At 5-year-old Yasmin Davidds witnessed her abusive father slap her mother yet again. She told her mom that when she grew up, she would make the world a better place for women. Flash forward to age 20, Davidds’ father tried to kill the entire family. Davidds, on the Dean’s List at the University of Southern California, got hooked on amphetamines, got depressed and tried to commit suicide.
When Davidds went to rehab, she finally felt psychologically safe for the first time in her life. She slept well each night, knowing that she had a community that all worked together to support each other even though they came from different walks of life. She realized that she had become suicidal because she was alone; she had no community. “I learned a lot about leadership in life and in rehab,” Davidds recalls.
With a new lease on life, Davidds realized that her story could help others. She wrote her biography, “Empowering Latinas: Breaking Boundaries, Freeing Lives,” that led her to a global speaking tour. Her success as speaker prompted corporations to invite her to their companies to do leadership workshops for their Latina executives. Within a few years, she admitted that she needed to do more. “I was giving them potatoes but no meat. I was giving them hope, but no tools. … I wanted to give them the package deal of inspiration and tools and have a safe place for them to come.”
Davidds proceeded to get her Ph.D. in organizational psychology, then contacted one of her old professors who was the dean of the USC Marshall School of Business. She partnered with the school to launch her institute to help Latina women – the first time the school partnered with a woman. “Even to this day, psychological safety supersedes profit,” Davidds says. “Safety is so important. At 5, I didn’t have it. I didn’t have emotional or physical safety. Now, as a woman, as a CEO, I have the power to create that in my home, in my personal life, and in my business.”
Throughout life, Davidds has learned to learn from her failures and share them with others. “Even when I’m going through a painful experience, I tell myself to get over it and learn from it,” Davidds explains. “My story can be a gift.”
Dr. Yasmin Davidds’ Leadership Institute requires applicants to participate in an extensive interview and commit to a six-month program where they are committed to showing their vulnerability – and transforming. Her program attracts multicultural women from a wide range of work experiences and educational backgrounds. Davidds teaches the fundamentals of leadership, but the diverse women participating are in a safe space to shed their fears. The program is grounded in Davidds’ belief that everyone must get to know who they are and why.
Davidds encourages her students to read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” along with other books, such as “Discovering Your True North,” by Bill George and David Gergen. By discovering who you are and embracing empathy, you can learn how to adapt to toxic work environments. When you find yourself in a toxic environment, Davidds says, you should think about why your boss or others are acting the way they are. You might wonder what experiences they had earlier in their lives have fueled their behavior. That’s when you learn how to shelter yourself from them, learn how to talk to them, and learn how not to fear them, Davidds advises.
Davidds is preparing for the next evolution of her life and business, expanding her leadership institute to become co-ed. Men told her they felt left behind, so she’s opening the workshops to allow men to be “respected and honored for becoming vulnerable.”
Dr. Davidds hopes to encourage people to find their purpose, which may not always be in their full-time job, which means you must find other ways. If you love to teach, but your day job pays more, consider teaching on the weekends. Davidds adds, “Be committed to getting to know who you are as an individual … who you want to be, and how to shift into becoming the best version of yourself.”
Listen to the full Take Command Podcast Episode here: