SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME, WOMEN HAVE BRAVELY AND TIRELESSLY FOUGHT TO ASSERT THEIR POSITIONS AS EXPERTS, TRAILBLAZERS AND INNOVATORS. FROM COCO CHANEL TO MARIE CURIE, NORA EPHRON TO ROSA PARKS, MAYA ANGELOU TO ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, THESE INSPIRATIONAL LEADERS SHARE A COMMON BOND: THEY DID NOT LET FEAR, DOUBT OR CONSEQUENCE INHIBIT THEIR ABILITY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
From elementary school class elections to the race for the White House, people want to understand what ensures success as a leader. But what often goes unrecognized is that there are many different visions of what constitutes a successful leader.
Imagine if each of the women above had followed the exact same – path to “successful leadership.” They may not have achieved all that they did or have as much of an impact on the world. What made them incredible leaders were their unique dreams, talents, goals, influences, opportunities and many other qualities that each possessed and shared with others.
OVERCOMING OBSTACLES TO LEADERSHIP
Some roadblocks on the road to becoming great leaders are self-imposed. Insecurity, uncertainty and self-doubt can creep up on anyone, but often it’s fear of judgment by others that prevents growth.
Licensed psychologist Dr. Patricia Price believes that, “A true leader is someone who can be relied upon to stand by principles, rather than being overly driven by current popular opinion. These principles are not developed in a vacuum. They, instead, stem from open-mindedness, mental flexibility, social awareness, depth of experience and emotional integrity.”
A leader is able to effectively communicate her rationale for decisions and actions, even when they are not widely accepted, Price explains. “In addition to all this, a great leader needs to be aware of the limits to her competency. No one person is an expert in all areas. The leader needs to seek advice and guidance, when outside her area of expertise.”
As a health, lifestyle and business coach, Brittney Lutjen helps others develop their leadership abilities. She says, “Leaders can fall into the trap of managing a team without influencing them or helping them grow. In our busy work lives, it’s easy to become complacent and just get the job done because it offers gratification and recognition. But leadership is about growing others to create their own win.”
Samantha Duke, who has served in multiple leadership roles including civil service senator for the University of Minnesota Student Senate, believes true leaders support, encourage and challenge others. “Good organizational leaders develop and promote people,” she says, “even if that means the person they’re mentoring might outgrow their current position and pursue opportunities elsewhere.”
TAKING ACTION TO BECOME A BETTER LEADER
Leadership is all about action. Here are three small steps you can take today to become a better leader:
Walk the talk. It’s easy to complain about injustices and societal issues, but taking action and looking for ways to improve the world around you is the sign of a true leader.
Be purposefully vulnerable. A famous quote by Eleanor Roosevelt is, “Do one thing each day that scares you.” Commit to stepping out of your comfort zone.
Demonstrate integrity. Do the right thing for the right reason regardless of the consequence.
Heather Holmes, owner of Heather Holmes Solutions and a long-term leader of Rotary International, offers some additional words of advice in strengthening your position as a leader. “Stay humble, and own your mistakes,” she suggests. “And don’t run from the fear you may feel. Embrace that fear; it will ultimately fuel thoughtful decision-making.”
If you are ready to be intentional about your leadership journey and would like additional tools and resources, please connect with More Women on the Move at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Oslund is the owner of Inspire and is a core team member of More Women on the Move.