the website.  Interestingly, we are both affiliated with the military – I have served for over 25 years; she is an Honorary Colonel with Royal Canadian Air Force’s 14 Wing in Greenwood, Nova Scotia.  My work in Haiti before, during and after the 2010 earthquake (chronicled elsewhere in the blog and podcast) have resulted in Haiti being a significant part of my life and an influence in becoming the person that I am today; I consider Barb’s efforts at empowering the Haitian farmers in the creation of a workable and sustainable economy as a cornerstone in their building a better future.

From a leadership perspective, I loved the messages that she gave to a crowded room of civilian and military personnel, women and men alike.  I will attempt to convey some of those key thoughts here:

  • Women can yield significant influence and power; use that power to make peace, not war.
  • Not everyone will like your idea; focus on the people that do (20% will never like you regardless of what you do).
  • Don’t be dissuaded by people telling you that you can’t achieve something, especially if they haven’t tried to do it themselves.
  • If you have to make a cold call, give yourself a time limit (e.g., before 5 PM).  This creates a definitive trigger for action – a critical component of making SMART goals.
  • Move quickly towards your vision – there is no hesitation when you know what to do.  Having said that, there is an “art of war” battle rhythm that sees periods of maintenance (steady action) interspersed with pushing of boundaries (exertion) towards continued growth.
  • There are many valuable lessons that can be gleaned from philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, Marcus Aurelius, etc.  Philosophy can help get away from opinion and focus on the facts.  Along the same line, leaders are readers.  Barb is also the author of a book, “The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen” – you can buy it on her website.  I now have a copy, and I look forward to reading it in the near future.

There is significant confluence between her business and her vision; indeed, the two may be the same and that’s what makes her so remarkable.  She is looking at other countries (e.g., Rwanda) that she can work with, and is using her influence to broaden the number of products that come from existing partner countries. The impact that she (and other entrepreneurs that respond to her clarion call to action) will have will be significant, and I wish her every success.

The scents that I recall from the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake were of devastation and despair.  Thanks to Barb and her Vetiver of Haiti perfume, I now have a new scent (and sense) that I can associate with Haiti – a scent of hope.

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