What does it mean to be a core-led woman and a core-led leader?



How can living and leading in this way, help eliminate guilt, help avoid burnout and define and create success on your terms?


Being core-led is as simple as; who are you at your core? If I was to cut you in half like a stick of rock, you’d have that writing that goes through the centre from the bottom to the top, that’s what I mean by your core. If we strip away all of the labels that you have been given, assigned and accrued over the years. The boxes you have been placed in or jumped in yourself over the years, if we strip all of that back, that’s who you are at the core.


When I first start working with my clients, the initial message from them is they are out of alignment, lost, burnt out, they want to feel more successful and alive. Many of these women are highly successful, but they just feel something is out of sync for them. I always start with the same question. Who are you?


We usually start with their age, are they a mother, a wife, a manager, a friend, a sister? All of these are important in life, but if we strip back all of these family labels and if we took away the work, who would you be at your core?


A lot of the women I speak to, live to work and work to live in equal measure. I’ve been there myself and hear a lot that ‘my work is who I am’.


When I hit my burnout in 2013, it was in that recovery phase that I really started to do this deep dive discovery. What had gotten me to the point of burnout? Why had I stepped so far away from my values and who I was at the core just to try and fit in and change a toxic working environment. I started to ask myself these questions and I knew I needed to get back to my core values and my core reasons of why I got into this line of work in the first place.


The drivers

The passion

The values

The strengths


Who am I?


I had separated from my core to try and become somebody and something that I wasn’t and to try and change an organisation and people that were toxic. When I left the corporate workplace (which I never thought I would do) it was in that who are you question and my promise to myself that I would stay true to myself and who I was at my core. When I asked myself who are you? It was then I heard myself say, “ I want to be self employed and start my own business”


I left corporate and started out on my own, but I had many months where I had this identity crisis and was wondering who actually am I without this job, job title and status? That’s sometimes where we can feel a bit lost, as we assign so much of who we are, to the roles that we play.


I had so much self doubt and my confidence took a huge deep dive and I remember back then having a conversation with one of my coaches about feeling lost. We talked about my journey to get to that place and my values and passions and we worked on moving past this identity that I had created that I was my job. I realised that all of the holidays, the money, my home, my cars are all just a bonus and I don’t need any of that to allow me to live a core-led life. I am still me!


I genuinely believe that who we are meant to be, is who we come into this world as.

And yet we are taught, trained and conditioned by everyone in our lives telling us this is how you should be. I was always seen as stubborn, headstrong, bossy and opinionated and I can remember family, teachers and bosses wanted me for my creativity and opinion, but they all wanted a little bit less.


We love your enthusiasm but can we have a little bit less of it.

We love your creativity but we need a little bit less of it.

We love the fact you tell it like it is but we need a little bit less of it.


So year after year I continued to become a little bit less, because this is what I had been taught and trained to do. This I believe is what got me to burnout and that the signs of burnout had been there for a number of years. But I continued to ignore them because when I became that little bit less me, I was rewarded with another promotion and salary increase. Over an 8 year period I had been given 7 promotions and added over £100,000 to my salary and to the outside world I was 32 years old, an HR Director, had a big 6 figure salary, security, kids, house, marriage, dog, all the bling, red soled shoes and designer handbags. I was the pinnacle of success, but I was being rewarded for being that little bit less of me.


Every time I was a little bit less me, I was taking 1 step further back from who I was at the core.


Let’s talk about mid-life crisis. I don’t quite believe in this and if it is the case then I had my mid-life crisis when I was 32 years old. I think we just get to the point where we are asking; is this it? Is this truly what my life is meant to be? We realise that we are not being true to ourselves and core-led and it’s like a wake up call where we realise we don’t want to continue the life we are currently living. We’ve stepped so far away from who we are and meant to be and something has to give.


What is your definition of success?


For me from an early age I can remember every Sunday my Dad would get the Sunday Times and there was a page about houses. Some houses were selling for hundreds of thousands and some for millions. Some with tennis courts, land, stables, swimming pools and I’d used to look at those and say “I’m going to have one of those houses one day”


Some people used to say that “people like us don’t have those sorts of houses, Kelly”. But there was such a drive in me and I thought well why not, why can’t I have it? Even from that young age there was something in me that said success was having a big house and all about chasing the money and in order to get the money, I had to get as many qualifications as I could.


3 months after my 20th birthday I had given birth to my twin sons. It wasn’t part of my plan as I wasn’t planning on being a mother until my mid thirties. But there I was 20 years old with twins and I knew that I didn’t want this to stop me. In order for my sons to have the best, I needed to earn the money to make that happen. I did 2 degrees during my son's first 10 years, as well as getting promotions and all the stuff that went with it. This is what success looks like isn’t it? I had all of this by the time I was 30. But I started to reflect and think what else? Is this it now?


I had this turning point and thought what else can I work towards now and even though I had all of this success, I still didn’t feel successful. I think it’s important for all of us to be able to define OUR definition of success.


My definition of success is: safety and security for myself and my family and having time to spend with loved ones.


You don’t have to get to the point of a ‘mid-life crisis’ or a huge life event to make changes.


Don’t get me wrong, money does make life a heck of a lot easier. I struggled in the beginning when my twins were babies and with the nursery fees. I kept thinking, just keep going, work hard and you will get the promotions and earn more money. My sons never went without and I did have to make cutbacks, but I worked towards my goals of earning more and providing for them. Later on I realised all I wanted to do was to eat dinner with my sons every night, instead of spending that time commuting from London. My definition of success changed.


I see many women that don’t want the corporate life or to climb the career ladder quickly and that’s ok. A couple of my friends have jacked in huge corporate jobs to be a yoga teacher and I’ve never seen them so happy. Are they making loads of money? No! Have they had to make cutbacks and big life changes? Yes! But I have never seen them so happy and that’s because they are doing work that is aligned to their core. They are happier and healthier and everything else falls into place because of this.


So if you were to strip back and forget all those labels and boxes and think who are you? Who am I? What would you find? Now is the time to get really clear on this, as I believe it’s only when you are core-led that we eliminate the guilt, avoid the burnout and create and define success on our own terms.


Lift and elevate yourself and once you can do this, you will be able to lift and elevate everybody else.


Kelly


In 2013 Kelly had a successful leadership career, yet she was burned out, exhausted, and missing out on life with family.

Determined to enjoy the success that she had earned, she's learned to create a life of balance and boundaries that is also highly successful.

Today at kellyswingler.com, Kelly helps women leaders all over the world to prevent and recover from burnout without giving up their career or jeopardising their wellbeing.

Join Me at Power Up 2022