Like many leaders, my career has had detours and road blocks that have challenged me to grow. I began my career as an officer in the U.S. Air Force during a time when females were uncommon in the military, especially as senior leaders. There were instances when some would place limits on my potential, but I learned quickly to be confident in myself and my abilities—to take it on, not take it personally.
A few leadership techniques that have served me well throughout my career include: being consistent, flexible, a strong partner, and always assuming goodwill of those around you.
Every leader’s style is different, but being consistent allows team members to know what to expect and how to interact with you. Strive to understand others’ leadership styles. A successful leader can modulate their style in any situation, while remaining authentic and effective.
It’s also important to be flexible when defining your career. I have an education in software engineering, so I thought that was the field I would work in. Yet, here I am leading the largest aircraft program in aviation history. This is mainly due to leaders who challenged me and shared a piece of advice that sticks with me to this day: Every job should make you feel like you’re not sure how you’re going to do it. Otherwise, you’re not growing.
Most progress in life and business involves interacting with people. Leaders who can identify with their customers and colleagues can achieve where others may fail. If you can understand what’s important to those around you, you’ll have an impact on the world.
One of the most difficult skills to practice is assuming goodwill, especially during conflict. Even if others’ actions are antithetical to yours, assume they have good intentions. When you do so, many things change for the better.
When I began working for Lockheed Martin, the transition was easy because the lessons I learned in the service and my personal morals aligned with the company’s core values: do what’s right, respect others, and perform with excellence. In every job, I strive for excellence and bring my whole authentic self.
What advice would you give young women building/preparing for a career?
My advice is to be authentic no matter what you do. Never limit yourself or question what you can do, and don’t let being female define your opportunities. Always perform to the highest expectations and be who you are.
I would also remind young women new in their careers to be patient when it comes to advancing in their career. Be hungry for growth and opportunities, but do not be too focused on the future that you do not fulfill your responsibilities today. Excellence today nearly always brings opportunity.