You might say Diane Bailey-Boulet was destined to be a rock star—minus the guitar. And she’s definitely not one note. A legacy that begins in the coal mines of England in WWII fueled her career of building leaders and teams across the world today. Now the founder and president of Scale Excellence has a new story to tell and is ready for center stage. Discover why “rock star” takes on new meaning when it comes to this changemaker.
Everyone wants to lead a life of purpose. You actually are with a clear personal purpose statement. What is your purpose and why is it so important to you?
My purpose is: “I am a rock star who champions opportunity for all.”
I focus on my purpose as a vital filter for making decisions on where and how to invest my time and energy.
Purpose stays constant amid volatility, uncertainty, and change. I always gravitate to life experiences that focus on growing self, growing others, inspiring action, and enabling equity and opportunity for all. I want each of us to truly shine. I identified my purpose by reflecting on key life experiences—positive and challenging—that inspired me and helped me grow. I sought input from people on a similar journey because, “It’s hard to see the picture when you’re in the frame.” Their feedback affirmed what I knew deeply about myself but had never put in words. It all made sense from there.
My purpose is: "I am a rock star who champions opportunity for all."
How has that strong sense of purpose influenced your career?
I’ve worked in small and medium-sized organizations, non-profits, “Big Four,” and Fortune 50 businesses in roles ranging from leadership development to sales, coaching, fundraising, marketing, and program management. I thrive when partnering with leaders and teams to develop new insights, self-awareness, and skills that support their well-being and impact. I also have a strong commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion based on my life experiences and values.
I started Scale Excellence to bring my skills, talents, insights, and experiences together to help organizations grow and evolve.
As a coach, you’ve helped other women become leadership rock stars. What is a common self-limiting behavior impacting women’s advancement in the workplace?
Self-limits are frequently learned limits from growing up in a society and workplaces where gender inequality still shapes everything from whom gets hired and promoted to benefits and the person getting invited to the meeting and heard.
One area we all can be mindful of is how our word/language choices shape how others perceive us and what we know. As a business writing coach, I’ve worked with all levels of leadership. I noticed that some women sales executives really know their stuff, yet sometimes include “hedging” language in their sales proposals including words like “could” and “might.” Those words are not needed and detract. I guide them to take this kind of language out of their messages so their proposals reflect the fullness of what they know.
Your purpose led you on a new journey of publishing a book. What was the story you needed to tell and why was a life-long journey of becoming an author so important?
I’ve loved writing and history since I was a child. My book, Poverty to Possibility: Snapshots from a Yorkshire Boyhood, is about my dad’s childhood growing up in a coal mining community in England during the Great Depression and World War II. His father and mother—my grandparents—left school at 14 to work as a coal miner and domestic servant. My dad became a doctor, taught a generation of Harvard Medical School students, and later became a U.S. Navy captain. He defied society’s expectations for what a child born in his socioeconomic circumstances could achieve.
When he died of cancer in 2003, I decided to write about his childhood as a way to heal from my grief and to learn about what shaped him to achieve the extraordinary things he did. I returned to England several times in the process. It’s a journey that has taken me up church bell towers, down a coal mine, and into the living rooms of his childhood friends—most of whom were retired coal miners and steelworkers.
Writing the book made me far more aware of what it takes to overcome daunting economic and social disadvantage and shine. No one does it alone. It takes a mix of innate talent, self-determination, mentoring, organization and societal change, friendship, and community support.
Writing the story also tended to my soul and well-being. It made me better at my work because it helped me gain new insights about people, persistence, and leadership. My work made the book better because I got to interact with and learn from so many great people with inspiring lives and stories of their own.
Stories are a powerful tool for making change happen. What advice do you have for people who have a story to tell based on what you’ve learned along the way?
To get started, let go of the need for your writing to be perfect so you can create. One of my favorite writing mantras is, “Don’t get it right, get it written…then polish it up last.”
The writing part was enjoyable because it allowed me to create and tell a story that inspired me. Making time to write was my biggest challenge. Between my work and related travel, being part of a family, taking care of my physical well-being, and spending time with friends, I had to be very intentional about blocking time for writing.
Whatever your special interest is, whether it’s writing a book or something else, make sure that others—family and friends alike—know that it’s important to you. I brought my daughters one-by-one to England with me during my research so they could see what I was doing and why it mattered to me. They learned so much more about their family’s history. So many times, I was sustained by friends asking me how writing my book was going.
Whatever your special interest is, whether it's writing a book or something else, make sure that others—family and friends alike—know that it's important to you.
I worked as a publicist for bestselling authors for a major publisher early in my career. Now is such a great time to publish because there are more options on how. For my own book, I explored both traditional publishing and self-publishing routes. Ultimately, I decided to self-publish on Amazon for a range of reasons, including retaining all rights and simply being ready to get the story out there on my own timeline. My book is available in 16 countries as an e-book and in paperback.
My next dream: turn the book into a movie. I “saw” the stories visually as I wrote each chapter.
You’ve been a long-time supporter and board member of IWL. Why does the mission of accelerating the advancement of women align with your own purpose?
Women are 50% of the world’s talent, yet we are significantly underrepresented in leadership roles. That makes no sense. My mother was among 1% of British women who went to university in the early 1950s and still faced limited career options. I grew up witnessing her volunteering to lead a range of organizations focused on advancing women’s talents and equality during the 1960s and ‘70s. She’d make a great CEO. I was the first woman in my family to have a career. When I entered the workforce in the 1980s, it was clear that women were ready to grow careers and contribute as leaders, but it wasn’t happening at the rate that makes sense based on their talent, education, and numbers. Looking at gender-balance data in leadership today, we’re still missing out on harnessing women’s talents. It’s not a zero-sum gain. The organizations that continue to thrive and be relevant will be part of the solution.
IWL inspires me because of its mission and because of its partnerships with these organizations and leaders who are committed to this. IWL helps make these organizations better which in turn creates better opportunities for women.