I must admit that I’m not one to be star struck. In fact, I would probably be completely oblivious if Brad Pitt was in line with me at the grocery store or if I passed Tom Cruise on the street. There is however one celebrity that I have recently become fascinated by… This celebrity isn’t tall dark and handsome, nor does this person have bulging biceps and abs of steel.
The celebrity I’m speaking of has overcome great adversity, has a keen business sense and perhaps most appealing, is the way she owns the room while still maintaining her femininity. The celebrity I’m referencing is Barbara Corcoran, most recently of SHARK TANK fame.
I would classify Barbara as a modern day hero because she is not only a female pioneer in her industry, but she serves as a professional role model for women in business. Women have served in the workforce for less than a century and therefore there are very few women in senior leadership positions. Consequently, many women look to emulate the behaviors and actions of successful men in leadership roles. Unfortunately, this usually does not produce the desired results.
Let’s examine the roles that men and women played in the days of the Cave Man… Men were the hunters and women were the gatherers. Men embarked on their tasks with the single focus of producing their desired result – kill the animal in order to provide for their family. Women on the other hand, focused on multiple tasks at once. They would gather berries, watch the children, and talk loudly to one another in order to scare predators away. It was important for women to collaborate and stick together because being ostracized from the group could threaten their safety. Examining gender roles in primitive times is a good illustration of men and women’s natural talents and tendencies. Studies have shown that biologically, men are naturally driven by competition, single focused, and results oriented; whereas women are naturally more likely to be driven by their vision, take on multiple tasks at once, and have a stronger desire to please. Now please understand that I’m not saying that women can’t be competitive or result oriented or that men can’t multi-task. What I am saying is that a woman’s biological make-up and brain chemistry is very different than a man’s; and therefore, our natural talents are different and the way that we go about producing the same result will likely be different. This is why it is incredibly important for women to have female role models to emulate, and Barbara is quite a role model!
Barbara received a degree in education from St. Thomas Aquinas College in 1971. She was a straight “D” student and after graduation quickly figured out that teaching in the traditional sense was not for her. She took on about 20 odd jobs before accepting a $1,000 loan from her boyfriend to start a real estate business, The Corcoran Group. Shortly after founding the company, her boyfriend ran away with her secretary telling Barbara that she would never amount to anything. Barbara used this hardship as motivation to succeed and turned The Corcoran Group into a multi-million dollar empire. In 2001, she sold the business to NRT, LLC for $70 million. Barbara has since become a three time New York Times Best Selling Author, is the real estate expert for NBC’s Today Show, and is a ‘Shark Investor’ on NBC’s reality show “Shark Tank”.
While Barbara’s success of parlaying a $1,000 loan into a multi-million dollar business is certainly impressive, it isn’t what makes me admire Barbara. What I admire about Barbara is her ability to simultaneously be powerful and feminine. When I watch Barbara on Shark Tank, she exudes confidence, power and humility; yet, she never comes across as arrogant, aggressive, or worse yet – “bitchy”. It is clear to me from studying Barbara that she approaches business by embracing her natural feminine talents. She is not overly girly nor does she flaunt her female sexuality; but her feminine leadership traits shine through. She lives her vision as a means to achieving results rather than just striving to achieve for the sake of achieving. She seeks “win-win” scenarios when negotiating with the entrepreneurs on the show whereas her male colleagues often use a “strong arm” competitive tactic; and she doesn’t invest in companies that deviate from her greater vision, even if she sees an opportunity for profit.
When we as women utilize our natural strengths rather than emulating male behavior, it allows us to be incredibly powerful. It is arguable that all five investors on Shark Tank have achieved great monetary success, or have produced the same “result”, yet it is clear that Barbara’s leadership qualities are vastly different than the other four male investors.
When women are put in an environment where they are forced to use the same tactics a man would use to achieve a particular result they typically experience burn-out, extreme exhaustion, and are unfulfilled. However, when women gain an understanding of their innate and distinct talents and maximize them, the outcome is astounding – and Barbara Corcoran is living proof!
I’ll finish with this last snippet about Barbara from an article in New York Magazine. Young, not rich Corcoran got a hard lesson in the power of image very early on. She was living with two roommates in an apartment on East 86th Street when her landlord served her with an eviction notice.
I went to see the landlord, Johnny Campagna — the most handsome man in New York, and I asked why I was being evicted. Turns out he thought I was a hooker. That’s when I learned my first lesson about image.
While most of us would be satisfied with just setting the record straight and keeping our lease, Corcoran turned Johnny Compagna’s mistake into her first big business opportunity. She told him she could do a better job renting out his building than the guy who worked for him, and he gave her a chance to prove it.
Johnny decided to give me a chance, and so I rented like crazy. That building became my bread and butter.
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