As leaders, we bring a combination of our professional experience and personal background to our workplace every day. This may seem obvious, but it has taken me years to fully embrace the value of my combined personal and professional qualities and understand how this combination enhances my leadership abilities today.

Early in my life and career, I spent a lot of energy projecting an image of what I thought success looked like. I grew up in a family that was affected by mental illness, and I projected this outward impression of success to hide the reality of our home life from classmates, teachers, and members of my community. Early in my career, I similarly worked hard to project confidence and competence, even when I was overwhelmed by a significant management role in my early twenties. I resisted asking for help or revealing any of my struggles with my job—even to my boss.

Through the support of mentors and my own hard work, I have come to understand that my full life experience and all of my qualities make me a better and more well-rounded leader—I communicate more effectively, build better teams, and make better decisions. In addition to reflecting on my own background, I also work hard to understand the unique qualities and perspectives that each of my clients and colleagues has, and with this deeper understanding, I believe that I am able to provide better consulting advice and leadership.

As I reflect on my own personal journey, I counsel others to actively identify and understand their own personal experiences and unique abilities and to utilize them in their career. While it is imperative to develop core professional and business qualifications to achieve success (hard work, technical expertise, organizational abilities, communication skills, etc.), it is by integrating these professional skills with your own unique qualities that you build your own personal brand. It has been my experience that working with others from this authentic and genuine perspective makes for clearer and more direct communication, better results, and a much more rewarding and successful lifetime of work.

How has education affected your career?

I was a liberal arts major in college, so my coursework involved extensive reading, synthesis of complex material, and the presentation of analyses in written papers and oral presentations. I credit this education with the development of strong analytical and communication skills that I use every day in my career.

Additionally, my years at school were my first exposure to many kinds of diversity. I grew up in a homogeneous suburb of New York City but my classmates at college were from many different cultures and socioeconomic groups. This experience helped me to begin to see the much bigger world outside of the town where I was raised.