Career

Leadership, Success, and Following Your Heart

When the company I cofounded began to grow, I found myself in a leadership position for the first time in my life. I was a boss – a role I hadn’t given any thought to, and one I was not prepared for. It often left me feeling out of place but I was sure I’d adjust. It was exciting – this thing I was so passionate about was growing and I loved our team, brand, and mission, so I went with it.

I worked for myself for five years before I was in charge of a team, and missed both the flexibility and autonomy. I know I’m not the only leader who longed for the days when I was only responsible for myself. I didn’t want to be a boss anymore but the bigger realization was that I never really did.

We are told to lean in – to go for every opportunity. We live in an age of side hustles and being nonstop and never quitting. Stepping down could be seen as step back or lack of ambition. When I became a mom, something felt off. The hours I had childcare were spent working, so there was zero time for myself. I get that’s being a working mom but does it have to be that way? Self care went out the window and I felt so burned out. After eight months of treatment, I planned to go back but as we got closer to my return date, I realized it wasn’t the best decision for my family. I had to protect us. 

It helps that I can do (almost) the same thing with my own blog on a much smaller and simpler scale with complete autonomy. I have Anecdote as well, and some ideas for the future. After working nonstop since 2007, first doing graphic design for myself and then, as a cofounder leading a company and team, it feels so good to slow down. 

I have always worked best on my own – it’s what I enjoy and how I feel the most productive. Leading meetings, having people report to me, and telling people what to do did not fulfill me at all. You either enjoy those things and thrive in that position or you don’t. In some ways, leading wasn’t for me but in others, I was actually a great leader. I cared about the women who worked for me and I still do. I cared about their happiness and balance. About the community we built. About doing work I believe in. 

There is no shame in not wanting to be a manager or leader and being “at the top” is not synonymous with success. Sometimes, success looks like slowing down. But when your company is successful you find a way to make it work, right? Right. Success is not defined by a big team, office, or a fancy title. I never cared about any of that. For me, it’s about being happy, having balance, and having time for myself and my family. For years, I felt unsuccessful because I wasn’t living the way I wanted to. I would rather make a good living and have more time with my husband and children than be at the top of a growing company and not have the balance I want and need.

When I made the decision to permanently step down from a company I helped build, I felt lighter, and being true to myself gave me a sense of freedom that I hadn’t felt in a while. I was tired of multitasking and being busy. I set a boundary and put my needs and the needs of my family first. That is not giving up, failing, quitting, or a step in the wrong direction. I got to be a part of something incredible, and I am so, so grateful for that. The community, the content, and the amazing women I worked with over the years – I am so lucky to have experienced everything that I did. 

I read something about how leadership isn’t about managing people. Leaders influence people. Not in a social media “influencer” way (hate that title so much, ha) – they improve the system, are efficient, and empower others. That is the kind of leader I want to be. 

Maybe it’s a small shift or maybe it’s the realization that a big change is in order, but doing what feels right for you matters. Success is about doing what you love and being true to yourself, so if you’re struggling with a new role or management position, know you are not alone in that. This felt especially important to share as a woman who wanted more time with her kids. It’s not always about choosing working full-time or being with your kids full-time. I work, but I also have time with my kids. I have time for self-care. For connection.  There wasn’t a way for me to go back and have what I needed, so I didn’t go back. This isn’t me giving up on my career. It’s just a different path – one that allows me to create in a different way and still be there for my girls (and myself) the way I want and need to be. 

And that is success. 

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  • Thank you for sharing this, Danielle! This was one of the biggest things I realized for myself 10 years into the workforce, and it’s so nice to hear that other people feel this way too. It’s okay to not want to be a manager. It’s okay to find happiness outside of climbing the ladder. It’s been such a relief realizing that for myself and not getting myself down for wanting something different. I hope someone reads your story and has that realization for themselves too. Thank you! 💕

    1. Hi Alyssa,

      I (obviously) relate and am so glad you found happiness. Hopefully we can help someone else do the same.

      Danielle

  • This is success indeed! Thank you for being open and sharing about a topic that is not discussed nearly enough. I relate so much to how you feel. Thank you for letting me know I am not alone in not wanting to manage a bunch of people. You explained this so well. So happy for you and your sweet family.

  • Thank you for sharing. I found myself saying “yes!” “Wow! So true” “need more of this!” As I read along. I am especially encouraged to hear you listed to yourself and put in the work to figure out what wasn’t aligning. There’s a lot to be said for hustle and grit, but it’s so often synonymous with busyness and power careers. While there is a place for this, hustle, grit, and even great success often come from the spaces in between. Thank you for calling attention to this and openly sharing along the way.

    As an aside, I wanted to say I subconsciously noticed this shift in your life. Prior to this season I found myself unfollowing you on Instagram simply because it wasn’t the right fit for me at the time and I try to practice decluttering my feed often for accountabilities sake. However, I’ve been following along now for quite some time, and can say you’re one of my most impactful follows and while you often ask what it is that makes us follow along, for me it’s your desire to ask big questions and wrestle though making sense of them. I think so often “influencers” get caught up in the posts and things and you’ve made such an effort to make it about the people and the connections. I feel this as a reader. Thank you.

    1. Hi Jamie,

      You are so welcome. This might sound weird but I’m really glad that you unfollowed when it did not feel right and wish everyone would be more mindful of who they follow. We let these people into our lives and should really be more careful with who we give that kind of “access” (right word?) too. Sometimes, people don’t resonate, and it’s the healthiest decision to move on. The people and connections are what matters most, and I would like to do more of that, so thank you!

      Danielle

  • Thank you for crafting the words to capture how (I suspect) so many of us feel when we become accidental managers. Sometimes I crave time to myself and I would love to turn off my phone and laptop to escape the pressing responsibilities of managing a team. I think your blogpost will resonate with a lot of people. Thank you for taking the time to write it and I wish you the best of luck on your new path.

    1. I relate so *so* much. You are so welcome! It’s always nice to hear from someone who gets it so thank you for sharing your story, too.

  • Hi Danielle,

    I am so happy that you have found a balance that makes your life so much better, truly. I am a proud stay at home mom and I’m curious why you have resisted ‘leaning in’ to this new role that you have. Yes, you have a blog, as many SAHMs do, and you support your husband’s family business on occasion. You are a full time mom (albeit with a nanny). Embrace it! Curious why you resist this new title that so many are so proud of, and so many are desperate to have but can’t swing it financially.

    Thanks,
    Shannon

    1. Hi Shannon,

      I’m not resisting anything, and I find it interesting that women feel the need to label/title other women’s roles. Why, as mothers, are we so hard on other moms? To tell them who and what they are? It’s really not ok.

      To clear things up, Anecdote isn’t my husband’s family business. He and I are partners – WE own 1/3 together. I personally put money into that business. I’m also doing the social media, marketing, newsletter, photography, etc and plan on expanding my role since I now have the time to do that. So between that and my blog, which, if I’m *really* doing it, takes TIME – I’m not a stay at home mom – a position I truly TRULY respect. It’s way harder than any job I’ve ever done. Zero defensiveness at all – but I feel that I need to stand up for women who are being labeled and defined, because that is just not ok. I’d be proud if that’s what my role was, but it’s not.

  • Thank you for sharing – this sums up so much of what I felt about my ten-year career but couldn’t admit to myself at the time. I had to go through severe burnout and medical leave before I finally realized it was time to move on. Bravo for realizing it, making the change, and moving on! It can be hard and scary, but I’m sure sharing your experience will help others.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this! Your idea of what leadership looks and feels like for you completely resonates with me. And finding balance (which I still struggle with) is so important. Thank you for being honest to yourself and putting your feelings out in the world.

  • In my life, nearly everyone has called me bossy, a leader, independent. I’m at a point in my career where everyone is telling me to break out on my own and start a private practice. And as much as I want to be my own boss, I do not want to run a business. I want to be a therapist. And I know some people are great at both, but I don’t want to. I hear you Danielle, and it’s just not for all of us.