Perfectly you

Serena William’s comeback helps Carmen Spinoza rethink the one thing that makes strategic advisers indispensable.

Last Sunday, in the Qantas business class lounge in Singapore, I spotted the cover of Time Magazine. It read “Perfectly Serena” and had a picture of the most famous working mum of the moment. Unsurprisingly, because I think of you often, my mind turned to my closest strategic advisers. You know who you are, you have helped me harness my professional reputation while choosing what was best for Globocorp: paths that are sometimes — but not always — mutually exclusive.


Serena’s path, since her return from maternity leave, has been both bumpy and stellar. On the court, she’s had some losses and has yet to return to her flawless self. But off the court, you cannot find a better example of owning her story and making an asset of her flaws. Her patchiness makes her authentic, her ups and downs anointed her as the comeback queen, the poster girl for working mums and second chances. 

As I kept reflecting on her story, it made me think about yours. There is one thing that distinguishes the good advisers from the absolutely indispensable ones: authenticity. There is a certain wisdom and gravitas that come with owning your weaknesses and sharing how you overcome them, however imperfectly, whatever your gender or circumstances. 

Serena Williams, in every game and every business move, is selling a 21st century commodity that is so hard to grasp and yet impossible to resist: human reality. Don’t misread me, we still have to wear our work personas. But they are no longer wearing the 1980s power suits or playing unbreakable alpha heroes. It is much more complex than that. Today, we must ace this balancing act: be professional, deliver, be human, be authentic, fit in and stand out. This is the paradox I face as I travel the world and guide my company’s corporate affairs. 

So let me finish with a challenge to you. Be like Serena and bring some personality to the court or your team, leave the personal drama at the door. Inspire me with your humanity but try not to drop any balls while you’re at it. How? I have no immediate answers. However, I think I know where the next Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders scenario might be. If you want to play or, even better, help me develop it, let’s connect on twitter @CarmenSpinoza11.