After 30 years of working with women leaders, I have come to believe that the most successful people operate in the world knowing that there is no one stopping them. No one is stopping them from developing a vision of who they want to be, how they want to be perceived, how they want to feel, and how they want to perform their role.
While this is not an exhaustive list, I can say with confidence that people who relentlessly focus on strengthening these 5 characteristics are head-and-shoulders above their peers – cis men, trans men, gender nonconforming, cis and trans women leaders. Take a moment or two to think about how you stack-up and what your next steps might be in your own leadership journey.
Successful women leaders…
Have a powerful leadership brand
Their personal leadership brand defines who they are and what they can do. It allows all that’s powerful and effective about their leadership to become known to their colleagues, enabling them to generate maximum value. They use their leadership brand as a context for continuous personal and professional growth and understand that self-awareness is the brass ring. What is your leadership brand? Is it communicating the value you offer? How do you want others to perceive you as a leader…and how are they actually perceiving you? How will you “close the gap”?
Lead with head, hands and heart
These leaders are truly 3-dimensional: they are smart, connected and compassionate. They are comfortable and confident calling upon the version of themselves that best suits the situation. Another way to say this is these are leaders who strive for Agency. They are authentic, they know what they want out of work and life, and they drive their lives and their careers toward those aspirational outcomes. What are you driving toward?
Recognize that all great leaders have help getting across the finish line
Like all the “great ones” (leaders, athletes, parents), they have chosen to methodically build cohesive and high-performing teams, and are devoted (yes, devoted) to the team’s development, growth and wild success. These leaders are also aware of the “outside” world. They have built a diverse and generous network of colleagues and mentors who serve as unofficial “advisors” throughout their career. Are you intentionally and methodically building and developing a wildly successful team? Do you have a solid, generous external network?
“Collaborate to succeed” rather than “compete to win”
Findings from a recent groundbreaking study (Korn Ferry, “Their Breakthrough Formula: Women CEOs”) revealed that successful women CEOs are significantly more likely to “engage the power of teams”, and to “leverage others to achieve desired results.” How cohesive and high-performing is your team? How does your team stack-up in the following 5 areas: vulnerability-based trust; productive conflict; commitment; accountability; and collective results.
Have a compelling vision for the future
Their favorite words are, “Imagine if…” They envision what could be and then paint a vivid picture for others that inspires blind loyalty and a commitment to action. From there, they build and execute a rock-solid strategy in order to – gradually, gradually, gradually – bring that vision to life. What is your vision for the future…what do you see that’s “better” than here? Do you have a documented, rock-solid plan in place to bring it to life? Is your team fully aligned to that plan?
Women leaders no longer have to contort themselves to emulate traditional definitions of “successful leader.” Countless women leaders have proven that they have the “right stuff.” There’s no one stopping you from developing a vision of who you want to be, how you want to be perceived, how you want to feel, and how you perform your leadership role.
The world needs you now more than ever!