Picture Credit: Bijay Dixit, Unique Photo Images
Article by: Somdatta Basu
Leadership Lessons with Annise Parker: From Oil Rigs to City Hall
The Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston (IACCGH) in collaboration with Shell USA Inc., in its eminent “Women Mean Business” series, recently spotlighted a leader whose journey from Houston’s oil industry to the city’s political corridors is both enlightening and empowering. The event brought together three times former mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, and Senior Vice President and CEO of Memorial Hermann Southwest and Sugarland Hospitals, Malisha Patel. The conversation between Malisha Patel and Annise Parker offered profound insights into leadership and perseverance.
Welcoming the speakers and guests, Jagdip Ahluwalia, the Executive Director of IACCGH, said, “We are thrilled to have Annise Parker and Malisha Patel share their inspiring stories. Their accomplishments highlight the resilience of women in leadership.” Setting the stage, Rajiv Bhavsar, President of IACCGH, noted, “Women are making immense strides in the world of business, with over a thousand businesses launching daily in the US. In Texas, over 860,000 businesses are proudly woman-owned.”
As the evening unfolded, Parker’s vast achievements were placed in context. As the first person in Houston to have held the roles of City Council member, City Controller, and Mayor, and as the first openly LGBTQ mayor of a major American city, her leadership credentials are unparalleled. But it was Parker’s reflections on her journey that resonated deeply. Speaking on resilience and determination, she candidly remarked, “It’s not about never facing defeat; it’s about what you do after.”Parker also emphasized the need for self-advocacy in leadership roles, especially for women. “In a world that often tries to label and box you in,” she shared, “you must be your most vocal advocate. I had to ensure that my narrative wasn’t just about being a ‘gay activist’. I had diverse experiences, from the oil and gas sector to owning a feminist bookstore, and every facet of that journey made me the leader I became.”
Addressing the current challenges leaders face, she offered advice, emphasizing, “Leadership is about decisive action. But it’s also about adaptability. Don’t fear decisions, but always be open to course correction when needed. The best leaders aren’t those who never err but those who learn and adapt.” She continued, “I mentioned earlier that I lost my first two races for office. When I say I lost two races and then I figured out how to do it and I won nine.”
Malisha Patel, reflecting on the conversation, added, “Annise’s leadership journey underscores the essence of true leadership – the ability to adapt, learn, and most importantly, to serve with authenticity.”
As attendees left, it was clear that Parker’s insights would leave an indelible mark, guiding many in their leadership journeys.