What does success mean to you?
This is the first question you will explore if you sign up for Women on a Mission, my self-led online leadership development programme for women in leadership.
I strongly believe that the foundation to feeling happy and confident in your life and work is to find YOUR own values-driven personal definition of success. Very often our idea of success comes from others, parents, family, friends, society, social media, our colleagues, the list goes on. As a result, we can feel pushed and pulled in multiple different directions. Never quite feeling that we have fulfilled all these different (and potentially conflicting) definitions of success.
No wonder I speak to hundreds of women who have achieved so many amazing things and yet come to me still feeling unfulfilled, exhausted, and lacking in self-belief. The first step on the road to fulfilment and confidence is answering that question…
What does success mean to me as a woman in leadership?
Over many years of coaching hundreds of ambitious impressive women from all over the world, I observe the idea of success being a complex one. One of the things so many of these amazing, intelligent, hardworking, talented women have in common is this; they all feel under constant pressure to fit in with external definitions of success.
In my observation, this can be crippling. Society still asks women to be ‘perfect’ in every facet of our lives: high-status job, tidy house, happy marriage and family, plenty of money, perfect body, a face that never ages… the list goes on. We might know this is unrealistic and unhealthy, but we are bombarded with so many powerful messages it does, on some level, have an impact. It makes us feel deflated because we aren’t hitting every one of these unachievable goals. We compare ourselves to other women, or media images, and find ourselves lacking. It is a recipe for low self-esteem and burnout, and a big part of why 90% of the women leaders who work with me, talk about wanting to feel more confident.
I am passionate about supporting women to grow in confidence, find their most authentic voices and hone their unique leadership styles. To intensely examine their role as a woman in leadership and discover the tools to help them navigate their unique path and flourish. Over the last 20 years, I have observed as well as experienced these challenges. I know what can have the biggest impact on happiness, self-awareness, and confidence.
How can you feel more successful as a woman in leadership? What can you do to create positive changes in your personal and professional life?
1. Redefine your meaning of success
As we already know, success doesn’t look the same for everyone. In my experience, success means considering your whole life, not just your career – nothing exists in isolation! To be at your best as a leader also requires you to consider what being at your best in your whole life might entail. We, therefore, first need to drill back down into the essence of who we are and what makes us happy so that we can redefine ‘success’ for ourselves, and ourselves alone.
My belief is that every woman can benefit from the time to step back and find her own completely unique vision of success. These questions might help your thinking:
• Think about times when you were happy and fulfilled. What was happening?
• What brings you joy or makes you feel energised?
• What aspects of your work put you in a state of flow?
• What is the impact you want to have on the world?
• What does your best life look like?
2. Good enough is good enough
I notice that letting go of perfection can often release my clients. When they step back from perfectionism, they might find a new version of success. This frees up their thinking, they feel under less pressure and can focus on the areas of life and work that really matter to them. Sometimes good enough is truly good enough. This can be hugely empowering when it comes to living a balanced life and being a present, charismatic leader.
3. Build meaningful connections
Social connection is vital for us to flourish. Often, I believe it’s the missing piece for many women because we are so pushed with invisible work and with all the things that must happen for everything to run smoothly. We are spinning so many plates. The thing that falls by the wayside is connection and the celebration, visibility and encouragement that comes with that. Spend time connecting and networking with others and building relationships – both professionally and personally. Surround yourself with people who will lift you up and who, in turn, you can champion and support.
4. Be authentically you
Being authentic is being your genuine self – living by your core beliefs and values and not altering this to conform to external pressures. Understanding who you are and how you bring that unique worth to the table is key to fulfilling your potential as a leader and building your reputation with key stakeholders. This starts with developing self-awareness. What drives and motivates you? What are you passionate about? What unique blend of strengths do you bring to the table? Perhaps start by asking others for feedback on which strengths they see in you. The results can be fascinating!
5. Advocate for yourself
This is something I have seen have an incredible impact on women’s careers and success. As women, we have a tendency to keep our heads down and do the best job we can. We assume it will be seen, and in the end, the reward will come. However, the reality is many organisations still have cultures where those who advocate for themselves have an advantage. They are simply more visible when the time comes for that secondment or promotion. Look for others who might sponsor you when you are not in the room and ask for (or reach out to) someone who might mentor you – you deserve support and development, and evidence shows having a thinking partner makes a huge difference to happiness and balance.
Look for small ways to build your reputation and trust with those around you. It’s not just in senior meetings where you can make an impact. We are constantly visible. Small interactions can make a big difference too.
6. Pave your own path
Be brave and bold about the vision you want to create for your future.
What do you REALLY want?
What truly is your ideal path?
Just because no one else has done exactly what you hope to that doesn’t mean it’s not possible!
One thing I see shifting in many professions is the mindset around seniority and the number of days worked. Up until 5 years ago, I didn’t see any senior leaders work less than full-time however, all genders are breaking down this stereotype. Is your dream to make it to partner level and still work four days a week?
What do you need to do to make that happen?
What is the next small step?
7. Manage your time mercilessly
Make the space to invest in yourself. Every single female leader I coach is busy. Incredibly busy. They are juggling many wide-ranging commitments and responsibilities. My clients are often working hard to move from being hands-on to stepping back and being more strategic. Those who do make incredible shifts in their leadership practice are the women who truly invest in themselves, create time for self-compassion and self-care and manage their time ruthlessly. I recognise that this is incredibly challenging and means making hard choices, that others may not always like. No one was ever inspired by a leader who looked frazzled and exhausted!
If you are stepping back regularly you will be operating at your best.
In my observation, it’s redefining what success means to them as a leader that’s the most important part. In order to map out the right path, we must define the destination for ourselves. It allows us to regain control and drive things forward from a place of self-knowledge, passion and purpose. The more we push doors open, make ourselves visible and live and lead in alignment with our values, the more likely we are to find happiness and that ‘success’ we are searching for.
“If you’re wondering what your next step should be, or can’t see a clear route ahead, I think Women on a Mission is a great place to start. It provides all the tools you need to navigate your way and forge your own path.”
Carmen Reglero Andrés, Principal Space Product Manager, Amazon Web Services
My unique leadership development programme – Women on a Mission brings together all of the important learnings and wisdom from 20 years of supporting women leaders.
Perhaps this article has resonated with you? Perhaps you are hungry for the next step on your leadership development journey?
Women on a Mission is an online self-led leadership development programme designed to help female leaders fulfil their potential, flourish and follow their own unique path.