In counseling women who aspire to positions of leadership, I can only share what has worked for me, which boils down to several key points:

  • Lead with your strengths and involve yourself in work that you truly care about. Trying new things helps you clarify your strengths and interests.
  • Remember that if you don’t ask, you don’t get—kind of the reverse of “ask and you shall receive.” Tell people what you want, whether it’s their business (if they are a prospective customer) or it’s a raise or a particular position (if they are your boss or someone who can influence your boss).
  • Set goals for yourself and measure your progress. Be willing to modify your plan in the face of new information or circumstances.
  • Surround yourself with positive, upbeat people and inspire yourself by reading inspirational material.
  • When faced with an obstacle, think creatively to find a way over or around it. Think through all of your possible alternatives. Don’t limit your thinking to “this is the way we’ve always done it.”
  • Seek constructive feedback for improvement. If you want to work on a particular skill, ask people to help you and give you feedback. A number of years ago, I decided that I needed to be more comfortable speaking in front of a large audience. I prepared in advance for a presentation, I paid particular attention to my body language and tone of voice, and I asked my boss to critique me. On another occasion, I asked one of my employees for feedback. Then, I acted on that feedback.
  • Be thankful and show appreciation to those who work for you and with you. Celebrate their successes and encourage them when they face difficulties.
  • Learn to delegate work to others. It frees you up to take some of your boss’s work, which will challenge and develop you, and the work you delegate (and check up on!) will develop your employees.