Throughout my life, I have been inspired by mentors whom I have sought for advice and guidance. Even historical figures have inspired me—people like President Jefferson, who once wrote “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”
Indeed, it’s the combination of hard work, determination, and luck that contributes to workplace success. As a woman, though, I have learned that my success also relies on another factor: an understanding of the unique qualities that differentiate my leadership style as a woman.
I believe we need to develop our own brand of women’s leadership, rather than simply follow male models of success. In my 17 years on Wall Street, successful leaders have often been described in masculine terms: dominant, aggressive, and competitive. Speaking with younger women, I hear success described differently. They want balance in their work and their lives outside of work. They want continued growth, challenging work, emotional balance, and a great boss. These aspirations represent some of the values that women are infusing into the Wall Street culture.
Not that it’s easy. As a mom who works outside the home, I’m often torn between my own expectations of what it means to be a good mom and a good leader at work. For the last five years I’ve been working a flexible work schedule, even for some years as a sales person on the trading floor, and I find myself challenged by the stereotypes that some people hold about whether flexibility lends itself to true corporate commitment. But I try to hold firm to what I believe, and know in my heart that I can excel on both fronts.
I remember my first job, where my boss told me “Anne, you know you are successful when not everyone likes you.” I thought long and hard on this one. It seemed counter-intuitive as I worked diligently to build consensus on projects I was leading. Ultimately, I realized that I was driven by different motivations than my boss, and yes, I could be successful by building consensus in my own way.
Throughout the years I have grown to define success on my own terms. I have joined a chorus of women who represent a new type of leader for Wall Street: a leader who values flexibility, inclusion, consensus, and bringing our full selves to the workplace. I have learned to not try to fit someone else’s mold, but to shape my own.