Founders of Live Your Potential, Jean Kim and Lilit Simonyan, have built their thriving organization on empowering, educating, and enabling women to live their fullest potential. Leadership, career development and fostering a community of like-minded women have made LYP essential for women to connect to their inner light in the 21st Century.
Continuing in their mission to highlight women’s full potentials, LYP is launching a series of articles on Women Who Lead, a look at Canada’s unique female leaders. Their stories will hopefully inspire, educate and ignite that potential leader in each one of us.
To start LYP’s series on Women Who Lead, Despina Zanganas, Co-Founder and Former National Director of Lean In Canada will be November’s highlighted leader.
In the last 10 years alone, Despina Zanganas has managed to do the following:
– Co-founded Lean In Canada (a community of professional women empowering each other to build purposeful and fulfilling careers)
– A member of a successful real estate company, PSR Brokerage (Toronto’s premium boutique full-service real estate brokerage.) For Despina’s business she focuses her business on coaching women to buy their own homes.
– Former Creative Director and Co-founder of 108 IdeaSpace (108 Ideaspace helps organizations rethink their approach to marketing and engagement using digital strategy, technology, and design)
– A successful Public Speaker on Real Estate, Women’s Empowerment and Networking (engagements included, to name a few, Procter and Gamble, Lean In Canada, Hyundai and Sapient Publicis)
– Is an Advisor for the Women in Leadership Foundation (a non- profit organization dedicated to advancing women in leadership and empowering the next generation)
– And lastly, has media presence with the National Post, CBC Radio, Sun TV and Flare to date.
Born to lead, motivated to empower, and always a giver for the greater good, Despina Zanganas is a Woman Who Leads with both her heart and soul. So who inspires her? How does she perceive leadership? What has she learned as a female leader? These questions and many more will help us unfold our learning of Despina Zanganas as a woman who leads.
1. What inspired you to create Lean In Canada? Did you always know you wanted to do something to empower women in our communities?
I first saw Sheryl Sandberg in 60 minutes. If you do not know who she is, Sheryl Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and the founder of Lean In. She wrote the book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead which I read and fell in love with. In her book, Sheryl talks about concepts such as our unconscious biases and imposter syndrome when it comes to us women leading. The book also spoke about strategies that empower women to achieve their potential. I could not get enough of her words, so I went on Linked In to see if there were any Lean In Groups in Canada that supported women. To my surprise, there weren’t any, so co-founder Christina Rupsingh, Sarah Kwan and I planned to have our own Lean In meeting with the focus on empowering women to chase their passions and expand on their career goals. We didn’t plan to have 30 women show up to the Lean In session, but I was shocked by its reception and attendance! Seeing there was such excitement around having a community about women’s empowerment, I spoke to my Business Coach Judi Hughes about the vision of having our own permanent Lean In group. 6 years later, we have about 6000 Lean In members in our Canadian chapter. It has been a huge success and I love the concept of giving to others. I believe that by helping others, it can come back to you in some way.
2. How would you define a leader/leadership? Do you believe there is something that women can uniquely bring as leaders?
I believe a leader is fair but doesn’t see the need to be friends with everyone. In fact, the person I admire as a leader is my mentor because she is super encouraging, gives constructive feedback, is extremely wise and honest. I also feel a leader shares your passions and can anticipate what can come next, which I believe is wisdom. A leader perseveres and can understand and adapt to many personalities out there. Women are compassionate, emotional and collaborative which makes them unique in their leadership. It’s all about building great relationships.
3. What is your biggest learning from working with women throughout your career?
Women definitely want to support you and help you rise. They approach things through collaboration and recognize how to work with people. In my article When women put their heads together, great things happen July 27th, 2019, I wrote about Reina, Canada’s first all-female real estate development team whose success stems from community, collaboration, and caring. Their current condo development project was born from a gigantic brainstorming event where the focus was to keep everyone in mind, removing barriers so that all types of people could live comfortably in their homes. Men would tell you what you need in your condo, where women would collaborate with you to find out what type of home would best suit your needs. I also realize that all too often, women undervalue themselves, so the key is… persistent, consistent and believing in yourself, always! I also don’t want to forget to mention that there are a number of men out there who passionately believe in and support women in their career goals. They are part of our changing narrative of women as leaders.
4. Tell us about how you continue to empower women in your current role.
Everything I do and start is about empowering women. Anything I have started is a smart market for women. For example, when I joined the real estate business, my goal was to empower women to make the right financial decision that works for them, not for others. I also don’t shy away from women’s issues and use those opportunities to encourage women to speak to these issues and find solutions through collaboration and encouragement. To further empower women, in my career coaching sessions, I ask them to recognize their passions and speak their truth, always from the heart. Women have so much potential, but they just need to be supported in finding it.
5. How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
On days where I just feel like staying in, I force myself to meet people because their energy renews energy inside of me and motivates me. In fact, meeting people, listening to their stories and learning about them, gets me thinking of ways to help the world. I never ask for anything in these conversations. I always think, “What can I do for you?”, how can I give to make us all happier? As a speaker, I always remember my encounters and share the impact it has on me. I am a strong believer in networking as a key motivator. A great book that illustrates this is Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferazzi. In the book, Keith believes that little changes can have big effects and the best way to make these changes, or in this case motivate, is through meeting people and spreading ideas, messages and positive energies.
6. What advice do you have for young women professionals as they navigate their own leadership journey?
Well as mentioned several times, learn how to network. Educate yourself, understand the world around you and learn how to be a global citizen. The more people you meet, the more you will learn about yourself and others, therefore finding out your own leadership style and passions. Don’t wait to lose your job to start networking…always seek opportunities to network and build that community for yourself. Understand your values as well and your branding, especially when it comes to social media. You always want to be professional and selfless. And lastly be comfortable with the uncomfortable because there are going to be times when you are shy, unsure or scared to try something out, but the only way to grow is to be brave to try. Bravery is part of any type of leadership.
Any last words Despina for women?
You are very much a leader. Be coached on how to use your leadership skills, seek out opportunities to finesse them and learn how to communicate effectively. It’s all in the relationships!
Thank you to Despina Zanganas for her insights for women who lead. You can find Despina Zanganas on https://iamdespina.com/ and be sure to follow her blogs on Linked IN https://www.linkedin.com/in/iamdespina/detail/recent-activity/posts/. Despina is a speaker, leader, and career coach who will truly encourage that potential in all of us.
(The following interview has been edited for Live Your Potential)
Sephra Khan is a lifelong educator who is open, curious and deliciously happy! Always seeking to cultivate more awareness, flow and creativity in people. Practices and educates on an integrated, balanced approach to life (one that is holistic, diverse and inclusive). She is currently a guest writer for LIVE YOUR POTENTIAL.