At the end of 2017 I attended the Women in Leadership Summit in Sydney. The event ran over several days with a global selection of speakers from a variety of industries and professions. All shared their stories on – surprise, surprise – leadership, in particular from the female perspective. It’s important not to over-analyse and over-work the whole “what is good leadership” thing because everyone has different styles and approaches so you really can’t manufacture something that isn’t true to you.
However I discerned the following headline messages from a few of the presenters that I think offer a useful perspective for all leaders (and aspiring leaders) to heed.
“The number one mistake women make is comparing our behind the scenes lives with other people’s highlights reel” – Mia Freedman, Mamamia Founder, journalist and media personality
This is an obvious issue in the world of incessant social media that we live in, and the dangerous crafting of seeming perfection that is pasted all over our Instagram feeds. I think it can be healthy encouragement to compare to those around you so you aspire to be better; so long as you temper that comparison with the reminder that you don’t have all the behind the scenes information. My competitive and ambitious nature has meant I have often made this mistake, however it was a welcome and resonating reminder when Mia said, “Look in the mirror and remember what’s right with what you see, not what’s wrong with what you see”. My view is you should then take what’s right, and turn that into extraordinary.
“Find a mentor – no, build a board” – Suzi Nicoletti, Twitter Australia, Managing Director
This was a particularly interesting point as we all have at some point or other thought about finding a mentor or reaching out to someone we admire for career guidance. But I hadn’t thought about the value in reaching out to a collective group of different individuals. This value is much like why organisations have a board of directors – individuals with different skills, experience and perspectives brought together around a table to offer their expertise on a collective matter, in this case, YOU.
Suzi’s words spoke loudly to me and inspired me to write a previous post on exactly this topic, Establishing your own personal board. You can read that post for more of my thoughts on this, however suffice to say that having a group of trusted advisors that you can bounce ideas off will help you make the right steps to achieving your leadership goals.
“Know the kind of leader you want to be, don’t try to emulate someone else’s style” – Helen Szoke, Oxfam Australia, CEO
It is this very sentiment that led to my starting The Round Peg In Tweed; I firmly believe that you can succeed by being your own style of leader and it is a matter of finding where that style of leadership is valued. Just because your style doesn’t work or isn’t valued at one organisation, does not necessarily mean you are a lousy leader. It could well be that you just need to find the right type of environment that suits your leadership style.
I have incidentally also touched upon the topic of being authentic in a previous post, What bad career advice sounds like.
“Risky things can be the things that take your career forward” – Diane Smith-Gander, Non-Executive Director on a number of ASX-listed organisations
Diane emphasised that it is sometimes the risks you take that will catapult your career. No words could have run truer for my own career journey. I often reflect on the several occasions where I have taken risks in my decisions, and the results have always been immensely positive.
The biggest payoff I will speak to is when I left private practice as a lawyer in a firm, to working in-house at a corporate – I took a very significant pay and title cut, so a demotion in all visible respects. However, I did it on my gut feel that the organisation had ample opportunity for my growth, and that it appeared to be a cultural fit for me. I was subsequently promoted three times, over a very short space of time so the risk I took has paid off in spades.
“Find young talent, teach them the ropes and then watch them fly” – Lisa Wilkinson, journalist, television presenter and media personality
I have written about this in many of my previous posts, but Lisa’s commentary around the value of mentoring really highlighted that there are mutual benefits to the mentor/mentee relationship. When Lisa spoke how proud she felt seeing those she had supported succeed (cue Mia Freedman!), it occurred to me I also felt the same about some mentees I have had. For more of my thoughts on this, check out my post Chivalry is not dead, why you should open doors for others in the workplace.
The thoughts from these successful business leaders affirmed some of my existing views, as well as turned my mind to other perspectives I had not considered. My suggestion is to reflect on these messages and consider how they influence or might change how you approach leadership.