The Next Diversity Challenge: Embracing Our Natural Leadership Styles

Melanie Dunn portraitWXN’s mantra is ‘celebrate differences’ and ‘lead inclusively.’ I think both of those directives are important when it comes to inspiring the people around you.

It’s an honour to be named to WXN’s Top 100 Most powerful women in Canada list and be part of an outstanding group of leaders in their fields.

All of us have overcome challenges throughout our careers, some of which are inherent to business and some of which are gender-specific. Staying true to my leadership style has not always been easy. I’m fortunate to have been 19 years with a company that has created a business environment where women can stay true to their values.

But more broadly, I would say that despite advancements, a very stereotyped image of leadership remains. By default we tend to celebrate some leadership styles over others. Women are still encouraged to be more assertive, more confident in the boardroom, willing to take more risks and make stronger decisions. In other words, the traditional characteristics of a male C-suite executive.

But I believe that is changing.

The catalyst is that with the way the world is now, we are losing a bit of our humanity. We are going to be progressively open to a whole new kind of leadership, and I think the skills we tend to align with women more than men are going to change in value. Things like empathy, collaboration and generosity: these will no longer be a ‘nice to have’ but a must have.

Women receive a lot of advice on how to succeed in business. I would argue that instead, we should be giving advice to business on how to attract women to the workforce, and start building an environment where women can be themselves. After all, this is what diversity means. If we do the same things in the same ways and have the same behaviours, then diversity is mute.

Years ago one of my account leaders returned to the office after having a manicure with a client and she felt very awkward telling me. Like it was more of a confession than sharing a successful client experience with the boss. I said to her, “Why are you embarrassed? Do you play golf? No. Just think of the manicure as a round of golf.” The light went on.

This is a small story, but it illustrates the broader point that there are legacy codes of how to be in business that don’t work for everyone. Women can be trailblazers in many ways; not just in continuing to push against the traditional means of excluding women from leadership ranks, but also in redefining what we value in leaders overall.

This year, my status as WXN winner will reinforce the goals of ‘celebrating differences’ and ‘leading inclusively,’ that have always guided me professionally. It’s important to see other people’s views, to embrace a diversity of approaches and responses and to encourage people to be wholly themselves. It is on our shoulders to create a world that truly values the idea that there are as many ways to be successful in business as there are leaders in business.

We’re very proud that Melanie is a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner in the HSBC Corporate Executives Category. 

Do you know a female in Canada who deserves to be recognized for her contributions? Click here to learn more about our Top 100 Nominations and how to nominate yourself or someone else. It’s free!


About Melanie:

Melanie Dunn is the Global President and CEO of Cossette.

Dunn, Melanie portrait

2018 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner
HSBC Corporate Executives

A highly accomplished businesswoman, Melanie has over 20 years of experience in business management and marketing communications. She is the President and CEO of Cossette and a member of the executive management team of Vision7 International, a holding company with an extensive portfolio of Communications firms in North America, Europe and Asia.

Melanie is actively involved in several professional and community organizations. She sits on the Board of Directors of the Canada Post Corporation and the Health Standards Organization (HSO). She is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation.

Melanie has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and a Marketing Certificate from the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM).


5 Tips For Effective Change Management

Missed our recent Speaker Series in Toronto on Leading Effective Change Management? Good news: our Digital Brand Ambassador, Silvia Pencak is recapping the event below and sharing her top 5 takeaways.

We’ll also be hosting change-themed Speaker Series in Calgary (Nov 8th) and Vancouver (Nov 7th) next month. Visit our events page for our full Speaker Series schedule, we have a number of can’t-miss events taking place across the country this fall!

Last week, WXN hosted a sold-out Speaker Series event in Toronto where 100+ guests were presented with practical strategies on leading effective change management.

The keynote speaker was Caroline Riseboro (@criseboro), CEO of Plan Canada (@PlanCanada) – one of the oldest non-profit organizations in the country. Caroline shared key lessons she learned during times of major organizational changes as she stepped into her role as CEO. Despite advice to not rock the boat, she decided to trust her gut and make the necessary changes to move the organization forward. There were a lot of “aha moments,” but here are my top 5 takeaways from Caroline’s presentation.

1. Society can’t afford us being stagnant

Change is necessary. Being in a reactive mode is deadly. When you’re reacting to things that are happening, you can feel productive, yet the reality is that you are maintaining status quo. Stability in an organization is important, but if you stick to it, you might soon become obsolete. We’ve seen it happen with giant companies who were ahead of the game and had billions of dollars yet still failed.

2. The only way to get ahead of disruption is to disrupt

If you’re going to ignite a major change, you need to have resilience. It won’t be easy. In order to ignite change, you need to have resilience first. Start today. Do something this year that will push you out of the safety zone and help you build stamina. You will need this resilience when you become a leader and need to make major disruptive decisions.

3. Prepare to let people leave

Change is only possible if the people inside the organization step in the boat. Not everyone will. It doesn’t mean that people are not capable, they are just not the right fit for the organization at the time of change. It’s not easy, but you must be willing to let them go.

4. Know when to push and when to pull

During times of change, constantly check in with people. How are you doing? Is it too much? Are you on track? What’s working? What’s not working? Pay attention to inner dialogue in an organization. Change brings both, passion and interest about where you are heading, but also enough criticism about where you are heading. If you are only hearing excitement, you might not be making the changes necessary and if you are only hearing criticism, you might be pushing too hard. When making the change, you will hear both.

5. Celebrate successes

Small successes will lead to bigger successes. Share successes across the organization to encourage change culture in your organization. You don’t have to be a top leader to do this. Become a change agent no matter where you are in an organization.

Caroline Riseboro is not only a great speaker, she is an inspiring leader who confidently walked her organization through turbulent times of change despite criticism and resistance. I am sure it wasn’t an easy journey. Yet, the results she achieved for her company, like helping more girls this year than ever in history, reaching their best fiscal year yet, and inspiring the Canadian Prime Minister to give his seat to a 16-year-old girl for a day, are things no one can take away from her. Great work, Caroline and all the best on your next journey!



Blogger: Silvia Pencak, founder & CEO of Powerful Life Consulting, a boutique consulting company located in Ontario, Canada.

Silvia is a consultant, speaker and an award-winning blogger. Her specialty is in change leadership and strategic team development. With hands-on experience on over 500 mission critical initiatives across four continents, Silvia helps business leaders establish proven, actionable strategies to keep essential projects on time, on budget, and on the mark with client expectations. Connect with Silvia at or on Twitter (@SilviaPencak).