We often hear people use authentic leadership as a corporate buzzword. But it really refers to being true to who you are, being assertive, and driving progressive outcomes in all circumstances of your life…both inside and outside work.

To be an authentic and effective leader, I believe that I must be the “best Marianne” possible. I also believe that it’s essential to be intentional about “what” I work on and “how” I get it done. The “what” and “how” refer to a formula I try to model from the book Results-based Leadership, by Ulrich, Zenger, and Smallwood. It says: Desirable attributes and achieving results = effective leadership.

These principals seem easy on the surface; however, consistently modeling this formula throughout your day can be hard. You need to focus on “what” areas will make the biggest impact, and think of “how” collaboration with all departmental functions will drive collective outcomes. But operating in this way fosters teamwork and breaks down barriers. It also helps you create a stronger, more credible personal brand within your organization.

Years ago, one of my mentors challenged me to become more involved in external organizations in order to broaden my network and expose myself to new thought leadership platforms. I took my mentor’s advice and, in doing so, I have formed many new relationships that have proven to be extremely beneficial in many facets of my life and career.

Volunteering with external organizations has provided me new outlets to work with passion and purpose. Being an intentional leader and using “what” and “how” has helped me create a strong personal brand. As a result of this “inner work,” I have been recognized and received industry awards for my work, and offered opportunities to share my thought leadership and personal journey with others.

On the Hardest Challenge I’ve Had to Face in My Career
Often times, I’ve been discounted for being the only woman in the room or—early in my career—for being “too young.” I have also encountered biases someone looked for certain academic or employer credentials that fit a particular “profile” for leadership, rather than looking at past results. I can honestly say that I don’t feel these challenges have been roadblocks for me, only bumps in the road that can be removed or mitigated.

My Advice to Women Just Beginning Their Careers
Embrace who you are and what makes you unique. Then, challenge yourself to tap into those unique attributes that allow you to nurture and ignite the leader in you and in those around you! Live courageously and optimistically, knowing that whatever role you’re in can lead you to endless possibilities if you chose to be an intentional leader. Remember that leadership is not hierarchal. It’s about influencing the actions of those around you.