“It is a grand thing to rise in the world. The ambition to do so is the very salt of the earth. It is the parent of all enterprise, and the cause of all improvement.” ~ Anthony Trollope
There is an ingrained, cultural bias to think it’s wrong to feed your ambition, if you’re a woman. Women with ambition have gotten a bad rep…they’re called selfish, b**chy, pushy, and unlikable. For example, there was a very revealing study conducted by the Columbia Business School. Half the class received a case study about a venture capitalist named “Heidi”; and the other half received the same case study with the name changed to “Howard.” While everyone in the class judged the content to be equally important, the ones reading about “Heidi” said she wasn’t likable, whereas the ones reading about “Howard” said he was likable.
It also illustrates the fundamental challenge to women’s leadership…qualities traditionally associated with leaders (assertive and authoritative) are not traditionally viewed as attractive in women. Both men and women are making judgments from this outdated paradigm. It’s time for a more expansive worldview that begins with finding the answer to this question:
How can you maintain joy and balance, as you feed your ambition?
While there’s a place for networking and finding support among “women’s only” groups, this exclusivity can reinforce the gender divide. A more integrative approach allows women who have extraordinary leadership qualities to do extraordinary work within any organization. Women don’t have to try to be like their male counterparts. They simply need to nurture and recognize their leader within and make that their strongpoint.
As I practice this within my own life and career, I’ve formed deeply meaningful leadership connections with men and women. At present, I’m partnering with Nando Raynolds, and we’re training both men and women over at our Institute for Professional Leaders website. I’ve also partnered with Louise Santiago to lead an annual all-woman retreat in Mindo, Ecuador.
Would this have happened if I was pretending to be what I’m not? No. These connections are based on being our authentic selves and bringing our unique talents and gifts to the table. We’re successful because our focus is on being the best leaders we can be, not making an issue over gender.
While the world, in general, is still dismissive of women with ambition, there are shifts in accepting people who feed their ambition in an authentic way. I recommend reading an inspiring article about three very ambitious women, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Tory Burch. Here are three very transformative messages I gleaned from their struggles and successes that will help you feed your ambition in a sustainable way:
1. Feed your ambition, by believing in yourself. If you see an opportunity, don’t hold back. Trust your instincts; learn all you can about your topic; and create a step-by-step plan for making it work. Don’t take no for an answer.
2. Feed your ambition, by deeply knowing you deserve success. While it’s helpful to look for role models, don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to them and putting yourself down before you even get started. This is where the issue of deserving it or not rears its ugly head. If you put in the work, you deserve the success. Believe that with all your heart, because it’s true.
Stop worrying about what others will say. Don’t ask for permission or be apologetic. Erase from your vocabulary hesitant words like, “Is this Okay?” “It’s not as good as I’d hoped.” “I wish it was better, but…” If there’s room for improvement, make it! Don’t apologize for a job half done. Finish it. Polish it. Make it shine! However, beware of stalling out on the fine line between being a perfectionist and being good enough to put it out there into the world. You can adjust and tweak as time goes along.
3. Feed your ambition, by owning your success. We’re taught that it’s not polite to brag, so we hold back from speaking about our successes. Here’s a much healthier mindset to adopt: it’s not bragging; it’s sharing information that can help others to succeed too. Become more mindful and notice what internal shifts and external actions led to moments of success, whether small or large. Then you can turn these steps into a success story that has real value for those who listen to you. This, in turn, grows your own confidence immeasurably.
Are you ready to feed you ambition? Within days, my colleague, Louise Santiago, and I will be traveling to our annual retreat entitled: “Women, Wisdom & Presence – Evolving our presence in the world.” Make plans now to join us next year. Together, we’ll be exploring how to recognize, name, and support the leader within you. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
“The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” ~ Ray Kroc
Whether you call it leadership presence, executive presence, professional presence or boardroom presence, what you’re talking about is how others perceive and accept you. But the process of developing a leadership presence starts long before you actually take a leadership position. In order for others to see you as a leader, you must first see yourself as a leader.
Keep in mind that a leadership presence focuses on connecting and engaging with others authentically. Of course, you may feel unsure at times and doubt yourself. Everyone does. The authenticity comes from your motivation to bring something positive, inspiring, and valuable to your organization, team, or clients. When you take the focus off of yourself solely, you’ll be more at ease, which in turn puts others at ease and makes them more receptive to your leadership.
What are the most important steps for developing your leadership presence? As you go through the following list, you’ll see that each skill will add to your self-confidence initially, which translates into a greater leadership presence for all to see.
Physical presentation. The quality of your voice, your vocabulary, and the athletic fitness of your body are important aspects of developing your leadership presence. The more you train in each of these areas, the more control you’ll gain in all aspects of life.
Dress and grooming. Even if you work from home, dress the part. First impressions do matter. Hire a stylist, so you’re not wasting money on clothes that don’t fit the image you want to portray. You’re worth it!
Being well-read. When you’re interested in a lot of different topics, within your area of expertise and beyond, you’ll be able to engage with anyone you meet. Stay up with current events and watch the trends. That will give you a cutting-edge advantage.
Charismatic personality. With the right training, you can change any inherent trait or quality, so don’t settle by saying, “This is how I was born. I can’t help it.” You can master emotional competencies that leaders need, i.e., composure, courage, tenacity, or optimism.
Humility and vulnerability. These are must-have qualities, because people want to work with someone they can relate to. Being vulnerable is a sign of strength and is the quickest pathway to trust. As a caveat – leaders acquire a great amount of power, and it can be tempting to misuse it. If your focus is on helping others to shine, and you’re willing to show your humanity, then people will willingly follow you.
Relationship-building communication. Learn to speak in a way that makes people want to listen. The ability to deliver a clear, convincing and appealing message has extreme value. You can take voice lessons and presentation training to improve your voice quality. Not to be overlooked – active listening is a critical element to communication. Ask questions and listen attentively to understand and learn. Lean forward. Let people sense your interest in them as a person.
Deliver outcomes. As a leader, you are in charge and you have to make sure the right things happen at the right time. It takes strong decision-making skills, plus flexibility and energy to get others to deliver. You’ll need to give helpful and detailed feedback so your team knows what is expected of them.
What challenges you the most in your quest for a leadership presence? Please come over to my Facebook page and share your thoughts. Also, in September, my colleague Louise Santiago and I are hosting “Women, Wisdom & Presence – Evolving our presence in the world” in Mindo, Ecuador. Together, we’ll explore how to recognize, name, and support the leader within. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them become what they are capable of being.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Nothing is more frustrating than trying to teach someone something, and they just don’t get it or take action on it. After all, the job of a leader is to get people to do something, not simply to know something. You can get people to act by a variety of methods: demanding, coercing, guilting, shaming, pleading, motivating, inspiring, convincing, reasoning, tricking, etc. However, the best ways to get people to do something focus on helping them see outside the box – to think expansively about themselves, others, and the opportunities in front of them.
As a leader, it’s imperative that you know the challenges your team or clients face. (For the purposes of clarity, within this article, I’ll refer to those that you lead as your “followers”.) Here are three common, but very critical, life and business skills that followers, especially Millenials and Gen Xers, need to improve today, plus suggestions on how you get them to see outside the box on each one…
1. Clear communication skills. Many people grow up in families plagued by communication gaps, so it’s not surprising that they lack communication skills as adults. People often imagine that they know what the other person means. Between the two extremes – droning on without revealing anything or speaking cryptically and leaving out critical information – there is a sweet spot of communicating with clarity and completeness of thought.
Help your followers see that clear communication stems from respect for others, acknowledging that everyone has something of value to offer. When they understand they have a common purpose, they’ll want to give all the relevant information others need to excel in their portion of the job.
2. Self-worth and self-motivation. People internalize too much – they confuse doing something with being something. As a result, they don’t trust themselves; they constantly wait for others to tell them what to do. Through your words and actions, you can intentionally plant seeds of growth that replace their limiting doubts.
Help your followers develop mindfulness, so they can assess themselves accurately. Let them see that you believe in them. As you guide them from the sidelines, reinforce that each step forward is important. This will add to their self-confidence and self-trust.
3. Critical thinking. Critical or analytical thinking requires a person to slow down and gather information and then see its importance in relation to other information. It involves recognizing the cause and effect of a certain course of action. It takes a lot of effort to weed out irrelevant information and distill the important information into actionable and insightful recommendations.
Help your followers become more curious by encouraging them to have the self-discipline to dig deeply. They do this by asking “why?” over and over, until the subject is thoroughly understood. Make sure they ask “why?” from their own standpoint and also from an opposing viewpoint. This will help them become aware of any biases they might have.
These simple, but powerful, suggestions can help you get your followers to finally take action and do something with the training you give. Are you striving to improve your leadership skills? What challenges you the most? Please come over to my Facebook page and share your thoughts. Also, in September, my colleague Louise Santiago and I are hosting “Women, Wisdom & Presence – Evolving our presence in the world” in Mindo, Ecuador. Together, we’ll explore how to recognize, name, and support the leader within. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
“Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily, even if you had no title or position.” –Brian Tracy
Have you ever wondered if you have what it takes to be a leader? Perhaps other people think so, but how can you know for sure? And if you’re not a natural born leader, does that mean you shouldn’t pursue leadership skills? Absolutely not! Leadership is all about people and relationships, which is the fabric of life.
That’s why I firmly believe everyone’s life is enhanced by developing the four following skills that every natural born leader displays…
1 . Natural born leaders want to help other people excel. When someone has mastered a skill, their self-confidence and productivity skyrockets. They become enthusiastic and more invested.
The challenge: But what happens to you when you see someone excel at something that you don’t? Do you panic because it feels like you’re losing control? Does a competitive personality make it hard for you to see someone excel above you? Do your own insecurities make you want to sabotage or cut others down, so they can’t become better than you?
The solution: Leadership greatness takes “you” out of the equation and concentrates on seeing the value of helping others to progress to mastery.
2. Natural born leaders make trust-building a priority. Trust is built on integrity. People need to know where they stand with you.
The challenge: But what if you can’t stand up for what you believe in? One day you let things slide, whereas the next day you make a huge issue over it. And if things don’t turn out as you expect, you run away either physically or mentally? Maybe you even have a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude toward some things.
The solution: Leaders with integrity are seen as consistent, dependable and accountable for their actions, which makes people feel safe. Trust ensures that teams collaborate at a very high level.
3. Natural born leaders fine-tune their instincts and intuition. Before anyone else sees it, they can sniff out signals and trends in their environment.
The challenge: But what if your focus is just getting through today, without much thought of tomorrow? You also struggle because you can’t read people very well.
The solution: Inspirational leaders use empathy and NLP skills to notice how people react and respond, which helps them interpret the verbal and nonverbal communication correctly. They can detect shifts in the “climate” of the room. This gives them the advantage of intuitively knowing the best timing for an appropriate course of action.
4. Natural born leaders want to make a real difference. When you’re on a mission to make the lives of others better, your enthusiasm is contagious.
The challenge: But what if you have great ideas, but can’t communicate them well enough to bring others on board? You don’t know how to translate those ideas into systems, processes and procedures that others can sustainably follow.
The solution: Extraordinary leaders know how to share their vision in a way that fully engages and energizes others. They structure the business in way that helps the team align with that mission. They specifically design jobs to inject purpose and meaning into the work.
Are you facing specific challenges that make it hard for you to develop or improve your leadership skills? My colleague Louise Santiago and I are hosting “Women, Wisdom & Presence – Evolving our presence in the world” in Mindo, Ecuador. Together, we’ll explore how to recognize, name, and support the leader within, and identify ways to live differently, love fully, and be, wholly, who we are meant to be. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. (We’ll be arriving on September 5th and leaving September 11th.)
“Each person must live their life as a model for others.” ~ Rosa Parks
When you look at a powerful, inspiring leader, you’re seeing the results of her years of growing into her leadership skills. Behind her polished appearance are tears, disappointments, frustrations, and hard-learned lessons. She has experienced hiccups in her plans, inadequacies in her preparation, and unseen circumstances that sidelined her attempts. But she kept striving to improve until she achieved excellence. You can do the same by applying the principles of thoughtful leadership.
How the principles of thoughtful leadership can make a good leader into an excellent leader…
Practice. Every skill is learned through practice; the same is true of leadership. Even if you don’t think you have a natural ability to lead, you can practice, practice, practice, until it becomes a part of you.
A major area to work on is your ability to make decisions quickly and wisely. You may be good at quick decisions, but are they always good ones? If not, don’t give up. Lean into decision-making. View each decision as a practice run and pay attention to the consequences. Ask yourself why it turned out well or why it didn’t. That’s how you learn, if you don’t take yourself too seriously.
There’s a lot of wisdom in the advice to “fail early and fail often,” even though I don’t think of anything as failure. Life is a journey full of lessons, because often you’re making decisions on incomplete or contradictory information. It’s what you learn that matters. Along the way, it’s also important to practice self-forgiveness, gratitude, and other somatic practices.
Lead from Different Directions. If you think a leader can only be the person out in front, like a controlling CEO or president, then it’s time to rethink your definition of leadership.
Thoughtful leaders don’t need to control everything. They recognize the talent of the team, and they encourage the most qualified person to run with a project or initiative. They step out of the way and guide from the background, when needed.
I love how the National Outdoor Leadership School describes the four approaches to leadership. As a designated leader, you take responsibility for the group and keep it on track. But you often ask your active followers to participate in group decisions, as their input gives you a clearer picture. Everyone on the team helps each other as peer leaders. And everyone carries their own weight because they exercise self-leadership and remain organized and motivated.
Be a Team Player. It’s more important to build solid relationships within your organization than “getting the job done,” if that means trampling on your team cohesion. It’s not always easy to effectively resolve conflict among a diverse group of people, but if you show you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and work alongside them, or you’re willing to fill in for them when necessary, that goes a long way to building a “collaborative, family feeling.” This approach fosters a spirit of understanding, communication, motivation, and even a sense of humor.
Stay Calm. Maintaining flexibility under adversity is another vital leadership skill. Embodied leaders don’t become leaders despite those adversities. They’ve become leaders because they used those adversities to their advantage.
There may be times you may want to throw in the towel, but a wiser course is to weigh your options. Ask yourself, “if I do that, what good will it do? …what harm will it do?”
Trying to control everything leads to burnout faster than anything. Learn to let go of things you can’t control, and become comfortable with changes. Maintain your composure and calm, as you switch on your problem-solving skills.
Develop the presence of mind to look past the immediate disaster/challenge/distraction and focus on the most important task at hand. You can’t afford to panic or become paralyzed with fear. It’s only by embracing discomfort that you can purposefully expand your comfort zone.
Disconnect to Reconnect. Technology is sapping our ability to analyze, strategize and dream big. We must remain connected to nature. You’ll find that regularly immersing yourself in nature removes distractions so you can make decisions for the right reasons.
Are you ready to claim the leader within you? My colleague Louise Santiago and I are hosting “Women, Wisdom & Presence – Evolving our presence in the world” in Mindo, Ecuador. Together, we’ll explore how to recognize, name, and support the leader within, and identify ways to live differently, love fully, and be, wholly, who we are meant to be. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. (We’ll be arriving on September 5th and leaving September 11th.) It’s going to be a wonderful, life-changing experience.