These days, everyone has a theory, book or somesort of prose on women's leadership. Most regurgitate the same message: powerful women are scarce.
I'm tired of hearing about it. Women need to stop talking and do something about it.
We don't need a book, magazine or anyone to tell us what makes a good leader - they all say the same thing. Becoming a leader starts with the notion that we don't need a roadmap, we already have it within us. We just need to define it, and then go do something about it. Herminia Ibarra, Robin Ely and Deborah Kolb have it right in HBR's September 2013 issue, "Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers" advocating two simple things:
1. Leadership is personal and it begins with identity.
2. Leadership takes time to develop and practice makes us better.
I couldn't agree more!
Our experiences shape our identity. As a child, I was the 'precocious' one, often connecting more with the adults than peers. This created learning opportunities for me. Kids didn't understand me and that led to some childhood ridicule. However, teachers and adults loved me. They encouraged me to lead, to think big, to drown out the noise and more importantly to be myself: confident, kind, and full an inner beauty no one could take from me.
In my 20s, early career, I sought ways to develop my identity and practice my unique "art":
- I chose variety and broadened first. I joined the ranks of consultancy. This gave me a chance to face complex business challenges, develop critical problem solving skills and provided exposure to high ranking leaders in a wide range of companies and industries.
- I studied and latched onto great people. My parents raised me to believe learning could come from anyone regardless of their title, age, race or shape. I observed others and sought out specific mentors to gain valuable wisdom and insights. This helped me develop a network long before Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
- I created leadership labs for myself and others. I volunteered my time, chaired committees, served on Boards and used my experience as a volunteer to provide me a safe place to practice new behaviors and game changing ideas.
In my 30s, I still continue to develop with confidence, grace and a broader lens:
- I have created greater focus while maintaining plenty of variety. Now I get to put all of the above together. Variety has come in the form of living and traveling to different places, taking ambiguous assignments while creating options for the future. Variety has also meant becoming a wife and a mother and learning how all of that fits into the picture and pacing it.
- I bring my whole self to everything I do. Like the kid in me, I am unafraid to lead, think big, fail, learn and manuever difficult people and situations. I lead proudly with my values, appreciate style, diversity and inclusion and the power those bring to the table.
- I am more thoughtful about what I do and how I invest my time, talent and money. I give to the things and people that matter and say no to a lot. Everything I do has a strategy.
So, I think we've over-definined the problem for women and complicated it with a lot of literature and stats. Women have more power than they give themselves credit. It's time to use that power. Stop whining, and win.