There has never been a time in the history of our existence where the conversation of Gender Equality and Contribution from Women was irrelevant. The transition that we have made as a community is to now boldly advocate and positively impact change that can be exponentially amplified in the network of people we are surrounded with. And this transition now provides all of us an opportunity to be flag bearers of the change that we want to drive.
By Hui Li Lee
I’ve asked myself this year as to what the International Women’s Day (IWD) means to me personally, why I feel it’s a relevant conversation even today and how #BeingBold is still imperative to serve as an example to the people we work with and lead. I’d like to share some thoughts on what it takes for us as leaders to shape the next generation of leadership, of influencers, and of future stars!
Don’t limit your aspirations.
Several talented women who have been exceptional leaders in their fields have had to limit their aspirations and potential on how far they can reach. Some have been bogged down for reasons beyond their control but some have clearly limited their scale by being self-critical of their own capabilities.
I don’t blame that perspective considering how some societies expect a woman to play multiple roles. However, we must realize that despite the roles that we undertake both at work and at home, we don’t aspire to just be good enough. Setting the bar high will always come with a set of challenges to overcome, but never let the daunting thought of a challenging journey limit our aspirations.
Think long term but execute short term.
The scale at which technology is changing today and the way in which we are consuming it has become rapid, fluid, and ever-changing. Businesses today need to react in time and, in most instances, with agility to be able to measure up to the landscape of the changing environments that they operate in. As leaders, we need to build our capabilities not just to have a long-term perspective of our strategy, but also an eye to execute our short-term goals. Having the right equilibrium between how our decisions shape the future and how our actions shape the present is critical.
Make an effort to guide, mentor, and coach.
Being in a leadership role, I realise very clearly that it’s easy to give lip service on the relevancy of gender equality, but difficult to fall out of the process of doing what’s comfortable. The extra mile always comes when you make the effort personally and have genuine authenticity. The importance of identifying, grooming, and mentoring the next generation of diverse leaders and viewing their success and growth as your own is what makes this endeavour personal.
As a leader, being able to scale an individual, up-skilling their interests, and treating their success as your own can be as elevating as achieving business results. I can truly advocate for the intangible level of achievement of making this a personal endeavour!
Both men and women have a responsibility to go beyond mentoring. Mentoring can be critical, but leadership extends beyond that – it requires active engagement, personal involvement, and direct influence with people you have identified and have earned your advocacy. As a leader, always look to find the people you’re willing to lay your reputation on the line for, and advocate on their behalf. Be with them, for them – all for the long run!
Don’t accept “Tokenism”.
Let’s face the fact that there will never be a seat on the table reserved for you in this day and age unless you deserve it and unless you earn it. I am a huge advocate for meritocracy and this approach goes beyond gender differentiation. However, I am a stickler for diversity simply because of the multiplication of perspectives that comes with it. This makes it imperative for women to up-skill and build competencies that will drive results to earn that seat on the table. So, don’t play the victim or don’t accept tokenism that is handed down. Aspire to move ahead on the backs of your achievement and with confidence! Always remember that earning the right to sit on the table will ensure your place is secured vs. being handed a seat as a token reward.
Be the most prepared. Not just for a job or a role, but down to the level of a single meeting or discussion! Being prepared is equipping yourself to not just bring across your point of view, but also offer solutions that can be game changing. There can be nothing worse than being the most knowledgeable but ill-prepared. So invest in building your perspective, insights, content, and most importantly invest in time to always be prepared.
Learn to unlearn.
Being willing to learn is obvious but being willing to unlearn is much more critical at times. We often come with pre-conceived notions that build our mental blocks through conditioning and exposure in roles and specialties, and from our colleagues and friends that we interact with on a daily basis. We don’t seem to realize how some of this exposure over time doesn’t just add to our experience positively but also fills our learning funnel to think in a certain way, react with a certain temperament, and display a certain sense of character which, in some cases, can be potentially damaging.
What we need to build as a competency is the ability to understand when we need to unlearn some potentially deep-rooted mindsets, ideas, or approaches when we are faced with challenges to overcome and perspectives that are diverse. Every time you scale in your career and move to different domains or roles, you need to ‘Let-Go’ in some cases and ‘Unlearn’ in other cases.
Be open to change. That would be the differentiator!
The devil is in the details.
A fifty thousand feet view of your business and a high-level scope of deliverables is good to have. However, the ability to simplify, communicate, and execute to the least common denominator is critical.
As women, the ability to focus on the detail, carve out the critical, and execute consistently at the ground level comes naturally as we are fundamentally born with the instinct of detail. As women who grow in our roles, let’s just manage the board, but also be mindful of our soldiers on the ground; let’s not just oversee a marketing pitch, but also anticipate the impact on our customers; let’s not just be broad, but learn to also to go deep. Seeing things high-level, in addition to having knowledge on the ground-level execution, are almost like two wheels on the same bicycle that want to head to the same destination.
Build your Personal Brand.
The toughest challenge for all women is to be able to build their brand – especially considering the ease with which perceptions around women get created on the fly, with little or no substance. Working on our Personal Brand is as important as any business objective that would help you elevate your presence and make impact in your work environment. Your hard work gets you the results, while your brand helps elevate those results!
The time for Being Bold and Leading the Change is now, and together we should shape the way we build a more inclusive and diverse leadership for the future.
This article was first posted on LinkedIn Pulse.
Hui Li Lee is Vice President, IBM Global Business Partners, Asia Pacific.
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