Oct. 11, 2022

201 Transforming Lives Through The Power of Events with Rebecca Linder, Founder & CEO Linder Global Events | Greater Washington DC DMV Changemaker

201 Transforming Lives Through The Power of Events with Rebecca Linder, Founder & CEO Linder Global Events | Greater Washington DC DMV Changemaker

In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Mahan Tavakoli speaks with Rebecca Linder, founder, and CEO of Linder Global Events. Rebecca Linder shares her leadership journey and the joys and challenges of entrepreneurship. Rebecca Linder also shares her thoughts on the impact of the pandemic on the events industry and how technology is reshaping gatherings. Finally, Rebecca shares why expectations for all kinds of meetings have changed and how leaders can rethink gatherings for greater engagement and impact. 

Some highlights:

- The importance of appreciating diverse cultures and continually reinventing yourself

- Rebecca Linder's on the challenges of starting a business at 26 

- Rebecca Linder on discovering herself and becoming more purpose-driven as a result

- The pandemic's impact on the events industry

- Rebecca Linder's thoughts on how gatherings have changed as a result of the pandemic

- The future of events and how to do a better job when conventing, whether for events, meetings, or other gatherings 

- Rebecca Linder's thoughts on how to better handle the ups and downs of entrepreneurship and leadership 


Vanessa Bohns (Listen to Vanessa Bohns’ episode on Partnering Leadership here)

Connect with Rebecca Linder

LINDER Global Events Website

Rebecca Linder on Twitter

Rebecca Linder on LinkedIn

Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:


More information and resources available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website: 



Mahan Tavakoli: 

Welcome to Partnering Leadership. I'm really excited to speak, to be welcoming Rebecca Linder. Rebecca is the founder and CEO of Linder Global Events, which is an agency that designs and produces event for Fortune 100 companies and leading nonprofits. I really enjoy this conversation with Rebecca because I have seen her purpose driven leadership, both of her organization and in the community.

I am sure you will enjoy it and learn a lot from her too. I also enjoy hearing from. Keep your comments coming, mahan@mahantavakoli.com. There is also a microphone icon on partneringleadership.com. You can leave voice messages for me there. Now here's my conversation with Rebecca Linder.

Rebecca Linder, welcome to Partnering Leadership. I'm thrilled to have you in this conversation with me.

Rebecca Linder: 

Mahan. Thank you for having it a privilege and honor.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Such an exciting time for us to be talking to you, having led through what has been one of the most disruptive experiences in all of our lives, but most especially your industry, Rebecca. 

But would love to start out first with your upbringing. Whereabouts did you grow up and how did that upbringing impact the kind of person you've become?

Rebecca Linder: 

That is a great question. So, I am the product of an American father and a Jamaican mother who was born and raised in Jamaica. And my father was a foreign service officer and met her there. At which point they moved around a bit, I'm the youngest of three, and I was born in west Africa and then went on to Brussels and to the Middle East, in Jordan. 

And then came to the US for the first time when I was about seven and then left again for Greece, where I went to high school. And then they went off to Madrid when I came back here to COD. So, it's I'm this amalgamation of cultures and religions and, countries in the most beautiful way actually and my parents did a tremendous job of making sure we really took advantage of those opportunities and a real immersion into those culture.

Mahan Tavakoli: What a wonderful opportunity to see and live in those different cultures, Rebecca. How did that shape you when you experienced these different cultures? Different countries, different foods, different people while growing up.

Rebecca Linder: 

I think it shaped me in several ways. I think the first of which it created a very open-minded person over here because I was always other in all these countries, including my own here in the US cause my experiences were so different. It really created this level of tolerance and understanding that has been very useful for me and has helped me bridge really difficult conversations and create a tremendous amount of curiosity for meeting people and understanding their perspectives and not limiting them to what they say, but understanding where they're coming from because so I'm also highly tolerant of different perspectives because they're so varied in how they're influenced. 

And then of course it taught me courage, right? Because I was dropped in into all these little places and having to fend my way without the right language, culture, look, feel. So, it taught me about my own sort of sense of who I am and how I wanted to show up.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

So, you gained an appreciation for all cultures, but did one of them resonate with you or stay with you more than the others?

Rebecca Linder: 

It's interesting. I have two experiences. One, the Mediterranean culture, I think, is so familiar to me because my mother is a very hot-blooded Jamaican and the Mediterranean culture has that, both that casual, yaman, sit back. As well as that really intense, familial, cultural piece that I actually really love and enjoy so that was very resonant for me. 

I think actually my biggest challenge was always coming back to the US, which is always fascinating. So, the two inflection points were when I was seven, which was really tough, and it was the first time I'd come to the country, even though it's my country of origin. And then again at 18, when I came back for college. Those were my biggest transitions which was really interesting cause that was not the expectation.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

How were you able to adjust, especially at 18, when you came to college and you went to Boston University.

Rebecca Linder: 

I think both at seven and 18, I did the same thing and there was a version of it in these other places as well. But when I got here, I realized very quickly that somehow, even though I was really from the US, there was an exotic component to me that was not actually particularly attractive.

It was an interesting, but it wasn't relatable because so many people that I was around were from where they were from. So, I found myself dimming my light a little bit around that aspect of me and trying to be a bit of more of a chameleon in terms of what was comfortable for people. But quickly realized that a quick immersion into these places was the way to do it, and I'm a highly social introvert, even though I come off as an extrovert.

So, it takes a lot outta my tank to just jump in, but I've done it every time. I got involved in clubs and sports and ran for office, those kinds of things. Whenever I started as a way to say, Hey, here I am.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

I think it makes the question, where are you from something you have to take a step back and makes it a lot. More complex than the typical intention of the question.

Rebecca Linder: 

Correct. I have that all the time. It was also an opportunity though, to reinvent yourself every time too, which was really great because you could peel off the layers that didn't appeal and reestablish yourself as this new version too, every time you moved.[1] 

So, there wasn’t a big advantage in it as well.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

What is one way you did that Rebecca reinvented yourself?

Rebecca Linder: 

When I've done it from a month, nicknames to getting back to my actual full name, Rebecca. That was a big one when I transferred from Greece to the US. I think sides of my personality that people were getting accustomed to and I wanted to be taken a little bit more seriously so, as we made these changes, 

I could divest myself in some aspects of who was perceived as to who I wanted to be. So, there was a tremendous opportunity there for me as well,

Mahan Tavakoli: 

So why did you decide to study political science?

Rebecca Linder: 

Probably because I didn't know any better, actually. I was a poly sci econ major with an acting minor. My family is very political in terms of both opinion and interest. I think I actually just wasn't sure what I wanted to do. Probably midway through, I would've done something more like English lit or something a little bit more artful because that's really where my passion lies African American history.

Would've been a great interest of mine. Art is a great interest of mine. But I was able to channel a lot of that cause I was too lazy to extend my college for another year to switch majors. So, I ended up focusing on the acting as a way to draw out the more creative side of me.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

You say you were lazy to extend it for a year. Many would say you were smart not to take on another year of debt to go through a fifth year of college.

Rebecca Linder: 

So, a little bit of both. There's some laziness there as well.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

While in college you wanted to become an actor. What got you to wanna become an actor?

Rebecca Linder: 

I had never done any acting. I'd always been thrilled by poetry and plays and read a lot, but I never put myself on stage. I had put myself in other positions of class president and these kinds of visible components. But I ended up seeing a play being advertise and Edward Albee play and I thought, you know what, I'm gonna do this in college and I'm one to get myself out my comfort zone a little bit. So, I thought, oh, this will be interesting. 

While I threw up before I got on stage every time. I, absolutely loved both the intensity and the pressure of it and also, just the idea that it was such an easy way to draw out emotions that I typically wouldn't deal with myself. But because you had to immerse yourself in the character, you were able to draw them out in a way that I actually really enjoyed.

And it was probably the first time I started to navigate who I was really internally in an interesting.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

What an interesting perspective, Rebecca. You had the opportunity to tap into your authentic emotions, more so on stage playing others. Then you had the opportunity to do so in real life.

Rebecca Linder: 

I think to some degree I still have to, and I do a lot of somatic work now, which was so not a part of my universe back then. And I think, I was so, I'm such a doer and I'm very task oriented and goal oriented. And I didn't know the language or the narrative around how to do that.

It just wasn't part of, I'm 52 so, it wasn't really part of our culture at the time, both in my household, as well as the culture we all grew up and those in this age group. And this notion of wow, God, okay. I have sadness in here. I have fear in here. I have joy and creative energy and all of these big emotions who knew. Quite the journey.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Then what brought you to DC?

Rebecca Linder: 

So, a couple things, actually. I had a bit of a cancer scare. After college, I went out to Seattle for the summer and I worked out there and I had a million jobs cause I do that always. I had been accepted into a graduate program for acting and I decided to extend it a year, defer it, and just spend a year out there.

And so, I did and I made all this money cause I had a million jobs and I was having a great time. Then I decided I was gonna defer one more year because I wanted to go travel the world. Prior to that, I had gotten some physicals and I'd had a cancer scare in college. I'd had a lump remove for my breast in college and then I ended up having another scare, vaginal at this time, but another scare.

So, I was gone for three months and then had to come back to DC and I had to receive treatment every three months for a bit of time. So, I just was like, okay, what am I gonna do now? And I decided not to pursue the acting. I took a job at arena stage. Tried to immerse myself in the world and I realized very quickly the acting side of it wasn't really where my love was. That was just a great introduction for me emotionally and I enjoyed a bit of, but not the core of what I loved was the ready or not here they come at six o'clock curtain goes up and you better figure out what's going on. And that piece I really did love. So, I ended up not pursuing the acting as a career and got into production.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

You started your business at 26, Rebecca. What got you to decide that you wanted to take this big step?

Rebecca Linder: 

There's so many good reasons. Ignorance is a big one though. Let's just be super clear and honest about, I didn't know any better. Interestingly enough, some of the motivation around it for me and I am this person to this day is I was always very entrepreneurial as a kid.

I'm not a Wharton grad. I'm really more of a hustler than I am this established business kind of guru. While I've done quite well, it's really been on my own steam. And while I was always very entrepreneurial, what I also, although this is counterintuitive, I'm also require a fair amount of freedom and independence. 

And while I'm, a slave to all my clients and have to do all the things that they need us to do. I also find myself, craving that ability and that maneuverability and the opportunity presented itself very quickly. I was the director of operations for big catering company in town, which was a position that they actually created for me.

I started at 23 and then by that time, I was handling some of the biggest clients in town, like the Smithsonian National Gallery of Art. And really realized that while food is one of my first loves, it was a very limited kind of sliver of the bigger picture. And I was like, I really like that bigger picture. I love the creativity around it. 

So, I just said, I'm gonna do this. And I took a big leap and I also didn't like having to just be in an office to be in an office just to show. If I need to work 48 hours in a row, I will do that. But if there's only 10 hours of things to do, I'm only gonna do 10 hours.

So, just philosophically, that momentum already existed in me.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

You already had some of the relationships to establish the business. On the other hand, as a 26-year-old, wanting to get large contracts to do event management must not have been very easy.

Rebecca Linder: 

Very challenging. I had great resources in terms of vendor relationships and partnerships. And I had some external on the client side that continued to work with me, which was very generous of them, which is why I give so much back to young people now, because I was helped in that capacity. And people took a risk, but yeah. 

One, I looked very young while I founded quite pulled together. The minute they saw me and they'd have that million-dollar check in their hand, they would literally not let go of it. When they were giving it to me. They're like, you look like you're 10. And I was like, I'm not, I swear to God.

And people had to vouch for me and say, no, this is a person who you can rely on and depend on. But it was really intimidating also because I'm not one who grew up asking for a lot of help and it took me quite some time, which is the biggest lesson I've learned over time.

That I was just trying to do everything myself. So, it was hard in the beginning and really devastating to your ego as you're, oh, please let the phone ring kind of thing.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

But you were able to start the business, succeed with it, and at the same time on the personal side, Rebecca, that's when, after a few years you also had to come to grips with your sexuality and declaring your sexuality. What was that like for you?

Rebecca Linder: 

So, that was a very big deal. And again, it taps back into the earlier conversation around. I wasn't very in tune with who I was internally. I had lots of boyfriends and in fact, I was married. I got married when I was 29 and I got to about 34 and we were considering having children.

And it felt like a very big decision, even though I knew I wanted kids. And I used that time as the time to really reflect and be introspective around actually, is this a thing or not? And realizing through that process that, my sexual identity was truly different than how I was presenting. I was gay and realized that was an injustice to my husband and I shared that with him. 

And, as that dissolved our marriage, we're still good friends, which I'm so grateful for. But it was a big deal and it wasn't just him. It was my family. It was my whole universe I operated as a heterosexual all my life. There was an external piece to it as well as an internal piece to it.

And it was really difficult.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

So, how did that external world, at least the external world part that you cared about, which is your family and your loved ones, how did they take it?

Rebecca Linder: 

For the most part really well, and it's a testament to who they are. And it's also probably a testament to why I waited so long. I think, I knew in my heart of hearts at that point in my life, I had everything that I needed just in case it wasn't gonna work out. I had a very supportive friend group.

I had a very, for the most part, supportive family, I was established in my business. And so, I felt secure in my own right in order to be able to deliver this very big and new message even my clients to some degree. It's not that I wear it on my sleeve all day long, but it became known and some people did have a challenge with it and some people didn't. And that was okay.

That goes back also to my upbringing and that level of tolerance I have it's okay for people not to agree or be okay with the choices I'm making in my life. I don't wanna be hindered how I get to act in my life, but I'm okay to have people not necessarily agree or even support it.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

It's becoming comfortable with yourself and in your own skin and the people that love you will choose to love you the way you are. And if some don't choose to accept you, that's fine. But what's most important is for you to present as you truly are.

Rebecca Linder: 

Correct. And it's taken me a long time. And I would even say, you fast forward a little bit into my forties. I think, and now, I have a partner at this point and we're thinking about having our own children. And we started at 39 and I was 42 when the second one came.

And truthfully, that was a huge turning point for me and having to identify, how would I articulate my values now, not only just as a human. And that was probably the moment where the most transformation in my life took place. Not less when I came out as gay, but more around what are actually my values that I'm gonna articulate to my children that really put me on a path that even at 52, now I'm still on, but a really intense, self-reflection, and self-improvement and self-development.[2] [3] 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

It's difficult for all of us, Rebecca to do that. But what you mentioned is that self-reflection is what's important as a first step. Different people have to do it in their own way, but it's a hard process to go through when you think about passing on what you believe to be the right values to your kids.

Rebecca Linder: 

Very much. And for me, it isn't even the right values. It was just what are my values so that I could articulate to my children. It gives them opportunity and curiosity around what they might want as their own. But that reflection and introspection, is hard because it also brings up, that shadowy side of you that you don't like to deal with and you put over here and it also made me realize that I had to find new meaning even in my businesses and in my relationships. Like, I had to redefine how I connected to things that were important to me in order to continue feeling passionate and enthusiastic about it.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

So, as you were going through this process, you also mentioned meeting up with your partner. You wanted to have children and you decided on having children, you have to. How did that process work for you with your partner?

Rebecca Linder: 

So that was very interesting. So, at the time my partner and I were together gay marriage was not an option. But we knew we wanted to have children. She was a little older than I was so at the time, shady grove insisted that. She would use a donor egg. So, I turned out to be the donor egg for her, and anonymous sperm donor.

Then I used my own eggs. We went through an in vitro process twice and with the same sperm donor. So, the children are biologically a hundred percent. But what was interesting about the scenario is I had to adopt my son that my partner had. And then she had to adopt our daughter, even though, we were a hundred percent the parents. 

And at the time, which was really interesting we went through the full adoption process twice. So, the home interviews and the home inspections and deep into our finances and our friend network and family background and as this was happening, there was this big story in the foster care system where this woman had killed these two foster kids and put 'em in her freezer and I'm sitting here going, how come she's not getting home inspection? What's happening on this end? 

And then, it got down right down to the wire. I remember this with my son, who's the oldest. We were going into the courtroom and our lawyer at the time said, listen, the judge that's been assigned to us isn't particularly friendly towards gay people. And therefore, I looked at her, I was like, you need to tell me we've gone through all of this. And there's like a threat of this not being like signed and okayed. And she was like, there's always that. And it really. Instantly taught me a lesson about how vulnerable we are to these external factors and we're seeing of course that today in so many ways, but it really taught me a lesson.

And of course, I was so angry. But thankfully they signed the paperwork and I behaved in the courtroom. But it was really vulnerable moment.[4] 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

I'm happy to hear that it all worked out, but just to put it in context, Rebecca, this is about a dozen years ago, so we are not talking about decades back.

Rebecca Linder: 

Yeah, no only 12 years. And at the same time, it was also interesting, we had to get special dispensation for instance, when my partner had my son, I had to get special dispensation to stay at the hospital because technically, it can only be related family. And because I wasn't officially married or in any capacity, even though these were my children in my life, I wasn't even able to stay in the hospital.

Thankfully, they're very progressive in their thinking. But it really made you aware wow. And that wasn't that long ago.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

But that's also why I think Rebecca, it's important for stories like yours to be told because it's easy for us to very quickly forget how far we have come and how hard we have to work to maintain that progress. 

As you mentioned, we can very easily revert back if we don't appreciate the steps that have been taken, the sacrifices that have been made to bring us to the point that we are at this point.

So, you are fortunate to have had this strong relationship, have your kids. You've also done some magnificent things with respect to the events that you have coordinated, including couple that are landmarks and historical in the greater Washington DC region. And I take a lot of pride in let alone, I imagine you take tremendous pride in one of them was the grand opening of the S Smithsonian's African American History and Cultural Museum.

What was that experience like for you?

Rebecca Linder: 

For me, that was such an interesting journey. I was first of all, so privileged and honored to have been selected. And we were selected three years in advance of the opening to consult on sort of the vision around it and then hired to then implement the series of events and working alongside Lonnie Bunch, and his team was truly just transformative for me as a person, but also as a company and my own history, if you go down into the museum, you'll see it, it starts in the kingdom of Benin, which is where I was actually born. .

It was do homie at the time, but it was Benin where I was born. And, then it goes to the Afro Caribbean, which of course is part of my culture as well. So, for me, it was a personal journey as well as sort of a highlight of my career to be able to support something that I felt so strongly about and to work with such thoughtful and introspective and smart, brilliant people bringing this museum to life. It was really a really emotional experience for me as well as just a moment of great pride

Mahan Tavakoli: 

And it is a source of pride for the entire country. I often bike by the museum. The lines of people going in and coming out and getting a better appreciation of that history. 

You also had a role. I saw it in person and there are beautiful pictures for people that wanna look up in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Program with projections on the Washington Monument, which was magnificent. What was that experience like and how did you come up with all the plans and designs around that?

Rebecca Linder: 

It was a Herculean effort by many people and was spearheaded by the air space museum. And we came on as a logistics partner it was also an incredible experience. What's interesting about all of these events that we do that are so meaningful to me is often tied to the fact is that these moments bring together people of disparate cultures, religions, political affiliations, race, creed, and otherwise, and can feel pride around accomplishment and achievement and around something that they can agree on. To me, that is where transformation lies. Really what we do from a convening perspective is we try to align ourselves with moments that are really gonna make people come out on the other side better and broader.That's what I take most pride in. And that's what both of those events represented for me.[5] [6] 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

It's just magnificent. What was done in that celebration. So, you have this business striving on the family side. Have the kids. Things are going really well, which is great. However, two years ago, we get hit with COVID, which has impacted everyone's life in one way, shape, form another.

At the same time, your business is all about convening people, bringing them together. And the first thing with the lockdown was people shouldn't be together. Tell me first about those initial days, Rebecca, and then how you started trying to handle what was a new experience for all of us?

Rebecca Linder: 

You know what's interesting about this though. Really March 13th, everything closed down and on March 14th, I was turning 50. So, these two things came together for me in a very interesting way. We were keeping our eye, obviously, really, as of December, January. We started to feel what was happening. And by February I was like, this is gonna be a big problem. 

Then March 13th came and really that was it. My kids were out of school at that point. Businesses were shutting, events were closing up and we had big events. It was actually slated to be our biggest and most successful spring ever as well as the biggest and best year ever in the company.

And, one by one, as things started to either be pushed initially because people thought, oh, this will only be for two weeks. And I suspected that was not the case. By April 1st, I started to make some decisions around. I was almost 34 people in the company and we ended up by that September being down to just 11, which was actually one of the bigger staff from an event company perspective nationwide, cause I was a part of this big cohort of people who were talking weekly to figure out what was happening, as well as locally. 

It was very difficult. And in addition to having to make difficult decisions, I also had to make sure my team felt supported and stable in my vision and our clients as well that we could navigate this for them successfully.

And it took a tremendous amount of time and lift to do that. And to help them get knowledgeable about what their opportunities were. Thankfully, we had that virtual experience already, but there were so many platforms and different ways of dealing with technology that was coming to the forefront. 

I had a team just solely dedicated, just keeping up with the technology and confirming to the client that we were solid as an organization. We were viable as a company and they could trust us to continue on. What is interesting about COVID as difficult as it was, it actually drew on. What I do best. It was drew on my, not just my expertise, but really on my genius in a way that was really surprising and also great for me, because I was getting to a point before COVID hit, I felt a little rudderless as the CEO of this company.

Like where does it wanna go? What does it wanna do? And COVID really gave me the opportunity to reinvent the organization. And I had just brought on in 2019, a new COO who also, what was great about COVID for us is that it really defined our two roles and highlighted where our strengths were. So, she really took over at that point on the day to day.

And I took on more of the vision and where are we going piece. So, while very difficult in 2020 was a real robust from a business perspective and revenues and all of that, we were able, in 2021, to do actually quite well and build. And not to what we were, but really, I should say, build forward, to who we wanna be aspirationally. [7] And it's a very different company. And now, we're over 20.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

I wonder Rebecca. As you look at events moving forward, now that to a certain extent, people are more comfortable congregating. Would love to know your thoughts and perspectives with respect to you said, not only your organization is better off to a certain extent as a result of what you experienced, but you are doing things differently as a result of what we've experienced over the past couple of years. 

What are you doing differently and how do you see the event space and the gatherings changing as a result of what we experienced?

Rebecca Linder: 

I actually think COVID has had a positive impact on how people will convene in the future and has required us to take what I considered to be a stagnant model prior to COVID into a much more thoughtful model going forward.[8]  And we do have a consultative side to the business that was very active during COVID working with our clients across their event portfolios to really think about strategically, what made sense coming out of COVID. 

And the reality is, and you're seeing this just in the workforce, right? People don't wanna go back full time to their offices. They don't want to travel once a month to events and conferences or stakeholder meetings. There's a new version of how people wanna engage and I think they're more discriminate and have a higher expectation of what the value proposition is going to be for them. 

As a result, I think it makes it really interesting. So, I think three things are happening. One is I think you've gone from experiential economy, whether people know it or not in terms of events to people want transformation. They wanna go to something and come out transformed in some way. And I think it's our obligation to provide that. Number one. 

I think number two, the expectation around the experience itself is also raised. I think, again, if people are going to be away from their family, friends, and otherwise to take the time to travel. The expectation of how they participate is also different.

So, transformation is one thing, but they also wanna be part of the conversation. This is no longer about people from the stage speaking. This is about facilitation. How do you draw out the experts in the room? How do you get genius from your audience and not as participants, not as sitting around listening to a bunch of people?

So, I think that's the other piece of it. And I think thirdly, providing just an opportunity for a meaningful connection to their peer network in a way that I think we forgot.[9] 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

That is the challenge a lot of organizations have in their return to office. And a lot of events have, now that we are in this post initial phases of COVID era, whatever you want to call it.

I've attended events where to them, it's almost like nothing happened over the past two years. Still the panelists sit on the stage and I'm asking myself, wait a minute. I drove 45 minutes to sit here, to watch something on stage that I could have just as easily clicked my zoom meeting, not that I would've watched it anymore on zoom anyway.

Rebecca Linder: But no true.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

But that is in the back of my mind. So, you mentioned people want to move from experiential to transformation. I wanna understand that a little bit better. I wanna touch on each and every one of the items you mentioned, because I think there is so much wisdom in there, both for gathering people whether it is for events as a convening company, or just bringing people back to the office with purpose. 

Yes, there are some bosses and some organizations that will say you gotta come back five days a week or three days a week and that's the way it's gonna be. However, the most insightful won't be approaching it that way.

So, you said the need to move from experiential to transformational. That makes sense, but, oh my God, that's really hard to do Rebecca.

Rebecca Linder: 

Hard. It is hard. And remember, there's a client on the other end of this. So, they'll, they, they're threshold is very different than mine. 

My perspective and what I challenged my team to do is listen, everyone came out of COVID transformed, whether they know it or not. With a new perspective on how they wanna lead their lives, which impacts the workforce and impacts how we go to work and how we participate.

And with that comes events and office spaces and all of these things. And the reality is, people wanna convene in a very different way and they need it to be, it's not even they want it, they need it to be whether they know it or not. If they're gonna engage that way, they wanna go to an office that's gonna support them, both personally and professionally. 

That barrier of this is why I'm at the office versus, after seeing your dog and your kids and all of this in the back of your zoom screen.

I remember one of my kids came and one day I'm on this big, important thing, dropped the F bomb. And I'm like, really? You're 12 and now I look like I'm terrible person. But you realize very quickly it took the barriers down. We're dressing more casually or more in our personal styles. People wanna be supported. People wanna be changed. People wanna be aligned with organizations, events, friend, networks, cohorts that are going to move them, not just inform them. They wanna be moved and feel like they're contributing to something bigger than themselves. 

Again, I'm not sure that everyone is conscious of that, but I do really believe that is the vibe that we're feeling and seeing, and the energy that is out there. And I feel so strongly about that personally. And it's always been a mantra for the company. In fact, it's our tagline. We transfer lives through the power of events and I really believe that and connect to that. That is why I get up every day and do what we do.[10] 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

That's why you bring a lot of value to your clients, Rebecca, but this requires both a different mindset and a different skillset. So, first and foremost, it requires for people to approach gatherings approach convenings differently, a very different mindset. And then a recognition that it requires a different skillset to make this work.

You also mentioned facilitation rather than the people on stage. That's a very different skillset than what most of the people that have convened in the past are comfortable with. So, it requires different mindset and different skillset to be able to transition events and convenings into this future that you're talking about.

Rebecca Linder: 

And I've had to do a lot of work around that. Not only reading, I just finished the executive coaching program at Georgetown. And I'm looking at the facilitation program. We work with a lot of facilitators and bring in a lot of experts around this. For me, I'm not trying to become the facilitator as much as trying to understand the language around it in order to help our clients because you're right, it's scary. 

We're still doing events that are what they used to be. While I can say it till, I'm blue in the face, people have to experience little moments in order to get really comfortable diverting their current budget to this new format. And it requires more work to prepare the clients, all the stakeholders to understand how this is gonna work.

And you have to reeducate your participants as well as to how they're gonna engage in the process. It is a very big consultative piece of what we do and I've had to bring on people with that expertise in the company, as well as challenge my events team to expand their universe, both through reading, through courses, through exposure, to thinking about not just the logistics and the creative and the sort of the technology around this. It's both context and content, right? There's the context is equally as important. What does that container look like in order to really facilitate? And that's everything from temperature and sound, to set up, to how we draw people out.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

What an outstanding opportunity though, to reflect on their convening and how they would do things differently and that's part of what you do in working with clients as you help them plan their convenings. 

I think part of the challenge will be that people need to let go of the way things worked in the past and at least in my interactions, Rebecca, with some of the senior leaders that I guide and coach, many of them have a very hard time. So, their people get it a lot more. Their people are the ones that want to go into an environment and want to be engaged. Want facilitation. Want that transformation. 

But the leaders still want the scripts to be the way it was a couple of years ago and part of what I have to push them on is exactly what you said, that is no longer acceptable. They can shove that food down people's throats just for so long before losing the engagement, if not fully losing their team members.

Rebecca Linder: 

And you're seeing that now. Outside of convening, just look at people who are forcing their teams to come back to work, right? People are quitting. People don't wanna be a part of that. Those are toxic cultures now. Those aren't cultures with progressive leadership anymore, and it's a problem.

So, I think the momentum is such that there's people who are in that change maker space that are really pushing on it, but there's enough momentum just at all levels that is gonna just force it. And it'll impact people's ROI at the end of the day, which is always a motivator to make change. But I think there's other things afoot that will help.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

So, on the business side, Rebecca, if we speak with each other five, 10 years down the line and you believe that you've been able to take your organization to the next level. What will Linder Global be doing for its clients?

Rebecca Linder: 

That's a great question and is this is where I spend all my time and I'm most excited, especially coming out of COVID. So, for me, the giving back piece and that sort of legacy of service is somewhat new for me. Probably this is part of that transformation that I've gone through personally and reflection, I was running a business and trying to just pay the bills and support my family and support my team's families and all of that and service our clients.

But really for me, my goal is to be able to give back in a myriad of ways. So, we're creating new products to help our industry coming out of COVID. We help create with a group of founders, the DC event coalition, just as a way to support our industry over the timeframe that COVID was happening, but it really made me realize how much I want to be able to give back.

We're creating a pro bono program which we've had for some time, but we're really making that bigger, to have bigger impact. We're looking at creating a foundation in the future where we can support organizations and young people who are trying to move through this career path and in a way that's really meaningful. 

I'd like to start creating our own events. We'll continue to service clients and expand that, but I'd like to create a universe where we're actually creating our own impactful events that we own. So, there's a very bright and exciting future ahead for us, which will include a lot of giving back to the communities that we operate in.

And I'm very excited about it. And to me, that's where I'm drawing the most juice.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

What a wonderful way to get additional meaning and purpose out of the experience we've gone through to both find better ways for convening people and giving back to the community. The human connection is really important to all of us and we need more of it than we've ever needed before. We just need it done with intention and purpose.

So just saying, we're going to bring people together. 200 people are gonna be in a room that's not good enough. So, that's not human connection. Just the fact that there are 200 people around.

Rebecca Linder: 

And it's so interesting too, because that draws exactly on the full arc of my life to this day. I was born in West Africa and I have this huge network of cultural connection and this web of how I've led my life. Coming to this sort of point now, and this inflection point where I'm like, oh no, I wanna draw on all of that in order to exactly, as you say, is I'm a bridge for human connection, and that's how I look at my company now, which is not how I looked at it before. And that's where that transformation piece comes in. It's a reflection of who I am and how I've lived my life. And now how I see myself going forward.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

What beautiful branding and messaging bridge for human connection. I love that.

Rebecca Linder: 

There it is. You nailed it. I can now fire my marketing company.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

You are a great marketer yourself and you know that Rebecca. So, Rebecca, if you were to give advice to younger self and younger leaders based on your journey of ups and downs and establishing your company and growing it over the years, including through COVID. What advice would you give?

Rebecca Linder:

 It's so consistent for me now cause as I reflect back, I was pushing so hard on trying to show up as this person I actually wasn't yet. And while I think that's important, right? You need to have aspiration and you need to be the person you wanna be, but to do that you need to ask for help and you need to cultivate mentors and participate in cohorts[11] .

And I really was afraid and didn't feel good enough and was afraid of the know that I might get. And I look back now and realize as people make that request of me, I am so excited to help and give back. 

And I sit on boards and I am part of advisory. I'm part of one-on-one mentoring. And I realized so quickly that had, I asked for that and participated in that. It's not that it would've accelerated my business. But what it would've done, which would've impacted the business is it would've accelerated me and my emotional capacity. My spiritual capacity. My intellect. My business acumen in a way that then would've really truly transformed.

And in order to make something grow, you have to grow and you do that by reaching out and asking for that help and investing in that and seeing that is important[12] [13] . And that is the advice I would.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

What great advice, Rebecca. I interviewed Professor Vanessa Bohns. She's a professor of organizational behavior at Cornell has written an outstanding book called You Have More Influence Than You Think. And what are the things she says in there is that we've. Fastly underestimate. People's willingness to help us even for extreme requests.

And she's done studies with people asking others for their cell phone, even when they don't know them on the street or all kinds of extreme things, having them vandalize books. But part of the point that she makes is that people want to help. In many instances, we, in our own minds come up with reasons why they would not say yes to us and they won't.

So, that's a great piece of advice in that. It's our challenge to overcome our fear and ask for that help from others. It's a great way for us to develop ourselves. In addition to that, are there any leadership resources or practices you typically find yourself, Rebecca? 

Rebecca Linder: 

I'm an avid reader. I read or listen to about average, about two and a half books a week. And I listen to it on like top speed, but that's my own sort of aid kicking in probably, so that's one. There are groups that I belong to, or I'm familiar with EO, Vistage.

I'm a part of an organization called Conscious Leadership Group. I meditate, I'm a daily meditator and again, this is a person who used to be like meditation, that's so weird. And now I do a lot of breathing exercises, and I really support myself in many ways externally and internally in order to become the best version of myself as both leaders, as parent, as human.

So, I think constantly recommitting always to your own personal growth is really the way to do it. There's no one way, there's a million ways to do it and people need to find their path, but there's tons of resources out there. Cohorts are one. Reading is a great one and it's so accessible to everyone, there's no barrier to that. And then just self-care. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Those are all outstanding perspectives starting out with as you mentioned, even coming out of COVID. The necessity for you as a leader of a team to take care of yourself without you taking care of yourself. You will not have the ability to take care of others, whether it's through meditation or whatever works for you. 

And then the opportunity to learn and grow, whatever works for you. It could be listening. It could be cohorts. It could be different opportunities. I really appreciate Rebecca, you, taking the time to share your leadership journey and your leadership insights most especially because as you have gotten to become more of your authentic self, you have a tremendous ability to give back to others and I am thrilled with your insights on how to make convenings work. 

You are doing that both professionally with the organization, and looking to contribute more to the community through that, because I think that is something, we all need desperately. Powerful, effective convenings for human connection.

Really appreciate your leadership, your perspectives, and you taking the time to share your life journey. Thank you so much, Rebecca Linder.

Rebecca Linder: 

Now Mahan, it's such a privilege and an honor to talk to both you and I hope there's some value here for the audience as well. And just know that it is my greatest gift to serve, and I feel so strongly about that. And I'm very open if there's other ways I could do that, that people see I look forward to hearing about how best to do that. But it is my greatest intention.

Image: Every move was an opportunity for me to reinvent myself. I could peel off the layers that didn't work and reestablish a new version of myself.

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Articulating my values to my children has been even more pivotal for me than coming out as gay. To better clarify and communicate my human values has me on an intense self-reflection, self-improvement, and self-development journey.

Video: Having to adopt children that were biologically ours!

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Image: We try to align ourselves with moments that will make people come out better on the other side. For example, with the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Apollo Program's 50th Anniversary Celebrations, we were able to bring together people of disparate cultures, religions, political affiliations, races, and creeds to feel pride around shared accomplishments and achievements. I take real pride in that.

Video: Building forward after the disruption

Image: I think COVID has positively impacted how people will convene in the future and has required us to take what I considered a stagnant model before COVID into a much more thoughtful model in the future. So there's a new version of how people want to engage, and I think they have a higher expectation of the value proposition of convenings.

I see three changes to events and convenings. 
One is that people have gone from an experiential economy to wanting transformation. 
Another is that the expectation around the experience is higher. People want to be part of the conversation. This is no longer about people on a stage speaking. This is about facilitation. 
And finally, providing people an opportunity for more meaningful connections to peer networks.

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Image: You need to have aspirations, and you need to be the person you want to be, but to do that, you need to ask for help, and you need to cultivate mentors and participate in cohorts.

image content

To make something grow, you have to grow, and you do that by reaching out and asking for help.