"So when the fear comes, dig deep inside and trust yourself."

By Claire Zillman
March 7, 2017

Angela Ahrendts, senior vice president for retail at Apple and the former CEO of Burberry, has one big piece of advice for her two daughters Sommer and Angelina: Be present.

“Being present is the greatest gift you can give another person, and the greatest way to more closely connect with them. When you are present, you are living in the moment vs. in your mind. You are seeing, hearing, and feeling another person, and together you are even more empowered to do great things. This is a gift that often comes more naturally to women.”

Ahrendts sent that message in a letter she wrote as part of a campaign called “To my daughter” put on by executive search firm Egon Zehnder. It’s part of a larger initiative called Leaders & Daughters that features a series of live events aimed at highlighting the challenges facing the next generation of professional women and tapping into the experience and insight of accomplished leaders.

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Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments and board member of Estee Lauder and Starbucks, also joined the “To my daughter” campaign. She wrote a message to her three-year-old daughter by pulling from what W.E.B. Du Bois told his own daughter in 1914: Be honest, frank, and fearless.

“I will expect you to be honest; I will hope for your frankness; and I will encourage you at every turn to be fearless. As you know, although you are only three, I often tell you to be ‘be brave.’ I emphasize bravery because I have seen crippling fear cause so many people to give up on the lives and loves that they want. Here is the thing to know; everyone feels fear—and you cannot be brave without it. So when the fear comes, dig deep inside and trust yourself. In this regard, Du Bois says it best when he urges his daughter to ‘Take the cold bath bravely.’ In other words, while you may not be able to stop your fears, you can overcome them.”

In her letter, Maryam Banikarim, executive vice president and global chief marketing officer of Hyatt Corporation, encourages her daughter Natasha to “go for it.”

“Be willing to just pick something you’re passionate about and go all in. Chase it and don’t give up. Put fear aside. And remember, if Mom could do it, so can you.”

The campaign is not limited to female leaders. Eric Sprunk, chief operating officer of Nike, tells his daughter to pursue a full life, professionally and personally:

“I want you to know you can be an incredible business leader, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, godparent, friend and wife all at the same time. In fact, the better you are at those things outside the workplace the better you will be in the workplace, and I want you to work for people and companies that recognize and enable that balance.”

NFL player Martellus Bennett, who won the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots in February, also got in on the act, penning a touching note to his young daughter (who famously hijacked his post-Super Bowl press conference):

“Jump, my adventurous black girl! You have dreams to catch. Wait, don’t forget your cape….”

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