The writing was on the wall. At the age of 21 I graduated from Douglas College (the all girls college at Rutgers University). At the age of 25 I co-founded a female owned marketing company geared towards employing women interested in marketing, promotions, and entertainment. But yet I didn’t see it. I didn’t see the day that I would feel obligated to push women leaders to push themselves. I didn’t know that I would one day get the yearning to be a role model and blaze a trail to clear the path for younger leaders. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how inspired I have become to encourage women everywhere to challenge the rules of the game and dare to accomplish their dreams. Why is this so risky? Why does the thought of even trying to accomplish EVERYTHING your heart desires cause tiny beads of sweat to form on your forehead and anxiety to come over you? It’s simple , we correlate wanting it ALL to sacrificing some. I challenge you today to think differently and begin paying it forward by participating in the movement of supporting the development of risk takers and fearless women leaders. How do we do this? I have 5 steps that will allow us to make small strides that have the potential of making meaningful impacts on women leaders directly or indirectly in our networks. Before we begin, keep in mind that being a leader does not mean that you must obtain a particular title. Effective, strong leaders have the natural ability to inspire, influence, and motivate others. You can be a twenty something working in an entry level position and still have the characteristics of a leader. So let’s begin!
1. I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. –Mother Teresa
Do not underestimate your impact on the world around you. Get the confidence to make many great and valuable ripples! If being and/or cultivating leaders is important to you, then show the world your true genuine self and embrace the empowerment of influential leadership.
2. Define your end game.
Too often we define success by the measurement of others. Define what you want out of life, make a plan, and accomplish it! By taking action in achieving your success, you are paving the way for someone else. When I go to panel discussions where female leaders talk about their journey and how they have obtained their success, there is always a moment during their presentation when I feel inspired. I hear fellow participants share how their story in some way has resonated with them and as a result inspired them as well. Never while they were on their journey did they think how they will inspire me specifically ( they don’t even know who I am) but yet they have. Blaze your own path with crystalized focus and inspire someone. You never know who is watching and being inspired by your journey. Leaders take a vision and turn it into action. So defining your endgame gives you the opportunity to build your blueprint so you can begin to journey towards success.
3. Celebrate Milestones.
As you define your end game and create a blueprint for yourself, create checkpoints along the way. Think of your end game as your overarching goal and the checkpoints as smaller goals that get you closer to where you want to be in life. In our society of instant gratification, setting small milestones allow you the opportunity to celebrate tasks you have achieved ,which raises your levels of anabolic energy , and motivates you to accomplish more!
4. Watch the Company You Keep
If you find that you truly believe the sky is the limit, or that life is filled with unlimited opportunities, you should keep a circle of friends or a close network of individuals nearby who share a similar philosophy. Keeping a network of individuals who can inspire and motivate you will be key as you progress in leadership. No truly effective leader is arrogant enough to believe they know everything about leadership. Influential leaders have a network of fellow leaders they are able to converse, collaborate, and learn from. If you do not have a network of leaders in your circle of colleagues, it’s easy to acquire one. Use meet up groups as a platform to meet like minded individuals who may have similar interests as yourself!
5. Be a Mentor
Somewhere on your path, you decided that you wanted to be like someone. You desired to take on the characteristics, style, and mannerisms of a person who inspired you to be a better version of who you are. For me, when I first thought of female leaders, I thought you had to be firm but fair. I was under the impression that if I remained cold, and harsh, then I would gain the respect of my male counterparts and move quickly up the ladder. What I realized is that noone thrived under the females who believed this was an effective management style. In one of my first corporate jobs after graduation, I remembered thinking of going to our bosses office as the equivalent of going to the principal’s office. We complained about the micro management of one’s style, and even at the young ripe age of 20 something, fresh out of college and early in our career, my team and I were able to see that the manner in which our female leader led was a defense mechanism to hide the fact that she too was afraid, unconfident, and unsure of how successful she could be in her position. Instead of empowering her teams to aspire to great things and be innovative, she made the team feel like worker bees with no promise for development or growth. So when in a later life, I worked for a different company, I was surprised when I saw this same leader working there but not surprised when I found out she was working at a far lower position. The breath of fresh air arrived when I met the woman who was to be my manager. She taught me the importance of building relationships within the company, the art of persuasion and influence, gave me projects that challenged me while providing support that allowed me to arrive at my own discovery of how to work out difficult solutions, and all the while provided opportunities for me to develop and grow. What I appreciated about the experience was that she had no clue that I thought of her as a mentor then nor ten years later. I know she underestimates her influence in my career but yet I always reference her leadership style in all of my leadership workshops. Paying it forward is an important process towards one’s success. If you truly want to be a powerful leader, take every opportunity to learn from others but you must reciprocate by sharing knowledge with others as well. Whether you participate in a formal mentoring program, or informally take someone under your wing, take the time to inspire a future leader , that alone will start you on your journey in becoming the powerful, influential leader you wish to become.
Don’t doubt yourself, start today!