I Love The World Bank for its noble vision: “A world free of poverty.” And I love working with extremely talented men and women from nearly every country in the world who aspire to fulfill that vision.
To lead in such a large, complex organization brings a unique set of challenges and opportunities. We are all driven to perform at a high level, but women in our organization often find juggling the demands of career and family particularly difficult, especially women from cultures in which assertiveness is not the norm. When asked, therefore, by colleagues how best to pursue a career here, my answers are simple:
LIVE UP TO THE ORGANIZATION’S MISSION AND VALUES—personal honesty, integrity, commitment, working with openness and trust, empowering others, respecting differences. But do so in a way that honors your own culture. The diversity of thought and experience you bring is a strength to the organization.
KNOW YOURSELF. Recognize your own passions and talents and build on them. Seek feedback to help you become aware of blind spots, especially about how others may perceive you. Build diverse teams that complement you, bringing the right technical skills, different styles or different approaches to problem solving.
GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE. Take chances and “stretch” yourself in ways you didn’t think possible. I am an infrastructure development specialist but was asked to take on corporate assignments, including VP of human resources. It was a tough, but seminal, learning experience for me
TAKE CARE OF FRIENDS AND FAMILIES. Many of us travel overseas more than 100 days a year. Figure out when you need to take a position that may not be as operational but allows you to learn and grow while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. I pulled myself out of a high-travel position when my children were young and worked part-time for a few years.
MAINTAIN A GOOD SENSE OF HUMOR. Enjoy your colleagues. Follow my own mentor’s advice: Stay on an even keel. Don’t get too upset when things go wrong; don’t get overly exuberant when things go well. Ours is a business where things can change quickly. The central challenge of leadership is to balance competing forces and trade-offs yet remain grounded in the excellence of the services we provide. In other words, be driven to make a real and lasting difference to the poor of the world.