Exceptional Female Leaders | Dayanara Vonk Ilaria is founder and chief of TheTalentSource

blog - 6 min.

She got into the world of recruitment because she showed talent for it and acted on that: at TNW we love playing out your strengths. Now, with her own company and being a mother of two, Dayanara Vonk Ilaria reflects on her journey: “Leadership really is learning how you can influence yourself.”

Female network “For a long time, I didn’t want to get involved in networking that specifically focused on female business owners. Mostly because I didn’t think it was necessary to put that emphasis on gender. But a couple of years ago, I changed my mind. One of the reasons for that is that I have two young daughters now. That made me have a different outlook on the role of women in our society. Unfortunately, women still don’t have the same position in society as men. We need to support each other, and show our strength. And it’s valuable to learn from other women, share experiences, have a different outlook on matters and create a sense of ‘togetherness’. Next to that, it’s also lots of fun. At TNW you don’t get shallow conversations, but women who are strong, smart and vulnerable at the same time.”


Intersectionality “Being of color wasn’t an issue for me. I think because I mostly work in a ‘white’ environment, and I was so used to it, that I didn’t think about it. But just like my view on feminism, this has changed. It started around the time the story about George Floyd emerged. A lot of people talk more about how being of color has influenced their life now, myself included. For example: a while ago I spoke with a client that said, ‘You know, I didn’t even realise that you’re black’. It made me think. He framed it as a compliment, like: ‘you don’t come across as colored, how good of you’. I spoke to him about that, something that I wouldn’t have done a couple of years ago. Not because it was a difficult subject, but because I wasn’t aware of the subtle bias in sentences like these. Everyone has a little bias in them. Talking about the bias that we all have will help, I’m sure. I must admit that the best conversation I have had were all about discovering our unconscious bias.


Connections “A lot of my business comes through existing clients that refer people to me. I believe in making genuine connections with your clients, real conversations in which you get to know one another. That way it’s easier for me to understand what kind of people will excel in those companies. What jobs someone had, you can read in their resume. But who they truly are..? Investing in what I already have, makes my network strong. Also: one-on-one conversations work better for me. I’m an introvert, so big groups can drain my energy. Although it’s very rare, sometimes a match doesn’t work out. When that happens, I’m very eager to find out what the reason was. I learned that there usually was a gut feeling before, something that didn’t feel quite right.


Choosing your clients “I rarely work for clients that I don’t click with. Ofcourse I don’t immediately like every potential client I meet. But I learned that if there’s something in another person that bothers me, it says more about me than it does about them. That can be quite confrontational. When I started out, I used to be adamant that someone liked me, so if a conversation didn’t flow naturally, I would be way too focused on being ‘nice’. I stopped doing that because it doesn’t work. One of my most loyal, valued clients is someone that I had a quite challenging first conversation with. Don’t give up on someone too soon. It is a process, because you have to learn how to ignore the voice in your head that gives you insecurities, makes you think things like ‘why is this person not liking me?’”


Coaching “I love to feed myself with new insights. It would be great if everyone had the option to talk to a coach or mentor, even if it’s just once a month. But you can also learn a lot by reading books, watching videos on YouTube or listening to podcasts. By gaining new information and ideas this way, you learn how to take a different approach to your own situation. Or maybe even coach other people, I do that too. It’s not only a way of paying it forward, but also educational for yourself and often a fun thing to do. My own coach gave me an interesting assignment a while ago. I had two babies in a short time span and struggled with my business, something didn’t feel right anymore. She asked me to write down 100 things that could be the reason for it. That seems like a lot, but if you only write a couple, you never get to the core. After a while I wrote down ‘I feel like as a mother, it’s impossible to run a professional business anymore, something unexpected will always happen’. I knew immediately that was it, that was blocking my growth. I noticed that by writing it down it has less power over you straight away. After that realisation, I looked at what I could do tackle that fear. For me it was talking with my team about what they should do if I for example had to go home when one of my children was sick. And I wrote out processes for everything we do. A lot of work, but it empowered me and my team. I am no longer blocked by that thought”


The key to leadership “The most important thing about leadership is how to influence yourself next to having the courage to take action, even when it feels very uncomfortable.  Influencing yourself is about feeding your mind with empowering insights and asking the right questions.  why do I think or do this? If you have doubts about a new step or choice, analyse why. And have the courage to make decisions that you know are necessary, but feel uncomfortable. Because: if you don’t have the power to influence yourself, how will you ever be able to influence or manage other people…?

People can make leadership too big. They think it means that they have to be a CEO somewhere. But it’s mostly about getting the ball rolling and taking ownership for your own work and life. Try to find out what it is that you want, what is your intention and then think of how you can reach that. It can be about really small things. If your intention was to get up at 7 in the morning to go to the gym and you succeeded, that’s also being a leader in your own life. There will be people and voices, also in your own head, that try to stop you. If you have the courage to act despite it all and keep influencing yourself for the better, leadership is possible for everyone.”  www.thetalentsource.nl

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