The lesson from “the ugliest woman in the world” for business leaders

by Didier Marlier on Thursday March 19th, 2015

When Lizzie Velasquez, “visually impaired” as they say and aged 17, saw on Youtube, the title “The World’s Ugliest Woman“, she soon realized that the clip was featuring… her! I let you imagine the profound shock this young adolescent felt when, amongst the thousands of comments, she read incredibly pathetic quotes such as “Why would her parents keep her?!” or “kill it with fire”…

Recently, I was walking in the streets of Paris, with a Brazilian citizen, in charge of leadership development for the top 300 in a large family owned company. We were discussing about the number of sad and expressionless faces one can see, often, on the way to and back from work. “Many people don’t understand that life has no meaning” he said. “It is our duty to create a meaning to Life, a Deep Intent for ourselves. Otherwise, we will just “spend time” on Earth” he said. I found interesting his thoughts that an organization needs to create a sense of purpose, a feeling of glory and pride for its employees. When a father or mother go back home at night with the sole satisfaction that they have “sung the Blues to pay the dues”, it is far less energizing than sharing, with passion and faith, the difference they made at work, the social utility to which they contributed with their children…

Sergio’s words were “Food for Thought” to me. What is the meaning I give to my life and what sense of Pride do I ensure that my organization offers to my people…

Just arrived home, my daughter asked me to watch the TED speech made by… Lizzie Velasquez. Yes, far from letting human stupidity and mediocrity take her down, Lizzie decided to “pick herself up”… “Even though I have this syndrome, I can’t let it define me” she says… I encourage you to watch. The start is a bit slow (Lizzie has got to explain her condition and provide background) but fasten you seat belt after minute 8.



Humbling experience… That is someone who decided to give her life a Meaning!

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4 Responses to “The lesson from “the ugliest woman in the world” for business leaders”

  1. Thanks Didier for this sharing.
    Thanks also to your daughter for Lizzie’s conference . Lizie is beautiful so much as many , and an example of courage !
    I have been also particularly touched by the words expressed by your brazilian friend regarding sense of purpose to be given to employees… My decision to leave my company (multinational) started some years ago as I was in place … one evening when my lttle boy 9 years old questionned me “mum will I be like you when I will start to work ?” … “I replied to him : no , trust me from now on I will do everything I am able to , to build a new work envirnement where you as one of our young generation, you will love to work and be happy to ” . Yes definitively our organisations have to change their paradigm …. and courageous Leaders like Lizzie are needed !

    • Thank you Sophie,
      One of the most important advice we give to leaders when they implement change is to “create time and space” so that their people may re-align their Deep Intent with the changes that took place. Luckily, given the apparent success of this post, there are very good reasons to believe in the business community!

  2. Again wonderful post Didier. Lizzie’s unabashed internal strength, courage and authenticity makes space for each of us to show up for our self in similar ways; to not betray our self by presenting/pursuing a sanitized version that is void of deep intent.

    What a waste of opportunity and resources to conduct business in a way that is “flat”, without meaning, that just spends time on earth.

    • Thank you Charley, yes, indeed Lizzie teaches us all such an impacting lesson. No wonder why this specific post seems to be one of the most successful ever on my blog! Life has no meaning, it is up to us to create one!


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