From ICEDR’s Special Report: “Taking Charge – A roadmap for a successful career and a meaningful life.”

Early on in their careers, many emerging executives discover that planning their professional path is more challenging than they expected. This can be especially true for young women executives who are often faced with challenges that aren’t experienced by their male colleagues, such as starting a family while also working to advance their careers.

Women Leaders, Take Charge!

My major motivation for beginning this very blog and, in particular, the WE Interviews series, in which I interview C-Suite women working in financial services, is to provide emerging executive women with the powerful and inspirational stories of leaders in our industry in order to motivate them to build their own remarkable careers.

That’s why I was very excited to hear about a special report put out earlier this month by The International Consortium for Executive Development Research (ICEDR). The report, entitled “Taking Charge: A roadmap for a successful career and a meaningful life for high potential corporate women leaders,” aims to give young emerging executive women a guide to the top of the corporate ladder by sharing the learned wisdom of the women working in senior leadership positions at major corporations.

ICEDR interviewed 60 executive women about their personal and professional lives and, though every woman shared a very different story, there was one uniting factor behind all their success: each women has actively taken control of her career and her life.

To Thine Own Self Be True

In order to build a fulfilling professional life, young executives must first ask themselves what success means for them. ICEDR’s report encourages high-potential women to take ample time in exploring who they are, what they want, and what work environment would be best for them.

The report states:

It’s essential to know yourself inside and out, to hold a mirror up and reflect on what you see with a critical eye. Exceptional leaders know their strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. They understand where they excel, where they need improvement, what gives them energy and what they don’t like to do.

Beatrice Fischer, Managing Director, Head CEO Stakeholder Management, Private Banking at Credit Suisse told the researchers:

“Early on, my manager gave me good advice: make sure that you are good at one particular thing. You should be really special at this one thing. Then, you will always be the go to person for this. If you can establish yourself as an expert in something, this is a good start.”

Define Your Leadership Style

Knowing your own personal leadership style is another important thing to explore. This can be especially challenging for women who may have to contend with, what Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg calls, the tradeoff between success and likability.

Anne Weisberg, Global Director of Diversity and Inclusion at BlackRock states:

“Women face the challenge of trying to develop a leadership style and an executive presence that both commands respect and fosters likeability. This takes a lot of psychic energy and can be exhausting.”

In order to figure out how to be both authentic and effective at the office, the report recommends:

Bring your personality to the office: “It is okay to show you are a human being and you have a life. You don’t want to turn into a robot when you come into work.

Adapt to the environment: “If you just try to bulldoze your style over every individual, it’s not going to make you successful. Learn to work with different people in different ways but never, ever sacrificing who you are.”

Don’t try to be one of the guys. “Many of our interviewees admitted that, early in their careers, they tried to play like a stereotypical guy: acting tough, aggressive, confrontational, and very much like the alpha personality. Don’t be someone you’re not.”

I truly recommend reading the entire report. It’s full of great advice and inspiring stories from women leaders.

Including this bit of wisdom from Kristin Peck, Executive Vice President, Pfizer, “A plan is a nice thing to have, but a career is an obstacle course. It’s not a path. There is no straight line.”

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