When I left behind an established professional career in public relations to start my own agency, it was an incredibly exciting and scary time. I was just 30 years old, energised by the possibilities yet terrified of the unknown.
Importantly, I didn’t yet know what it would mean to be a female leader. I hadn’t yet grasped that the experience for a woman in leadership is a unique one. The rewards are great and yet the challenges of competing in a business environment largely populated by men are significant.
Having previously worked in mostly male dominated environments, I didn’t have any strong female mentors to turn to for advice. Now, working with a team of young women at CP Communications, I make sure to pass on the lessons I have learned throughout my 20-year career, which would have been so useful as I embarked on my own leadership journey.
Here are some tips for women in leadership that I wish someone had told me.
Believe in yourself
Women can often be their own worst enemy by succumbing to self-doubt, fear and a lack of self-confidence.
Women are much more likely to undermine their own ability. Sheryl Sandberg talks about the “imposter effect” where women devalue their skills and talents despite evidence of the opposite. This is something seen far less often in men yet persists in women of all ages.
Not only does this lack of self-confidence hold women back in their current jobs, it can prevent them from applying for more senior roles or venturing out on their own.
My advice is that women need to back themselves and trust their instincts. This may feel difficult at first, but, eventually by affirming your own value you will start to believe it and others will too.
The reality is that most people around you will see you for the successful, credible leader you are. Why shouldn’t you see yourself that way too?
Often women feel uncomfortable celebrating their successes or promoting themselves. I think this is because women, from a young age, are taught to put the needs of others before their own. As a result, they feel uncomfortable stepping into the spotlight.
It is important women overcome these doubts, as building a strong personal brand is critical to leadership success.
There are a number of ways women can build their profile including through building a presence in the media and online, networking and speaking at events. I have certainly found these tactics a great way to build my own personal brand.
Look after yourself
The everyday pressures of leadership can become overwhelming if left unaddressed.
A couple of years back I was struggling to get the balance right between focussing on work and focussing on myself. As a result, I sought a creative outlet to channel my energy. I decided to try my hand at basket weaving, something I had never done before. I immediately fell in love with the art form, and now it’s an important part of my creative life.
It is important to find ways to decompress, refocus and revitalise. Whether this is through a creative outlet, exercise, mediation or hobby, pursuing other interests will help create a balance between work, creativity and leisure and help reduce stress. It will also give you that much needed ‘you’ time that can so easily be overlooked amidst other pressures.
With a confident outlook, a willingness to step into the spotlight and a focus on the self, women are in the best possible position to leverage their talents and succeed in positions of leadership.