Throughout my career, one of the challenges I’ve often faced is being the first female or the only female on a leadership team. To overcome this challenge, I set gender aside and invest the time needed to gain a better understanding of the team’s dynamics. I have been very fortunate at Rockwell Collins to have several strong female leaders whom I can turn to for guidance and advice on how to navigate certain situations. Don’t be afraid to utilize your networks. Chances are that your problem isn’t unique, and you often can find someone who’s been there before and who will be more than willing to help you along the way.

In addition to networking with internal employee groups and external association groups, identify a mentor who has been down the path you want to go, or someone who has skills in an area you’d like to develop. Don’t be shy about asking this person for his or her time. My experience is that most good leaders are happy to accommodate you.

I also suggest that you show your commitment to go above and beyond by volunteering for special projects where you can learn new skills – especially those in different parts of the company. The better you understand the big picture, the more invaluable you become.

And, of course, approach all that you do with a positive attitude and people will want to surround themselves with your talent. Confidence and a positive attitude are character traits I feel are essential to success. Successful leaders also have a clear vision of the future that is rooted in the organization’s core values and communicated clearly. Finally, a successful leader must possess critical decisionmaking skills and take responsibility for the decisions they make.

Above it all, if there is one thing you take away from me, it is to be passionate about all you choose to do in life. When you love what you do, you truly can have fun at the same time you are working hard. I think it is crucial to an organization’s success that people look forward to going to work. After all, since we spend more waking hours with our coworkers than we do our families, we need to do what we can to make it the best possible environment.