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Women Leaders Rising: 5 Lessons to Navigate Your Way to the Top

Photo of a Women LeaderInternational Women’s day acts as a timely reminder to consider the role of women in society, and, in particular, the role of women in leadership.

Facts and figures relating to women in leadership positions are well documented. While improving in some industries, it is no secret that women often experience a hard road to the top and the proportion of women in leadership positions is quite low.

Here at TMS, we thought we could take this opportunity to frame this issue with a constructive mind set and provide some tips for women who strive to become future leaders.

1. Find a Mentor

A trusted advisor in your chosen field can provide you with invaluable wisdom, guidance and endorsement. A mentor can act as a font of knowledge for how to navigate through your career. Seek their guidance around current issues, and gain insight into helpful next steps. Mentors can also be strong advocates for you as you move into new roles or a presented with new opportunities. Whether they work within your company or externally, your mentor will be one of your most valuable assets in your career.

2. Capitalise your Uniqueness

Use your unique qualities to your advantage. Erin Teague, Director of Product Management at Yahoo, encourages women to “recognise and embrace your uniqueness… Being a woman in general, on a team of all men, means that you are going to have a unique voice. It’s important to embrace that.”

Engage in self-reflection to determine what unique qualities you bring to your team. Strive to use this point of difference to have a positive impact on the work of your organisation. Remember that diversity is a strength.

3. Make Opportunities Happen

There may be no such thing as the ‘perfect opportunity’. Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, has a wonderful perspective on opportunities: “Life doesn’t always present you with the perfect opportunity at the perfect time. Opportunities come when you least expect them, or when you’re not ready for them. Rarely are opportunities presented to you in the perfect way, in a nice little box with a yellow ribbon on top.”

Wojcicki’s words are a nice reminder that we must be active participants in finding opportunities. We must not wait around for the prince charming of opportunities, but nurture the frog, for one day that frog may be the greatest opportunity of all.

4. Back Yourself

At risk of sounding like a Disney Channel movie, it is important to believe in yourself. You are your biggest advocate, and if you want to reach your goals, you must be confident that you can reach them. One of the first steps is to surround yourself with people who support you and believe in you.

Secondly, you may have to fake it ’til you make it. As social psychologist Amy Cuddy presented in her influential TED Talk, faking it can actually trick your brain to think that you’ve made it! Standing in a posture of confidence before a big meeting can induce changes in the chemicals in our brain and bring on feelings of confidence.

So even if you have doubts about yourself, present yourself in a confident manner and back yourself to succeed.

5. Persevere

If life was easy it would be unfulfilling. Your road to leadership may take a long and unconventional path, but there are many ways to end up at the top. As Sheryl Sandberg advises in her acclaimed book Lean In, “The ability to forge a unique path with occasional dips, detours and even dead ends presents a better chance for fulfilment.”

Yes, setbacks can be disheartening, but use them as a learning opportunity for how to succeed in the future. Framing setbacks in a constructive manner will assist you to persevere, and make it oh so sweeter when you do reach your goals.

If you would like to learn more about what TMS can do for leaders, please contact us.

Sally is a Registered Psychologist with a Master degree in Organisational Psychology. She has a well-developed knowledge of change management principles and methodologies, psychosocial safety in the workplace, organisational development, and team development.