Someone asked me last week, why I was focusing on developing women leaders – the answer was easy – I want to add my voice to an area that I am passionate about. Simple. But is it that simple? Not really.
In life we must find our passion, I left behind a very lucrative career in workers’ compensation injury management to pursue my passion to develop women leaders because as I moved up the ladder of success with my consulting practice, I realized that I encountered fewer women who had the power to affect change in the organization. Even more disheartening and troubling I saw no black women seated at the tables I was invited to join – our voice was missing in action. When I peeled the leadership onion, I saw few women in the ranks being groomed to walk into any of the roles that provided impact. The C-Suite has a hole and it vortexes women in middle-management.
The questions I asked myself over and over again is if only 6 percent of women make it to the C-Suite, does that mean that the other 94 percent just have no appetite to lead? Or have we marginalized women into believing that they don’t have the skills to be effective leaders?
What I came to realize, leadership start in your head. If you don’t think you’re good enough you will never be an effective leader. In fact, you cannot lean in if you don’t know how to lean. Women need more than a program, we need to clear out the cobwebs that prevent us from seeing ourselves as leadership ready.
Leadership is a mindset—you’ve either decided that you are leadership-ready, or you decided that you are willing to be led and have someone else control your destiny. For me, the latter was not an option. I refused to be a cog in the corporate machine. I refused to be led—I was destined to be a leader and determined to lead, even if that meant leaving my cushy corporate job and embracing self-employment. When I added President/CEO to my business card, I meant every word. I am the boss. I got clear about what I wanted, I created a vision, and I started living that vision. Even when others didn’t see me as “presidential,” I was willing to overlook their view and embrace my own.
In today’s workforce, I find people who are totally willing to have their supervisors and managers control their destiny. They are willing to accept what has been handed to them, versus trying to achieve what they have rightfully earned.
As emerging leaders, we have to understand why we work where we work. What is the defined purpose of the positions we hold? Every job has a purpose—we’re either there to learn, add to our resume, or advance our career. We are not there to make friends and get attached to the job. While friendship is great, that is not the reason why we work. You can get other work friends in other places. You would be amazed how many people derail their career because they “like” the people they work with and couldn’t see themselves working anywhere else.
It’s important to remember what you wanted out of your career the day you started with your company. It’s uber important that you also allow yourself to see yourself as a woman leader. Most women feel they need to check every box before they are ready to lead – I would like to challenge you to start thinking bigger. The second you enter the job, you need to figure out where you are going. Not when you’re seasoned or when you think the boxes are checked. But the second you arrive – envision yourself in a larger role and plot your course to get there.
Every women’s leadership development statistics highlights one key fact, women aren’t in senior leadership roles because they are missing from the direct roles that lead to the executive suite. Developing women leaders is a long-tail strategy. As women, we must fill in the blank spots, not shy away from moving up the ladder. So start plotting your journey – now!