Early on in their careers, female leaders have the same aspirations as their male counterparts. They want to excel at their craft, make a difference and lead with impact.
An important mind set is required in the early stages of one’s career. Women need to think in both practical and strategic ways. In other words getting the job done should be one aspiration. As kids we generally were rewarded for hard work whether it was household chores, taking care of our siblings, getting good grades. These were important achievements with varying degrees of responsibility.
Short sprints were the order of the day. As corporate citizens we need to think differently. Our success is incumbent upon larger goals. There is a twofold framework for advancement. Both have a strategic focus.
Success as a leader means that women need to create stretch goals that reach outside their prescribed job function. Ask yourself if you had your boss’s job, what might you do differently? How can you improve efficiencies and create growth opportunities?
We sometimes get stuck in thinking that strategy means changing the world. It certainly can, but that might be overwhelming when in fact you can make a difference in tangible ways that are within your reach. These achievements are certain to be noticed.
As you demonstrate forward thinking that’s what sets leaders apart. At this point you have differentiated yourself from the pack. You stand out as having vision, courage and guts. Guts to propose a new order.
You then achieve momentum by having the ability to propel your peers and team to embrace your vision and act as ambassadors for change. Your ability to create excitement and have your colleagues buy into the business rationale is all about influencing and having others carry the torch.
While you are doing this great work another important strategic focus is required. Step back and make sure you keep your head up. It’s a liability for your career if you are buried exclusively in execution.
Most high profile leaders have been thoughtful throughout their career regarding who would be important to their advancement. At various junctures they selectively positioned themselves with senior leaders who were able to sponsor, mentor and speak with confidence regarding their potential.
Leaders who expand their network beyond their obvious sphere are then viewed as having the ability to move beyond their current function. This makes sense because as the more senior you are technical acumen becomes less salient. What matters now is your ability to bring about change. As a thought leader your currency becomes your ability to galvanise your stakeholders and business leaders.
In school we are rarely taught about the import of being strategic regarding our network. We are advised more generically that relationships matter and of course we must form partnerships to be successful. We are also taught the value of being part of a team.
When you examine successful career women who have achieved a seat at the table, they have applied their business savvy in two strategic ways. First, by figuring out how they could add value beyond their prescribed role, and second by aligning themselves with leaders who have an established record of high-profile credibility. Adopting this mindset and translating this into actionable steps positions yourself for success as a leader who truly makes their mark.