If decisive action is taken to showcase the power and influence of women in positions of leadership, the female leaders of tomorrow will be inspired and empowered to continue to shatter the glass ceiling. We must revive the conversation to ensure that progress towards gender parity in the workplace continues to be made. For the final interview in this three-part series, Redstone had the privilege of speaking with a true female trailblazer about her journey to leadership and the advice she wishes she had received while aspiring to become a leader.
Meet the Final Interviewee…
What are the key qualities of a successful leader?
An effective leader will identify the strengths as well as the areas of development for each individual on their team and then allocate tasks accordingly. It’s important to focus on each individual’s growth objectives because if you only distribute tasks based on strengths, your team will not be challenged. Your team should appreciate the highs of success, but should also have the opportunity to learn and progress by taking on difficult tasks. A successful leader will focus on empowering their team to take on challenges and resolve missteps independently.
What advice can you provide to junior female professionals who are striving to become business leaders?
First, leverage your network. It’s a huge impact if you have someone who can vouch for you and your work ethic. Second, don’t be afraid to be interesting. I have interviewed a lot of people over the course of my career and, especially with younger people, it’s surprising how many of them sound exactly the same. If you have an interest, passion or something that motivates you, talk openly and energetically about it and link it to something that the employer cares about. This will certainly make you stand out.
Have you ever received criticism from managers or colleagues that you felt was directly related to your non-compliance with stereotypical gender norms?
At the beginning of my career, I received 360 feedback that I was described as “aggressive”. When I asked for specific examples, I was provided with examples of me simply not conforming to gender norms. I asked them to re-frame their way of thinking to perceive me as being objective-driven and focused on the end goal. From this experience, I learnt two lessons: (1) unconscious bias still exists and (2) when receiving feedback, you don’t necessarily have to action it immediately. Instead, consider whether acting on the feedback will allow you to remain your authentic self. In the end, this feedback was valuable for me, but I had to first unpackage what I was given and then determine how I could implement it in a way that felt right to me.
What can organizations do to eliminate barriers and provide opportunity to women aspiring to become leaders?
I would love to see more women putting their hands up to talk about what they know and to be influential in the market, but many women lack the resources to improve their presentation and leadership skills. Presenting is intimidating, but women need to challenge each other to share success publicly. The first step is to provide women an opportunity to practice in a safe, unintimidating setting. This way, women will develop the confidence to present as keynote speakers on the main stage at major industry conferences. Organizations need to make an effort to ensure that those who are presenting at industry events represent the breadth and diversity of the industry.
What is the best approach to developing a worthwhile relationship with a mentor?
If you’re seeking a mentor, you don’t necessarily need to rely on a formal mentorship program to form a successful partnership with a mentor. I learn something from every person I meet that I can take away about myself. I see the value in asking people to meet for coffee to discuss certain questions that I have for them, while not necessarily asking for a long-term mentoring relationship – this can add stress to a relationship, so casual encounters can work well too. I participated in a women-only mastermind group, a peer-to-peer mentoring program led by a business coach. This was a great experience because it involved in-depth professional development, but also introduced me to a tribe of women who were super supportive and also challenged each other. While I did learn a lot from the business coach, I learned just as much from the other participants in the group. This goes back to the common premise that you can learn from anyone you interact with.
What advice can you give to women struggling to strike a balance between the demands of work life and personal life?
First, find the right partner. Your spouse should be supportive of you and see the adventure in parenting the same way you do. Second, lower your standards. Your life will be a whirlwind if you try to do it all. If you constantly focus on checking all the boxes on your to-do list, you’ll never be able to embrace life and enjoy connecting with your family in meaningful ways. Third, accept help. Successful women are often criticized for accepting help, such as by hiring a nanny to support at home, but I know that, by finding a balance that works for me, I am modelling what a great female leader is to my sons.
Redstone would like to extend a sincere thank you to Leah for participating in this interview. As Maya Angelou preached: “If you get, give. If you learn, teach.” The female leaders of today have the power to motivate and influence the female leaders of tomorrow. We hope that you are as inspired as we are by the insights shared by the women who graciously agreed to participate in this interview series.
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