My suggestions for women who want to achieve positions of leadership:
Know the mission. Throughout my career in the military, and in private and public sectors as an appointee, there were many obstacles that I had to deal with and overcome. I have found it extremely important to first always learn everything about my programs and organizations. That ensured that I had a clear understanding of the existing mission, or helped me to develop a mission. I created clear objectives and goals that would determine the direction for my staff as well as myself, while recognizing that there may be times that I would have to reevaluate those goals and objectives based on changes in the organizational environment.
Surround yourself with a great staff. In order to find success, one of the most important things that you must always do is surround yourself with very smart, creative, and hard-working people. Be willing to incorporate their great ideas into the plan that has been strategically developed for the mission. Always find out what motivates your staff and be willing to reward them for their efforts.
Roll up your sleeves. You cannot be afraid to do those not-so-glamorous jobs yourself. Your staff needs to understand that you will not ask them to accomplish anything that you would not do yourself. If there is a short deadline and the envelopes have to be licked, get in there and do it too.
Take the high road when making hard staff decisions. Very early in my career in the ’80s, when African American female military officers were still not as common in leadership positions as they are today, there were many times that I would have loved to put the blame squarely on the shoulders of whoever appeared to be the responsible party. I found that it is always important to look at the big picture and quickly assess the problem to avoid jumping to conclusions. Remember that things are not always what they seem. By looking at the facts (and sometimes behind the facts), you have a better chance of making fair and clear decisions which can ultimately have a major impact on an employee’s life.