By WISE National
WISE Women of the Year honoree Elizabeth Lindsey has shaped her career around raising the profile of and creating opportunities for women in sports. Here, Wasserman's president of brands and properties talks about the importance of staying true to yourself and creating genuine relationships within your network.
Describe a moment in your career that you would say was pivotal to your professional journey.
At a very young age while working in PR at a major corporation, I was offered a "dream" job: It would've been a promotion and a lot more money. But the problem was, I didn't like the subject matter of the job. I would not have been happy. So I turned it down, which is unheard of in corporate America. Five days later, I was given my very first assignment in sports: to write the press release for my company's sponsorship of an F1 team. That assignment led to my career in sports. I think of that moment often — and the karma of it all. Choose happiness and passion over money and titles. Stay true to yourself in moments like that, and the right path will open for you. That one simple decision three decades ago to say no to something I wasn't passionate about is directly responsible for me being where I am today.
Who has been your greatest role model, and what did they teach you?
My mom. She taught me the power of relationships in business and in life. If you build a network out of genuine interest in other people and you sincerely try to help them when they need you, then they will return that favor when you need them. Authentic, genuine and sincere relationships are life's secret weapon and the most powerful business tool.
Was there a moment when you considered leaving the sports industry, and what made you stay?
There have always been challenges. This is not an easy business, especially for women. There have been moments where I was overlooked, underestimated, marginalized — as I am sure many women have been. But to me, that was always fuel to try harder and to prove people wrong. Stripping away all that noise, sports is an unparalleled marketing platform, and I wouldn't want to work anywhere else. I have always believed that if I kept my head down and stayed focused on doing everything I could to leverage that platform to deliver great work for my clients, the rest would take care of itself.
How do you keep your ideas and contributions fresh and relevant? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Inspiration can come from anywhere and anyone! One of my favorite quotes is "I use all the brains I have — and any I can borrow." Keep interesting, smart people around you, and listen to them. Have a deep intellectual curiosity about different points of view, learning new things and welcoming new ideas. Inspiration will find you from there.
In your career, what has been a "Pinch me, I'm dreaming" or "This is too good to be true" moment?
So many! Notably, I remember the very first meeting I had with the CEO of my biggest, most important client. Here I was sitting in his gorgeous office in New York overlooking the Statue of Liberty and that amazing downtown skyline. And in that meeting, I was convincing this accomplished leader of a Fortune 100 company to spend money on a program I thought was right for his iconic brand. He agreed, and I walked out with approval. That moment was a long, long way from growing up in a small, tobacco-farming town in the South. I was thrilled, but most importantly, I was humbled and grateful. Having an opportunity like that — to personally do my small part to impact such a storied brand — meant a great deal to me.
How have you helped break down barriers and create opportunities for other women in the industry, and what advice would you give to others — men and women — looking to do the same?
I try to remember one thing: Pay it forward. When I came up in this business, it was difficult for women, but I made it to a point of success that I am grateful for. I pay that forward by doing everything I can to make it just that much easier for the women who have come behind me to succeed. Whether that's through hiring and empowering women, providing networking opportunities to women (The Wasserman Women's Only Cocktail Series), launching a Women's Sports division (The Collective), or just being open or available when women need advice or need to vent, all of that is to pay it forward.
What still challenges you most in your personal or professional life?
Well, many would say it's my complete inability to clean up my language — I still cuss like a sailor. But to me, I've accepted that part of my personality. I am still working on the ability to let go; I still struggle with thinking I have to do everything myself in order to be truly useful when, in fact, teaching others to do things without you is the most useful you can ever be.
Fill in the blank …
- I wish I had known … my grandfather. From what I understand, he was an accomplished businessman, but more importantly, a generous humanitarian. I would have liked to learn from him.
- Growing up, I wanted to be … a pharmacist. Don't ask me why. The folly of youth that lasted only one class period into organic chemistry. Then I snapped out of it.
- When I have downtime, you can find me … traveling! My goal each year is to visit one place in the U.S. and one place in the world that I have never seen before. Nothing opens up your perspective more than seeing new places and meeting new people.
- My greatest fear is … regret. Don't leave anything important unsaid or undone.
- I can't live without my … family and my friends. There is nothing more reassuring in the crazy world than your circle. Keep them close.
Lindsey will receive her WISE Women of the Year Award at the 26th Annual Awards Luncheon on March 9, 2022, in New York City.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.