Advancement in corporate America today is based not only on performance and productivity, but also on demonstrated leadership. The most effective leaders develop collaborative relationships, empower others, build individual and organizational commitment, share positive expectations in future actions, and create and manage change. Internal strength and demonstrated character are at the foundation of these skills. In a world of “adapt and adopt,” I would encourage aspiring leaders to first really know and understand their own realities.

Define success from your perspective. The definition of success is fluid; it changes with life context, time and maturity. Corporations often focus on job titles, responsibilities and skills as success factors. Give yourself permission to define your idea of success. Make certain that you work toward your goal, not just what you think others expect.

Think about the price you are willing to pay for your success. What are your priorities today? What do you really value—lifestyle, autonomy, financial rewards, family time, status, creativity, collegial environment, commitment, or professional and personal integrity?

Be authentic, centered and credible with a healthy sense of life balance. We bring our whole selves to work. Be comfortable with who you are.

Be strategic and plan well, but not so well that you miss windows of opportunity. Life is a journey, not a destination. Expect the unexpected challenges and explore unanticipated opportunities. Be thoughtful, but don’t let analysis paralyze your ability to act.

Learn how to recognize what you know, what you don’t know and what you are not likely to learn. Surround yourself with people whose strengths and knowledge complement yours. In the hustle of execution, we cannot lose the wisdom that comes from our intuitive understanding of the environments in which we work. We are educated by experience and should be dedicated to continuous learning.

Use your natural candor as a positive tool, not a sword. Clear, direct communication is critical, and implicit messages must be consistent. Have a strong voice; be visible, confident and decisive.

Do the best you can, where you are, with what you have. There always will be a time when corporate resources, support or engagement are not optimal. Turn problems into opportunities for innovation and creativity.

Finally, have fun. Despite all the advice above, don’t take yourself too seriously. Humor is a great stress reducer and sometimes life really just does not make sense. But then, that’s life!