Talking with Janice McDonald about Humility

1358F_5x7_300dpi(1) Today we’d like to introduce to you another of Ottawa’s leading ladies, warm-hearted and incredibly successful, Janice McDonald. If you meet Janice in person, maybe at one of the WXN breakfasts or through her work, I hope you are as struck as I was with her generous nature and kindness.

Janice embodies the essence of Sister Leadership through her mentorship, personality and business savvy. She is president of the Organization of Women in International Trade,  winner of many awards including the WXN Top 100 Award, and co-founder of the well known CD Warehouse (along with more accomplishments which you can check out in her bio). We felt that Janice would be the perfect fit to discuss achieving success combined with the attribute of humility.

For us at Sister Leadership, humility means to walk lightly upon the earth as the words “humility” and “human” both come from “humus” or earth. When we practice humility, we accept our true place in the world. When we recognize that we are no more important than others, we approach even the most menial tasks joyfully. We accept that we are only here to be of service to our community, universal energy, Mother Earth, God, Buddha or other great creation.

This week's Spiritual Intelligence theme is
This week’s Spiritual Intelligence theme is Humility

So, how can humility apply to the business setting? Let’s turn to Janice to for her take on this.

1) How easy or difficult has it been to let others shine under your leadership, and does that nurturing come naturally? What inspires you to be humble?

One of my favourite quotes is an old Chinese Proverb that says: “You can’t help someone up the mountain without getting to the top yourself.”  I love this quote because it is about the service of others but recognizes that you benefit as well.

As someone who has been a formal and informal mentor for many years in the communications and technology industry where I am Chair of the National Board for CWCT [], I understand firsthand the value of sharing your expertise and wisdom with others.  This year, we had 25 members of CWCT who applied for mentorship and we are just finalizing those matches with outstanding senior women in the industry from across the country who volunteer their time and talents for the benefit of others.

This program is now in its 14th year and it is more important than ever that women tap into the wider network of those that have paved the way and are willing to share their pathways and, hopefully, guide someone else around the bumps along the way.

Personally, I have felt that I have received so much from mentorship aside from the simple pleasure of helping someone to achieve their goals and that is a great example of letting others shine.  We all benefit from a little encouragement, outside perspective and a champion in our corner and that is what having a mentor brings you.

2) As a leader, can you describe a situation where you may have led with humility? (e.g. working alongside your staff in their responsibilities to make a deadline, etc.)

As an entrepreneur, there are things I know I am good at and it is my competitive advantage to recognize not only my strengths, but my limitations, as well. Although I start each business with my own vision and goals, in order to see the idea and the business grow and thrive, I understand that I have to bring in expertise that differs from my own.  This also means that there is a lot of talent in the room and these talented people know many things I do not.

We do all know that we ultimately want the same thing, which is to grow the business and so, when you hire the right people, are clear on what they need to do, you can then let them do it! Yes, hold them accountable, but also get out of the way so they can excel.

3) How do you balance between celebrating success and remaining humble? Can you share with us a moment or example where you’ve lived this balance?

CD Warehouse Inc, the company I co-founded, has won as Top Independent Music Store in Canada several times.  It is thrilling to receive national recognition from your peers in your industry but the award is really shared by all of the staff who live our vision for our company every day.  They are the ones who bring their skills, passion and love of music and customer service to the job and make it the best place to buy music and movies in Canada.

So it is actually not so hard to remain humble when you know that it is the people who work with you who make the company special. Without them, there really isn’t a companyl–and certainly not an exceptional one.


Sister Leadership would like to thank Janice for sharing her time and her thoughts on humility. Great insights, Janice.

Now, what about you? We’ve heard from Janice, will you add to the conversation? Here are our questions for you:

How do you balance between celebrating success and remaining humble?

Do you know of other leaders who help their team to shine?

How have you lead with humility?

You can share your answers in the comments below, or head over to our facebook page and get the conversation rolling there.

welcome to our newsletter*News Alert! We are beginning to build a Sister Leadership newsletter. The goal is to bring great perspectives like Janice’s and our other guests to your mailbox. But also, we want this to be about community, so we’re open to sharing your celebrations, events and news too. To join us, just click here and fill in your information.

Till next week,


P.S. The Rose Room was a great success last week! Did you join in? We’d love to hear your experience. In the week following the meditation, Catherine had several great things happen in her life – from the offer to help with transport (in the form of an adorable bicycle), advertisement for her novel and having it featured in a magazine, and some encouraging test results in terms of her health as well. If you want to be part of the Rose Room, send me an email at, and we’ll organizing a meditation for you too. Don’t choose to be shy. Choose to be brave and ask for support if you would like it. It can be about anything – a business meeting, new job, an event you are organizing, your happiness, your health. Let us know!


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