Be the Inspiration: Why Leading With Empathy Helps You Achieve More Success by Elisa Schmitz
Talita Ramos Erickson’s upbringing in Brazil served as the perfect backdrop for building a career in diversity and inclusion. Talita’s neighborhood, near the Argentina and Paraguay borders, was “extra diverse,” she says, exposing her to a wide variety of cultures and people. With a grandmother who was half Black and half Indigenous Brazilian, and a godfather who was openly gay, Talita grew up with empathy for people of every shade of the rainbow.
That’s why it makes perfect sense that Talita serves as chief diversity and inclusion (D & I) officer, as well as chief legal and compliance officer, for Barilla Group, a 140-year-old Italian food company that employs more than 8,000 people. Barilla employees are encouraged to bring their authentic selves to work and expect a culture of acceptance and understanding. The leadership it takes to create that environment is Talita’s specialty. And this is why Talita is such an inspiration.
Being the inspiration means you use the skill of leadership to motivate yourself and others to make the world a better place. Showing leadership enables you to bring out the best in yourself and in others so you can effect positive change. The more you lead with empathy, the more inspiring you will be. And as you become the inspiration, you can achieve more success.
“Being connected to all kinds of people had a huge impact on how I see things,” Talita says. “The number one quality of leadership is empathy. It’s very hard to lead when you don’t care about people.”
Leaders are self-starters with inner strength, which enables them to fuel their motivation. Driven by a purpose that is authentic to them, they not only find inspiration – often in the mundane or chaotic everyday moments of life – but also act on that inspiration. Leaders manifest their inspiration, transforming their ideas into real-world change.
I’m honored that Talita shared her inspiring story in my book, Become the Fire: Transform Life’s Chaos into Business and Personal Success. As the featured “Flame” in the chapter on being the inspiration, Talita explains how she learned to overcome challenges and failures, took on increasing amounts of responsibility and eventually landed at Barilla – where she found her calling.
“I wanted to impact people’s lives,” she says. And at Barilla, she does. “The most rewarding part of the job is creating an environment where people can succeed and feel that they’re a better mom, friend or father because they work for this company.”
Talita shares many insights learned from her experiences on the road to the C-suite, to encourage women from all walks of life to achieve their own goals. She attributes her leadership success to helping normalize a more diverse, inclusive and compassionate definition of leadership. “As one of my colleagues said to me about the pandemic, ‘We’re all in the storm, but we’re not all in the same boat.’ If you’re a leader, you need to acknowledge that everyone is in a different boat. That’s empathy.”
You can read more about Talita, and get many more of her insights, by ordering your copy of Become the Fire (foreword by Mary Dillon, former CEO of Ulta Beauty and current CEO of Foot Locker) for yourself or for someone you think may benefit from the stories and lessons shared by her and this diverse group of highly successful leaders:
- Paula Boggs, former chief legal officer of Starbucks
- Laura Desmond, former CEO of Starcom
- Sarah Hofstetter, president of Profitero
- Angela Martinez Korompilas, former CEO of American Hotel Register Company
- Kim Oster-Holstein, founder and CEO of Kim & Scott's Gourmet Pretzels, Twisted Alchemy
- Winnie Park, CEO of Forever 21
- Jules Pieri, founder of The Grommet
- Desiree Rogers, CEO of Black Opal Beauty
- Emily Smith, CEO of Wild Sky Media
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Order your copy of Become the Fire: Transform Life’s Chaos into Business and Personal Success.
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