From the June 2016 issue of The Rotarian
Deirdre Maloney is in demand for her expertise in motivation and leadership. As the president of her own company, Momentum LLC, the author of three books, and a columnist for the Huffington Post, Maloney employs a personal brand that she calls “mild audacity,” to challenge conventional assumptions and definitions of success. She joined the Rotary Club of San Diego in 2010 after being invited to a meeting by a Rotarian who read an op-ed column that she wrote in the local newspaper.
THE ROTARIAN: In your latest book, Bogus Balance: Your Journey to Real Work/Life Bliss, you make the case that work/life balance is not achievable but bliss is. Why is bliss easier to achieve than balance?
MALONEY: For me growing up, the message was, Get that career! Have that family! Take advantage of all your opportunities! I burned out trying to do that. I started a company and wrote a book and tried to do things on the side. By trying to have it all and do everything really well, I wound up doing things pretty poorly. My argument is: You can’t have it all, but you can have your all. That means you need to make choices. Sometimes it isn’t choosing between doing something we want to do and don’t want to do. Sometimes the choice is between something we want to do a lot and something we want to do but not as much.
TR: In your book Tough Truths, you discuss 10 leadership lessons that “we don’t talk about.” What is most important to know about leadership?
MALONEY: Two things: Relationships are everything, and politics are everywhere. If you want to be a great leader, you need to be able to form really strong relationships. And they have to be authentic relationships. You can’t let your own self-worth go up and down as your successes go up and down. When you create change and hold people accountable, you’re not always going to be popular. It’s valuable to have your own group of people outside of your work who think you’re great.
TR: Is there a personal leadership lesson that helped you find bliss?
MALONEY: I think for me it was that I don’t always have all the answers and I’m going to make mistakes. But fear of moving forward is not an option. If I make mistakes, I still can figure it out.
TR: Drawing upon your expertise, what advice do you have for Rotary as an organization?
MALONEY: To keep Rotary thriving, we need to focus on membership as a twofold thing. Bringing in new members is terrific. But the other piece is retention. We know the risk for this organization is that incoming generations may not see the value in one static community that they see every week. We need to convince people to come and make that experience a net positive by showing the benefits: good programs and being able to network.
TR: You describe your personal brand as “mild audacity.” Please explain.
MALONEY: I try to be a little bit of a provocateur. I don’t want to be brazen. But I don’t want to conform. I say the things other people don’t say … but I say it nicely.