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Fearless: Challenging Boundaries to Reach Your Full Potential

Posted By Robert Wray, Thursday, August 2, 2012

Larree Renda, executive vice president of Safeway Inc., began her career as a Safeway checker at age of 16, was the first woman and youngest person to become a Vice President of the company, then the first woman to be executive vice president. In themselves, qualifications to speak on the subject of breaking through boundaries.

In her featured address, Renda (pictured below) brought attention to the forks in life’s road, noting that "even straight ahead, there are obstacles, challenges.” These are all opportunities to grow, learn, advance, and potentially make a difference, she explained.

"I’ve known about NEW from the beginning, and marveled at work they’ve been doing. I never took the time before. I don’t go to conferences.”

Her experience here led her to a realization:

"My a-ha moment is that there’s so much I can learn, being around bright, remarkable, successful women!”

Noting the use of the word "mosaic” during this Forum, Renda praises its accuracy in describing the nature of self.

"It’s the smaller moments. Not a big crescendo,” she said, that often shape who we are.

Her key theme: Never give up on your dreams. When she was a young teen, her father was diagnosed with cancer, then died two years later. This harsh fact of life prompted her to form her dream, to be a doctor and cure cancer. When he passed away, her mother lived far away, and she had no money, no path.

She found a job at Safeway, when she was sixteen years old. She never intended it to be a career, but life happened. She threw aside her dream of being a doctor, but held on to dream of curing cancer. She didn't go to college. Instead, she did what she had to do to make a living, without a support network.

In 2001, she helped establish the Safeway Foundation, one of the most charitable Foundations in America. Through the foundation, over $179 million  has been donated to various cancer research projects.

Having only one college credit to her name was not an obstacle. Having come from working-class roots, with no financial support, and fending for herself were not obstacles. She is helping find a cure for cancer. The dream she never gave up continues to be realized today.

Her second theme is leveraging your strengths to accomplish the most.

"Do what comes naturally. Don’t try to be someone you are not. Don’t apologize for your differences. Capitalize on the traits that contributed to your success.”

She clarified that women lead with brains and hearts, a different leadership style than a man’s. Women are cooperative, supportive, nurturing and participative. Women’s leadership instills pride, loyalty, high morale and peak performance.

"Trying to be a man is a big waste of a woman!” says one of Renda’s favorite quotes.

She also pointed out the CPO model, which highlights Competencies, Passions and Organizational Needs. The intersection of each factor is a "sweet spot” which encourages peak performance. Lack of any component indicates a less than ideal fit for anyone.

Another statement Renda made is that you can speak up, self-promote and still be very successful. You must be assertive and take initiative.

"I’ve never seen anyone who’s been promoted because they did what was in their job description,” said Renda, adding that it’s often necessary to chart your own course.

Losing her husband to cancer led her to the importance of measuring life in quality, rather than quantity. We need to nurture friendships. Share in the things important to loved ones. Tell people we love them, and why we love them.

"Happiness keeps you sweet. Trials and tribulations keep you strong,” says another of Renda’s favorite quotes, to which she adds:

"Sweet and strong makes us irresistible.”

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