A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the Microsoft Women in Leadership Conference in Redmond. As I got ready to go, many people asked me what exactly happens at an all woman conference. Contrary to popular belief, there was no plotting to take over the world. Not even a hint of scheming to even take over the company. However, there were plenty of sessions on negotiating skills, growing your career, how to have tough conversations and developing leadership qualities.
One session I particularly enjoyed was called "See Jane Lead" presented by Lois Frankel, who is also the author of several books including one by the same name as her session. Some of the insights she shared, while geared towards women, are applicable to both genders. Here is part of her talk about becoming a leader the WALLET way:
- Write it down. What kind of leader do you want to be? Put together a leadership vision statement which encapsulates your ideal. I'll share with you what I came up with for myself (but you've got to come up with your own!):
I am a leader who empowers others to meet their full potential, who has a vision and who inspires others to join me in making that vision a reality.
- Act on it. What do you need to do to make your leadership vision statement a reality? Your action plan needs to be visible to the camera. For example, passion can't be seen but energetic communication can, so communicating energetically could be part of your plan.
- Look to the edge of the boundaries.Where are the leaders that you admire the most? You can't play the game in the safe zone in the middle of the field and still make your goals a reality.
- Let other people know. Erase the phrase "Oh it was nothing" from your vocabulary. Let other people know about your successes.
- Elicit feedback. As Dr. Frankel said, "When three people say you're drunk, lie down!". Get feedback from people that you trust to get realistic view and guidance on the actions you need to take.
- Treat others with abundance. People who have the most power tend to give the most power away.
What I really took away from the session, is that it's not good enough to wish you were a leader or grasp for leadership positions, hoping that will make you a leader. You need to start grooming yourself for leadership. Develop leadership skills and qualities even if you're not in a position where you're currently leading people. In fact, you don't necessarily need to be a manager to be a leader. There are probably plenty of opportunities to be a leader and influence those that you work with even if they don't report to you.