When my mother passed away, a colleague wrote: “In a quiet, unassuming way, Helen was a leader. If she were on your team you could expect success. People followed her, sensing that here was a woman who had, through education, experience or research, arrived at good and solid conclusions.” I was fortunate to grow up with this strong role model. My mother was the president of numerous organizations and taught me the principles of leadership I rely on today.
Prioritize. My mother had no choice. She raised three children, worked full-time, was a civic leader and ran our family business after my father became ill. Her approach: “We all have 24 hours in our day. What we choose to do with them is up to us.” I learned that time management is particularly important for women trying to balance career and family. I make lots of lists and am constantly prioritizing and reassessing.
Work hard. There is no short-cut or substitute for hard work. As a young woman starting my professional career, establishing my reputation as someone who would follow through on difficult projects with a commitment to excellence was critical. Once I earned the respect of my superiors, I was rewarded with more responsibility and leadership opportunities. Another benefit of working hard is that it enables you to gain the respect of those working around you. At the end of the day, in business, it is more important to be respected than to be popular.
Embrace responsibility. I was given the opportunity early on to work on a multi-year, high-profile project for a key client – 1,800 miles away from home. I agreed to go, and it was truly a career defining event. I was given huge responsibilities and I still benefit today from the experiences I had and the lessons I learned. By accepting that project, I also demonstrated the commitment I had to my career and to the firm.
Keep your sense of humor. The business world is serious enough, but I try not to take myself too seriously. Every so often we have to have a good laugh at our own expense. Most colleagues appreciate this aspect of my leadership style, which creates a more comfortable and productive work environment. Life is short so make every minute count – in your career and in your personal life