By Rhonda Jaipaul-O’Garro
Last Wednesday I participated in one of the most life-changing experiences when I logged in to the livestream of the Take The Lead Launch. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a ticket to the sold-out event at The ASU Gammage, which meant that I had to resort to viewing it online.
I wasn’t the only one. The event’s hashtag #takeleadlaunch quickly became a trending topic on twitter as women all across the US and worldwide tuned in. Co-sponsored by Arizona State University, the intention of the Take the Lead initiative is to “prepare, develop, inspire, and propel women to take their fair share of leadership positions by 2025.” Without begin privy to the analytics, I think it’s safe to assume that the organizers exceeded their participation targets just by the fact that the sheer volume of traffic to the closethegap site (unveiled at the event) caused the site to crash mere minutes after launch.
The impressive line-up of speakers included Gloria Feldt, Co-founder and President, Take The Lead; Carla Harris, Managing Director, Morgan Stanley and Author of Expect to Win; Panelists speaking on the Impact of Media on Women’s Leadership – Julie Burton, President, Women’s Media Center; Karen Finney, MSNBC Host, “Disrupt”; Kristin Gilger, Associate Dean, ASU Cronkite School of Journalism; Erica Gonzalez, Editor-In-Chief, ElDiario/LaPrensa; Aminatou Sow, Founder, Tech Lady Mafia, Digital Director, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America; Pat Mitchell, President, Paley Center for Media; Ambassador Barbara Barrett; and of course, headline speaker, Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook and Author of Lean In.
Throughout the evening, I had some pivotal “ah-ha moments”, both about persuading others and persuading myself.
Own your power
Harris underscored the importance of controlling how people perceive you. “How people perceive you will impact how they react to you.” She shared three powerful pearls of wisdom:
- The Power of Authenticity: To be able to persuade others requires that you bring your authentic self to the table. This authenticity will not only win people’s trust, but provide your own competitive advantage and naturally differentiate you from others. Being comfortable with who you are will cause people to remember you and gravitate towards you.
- Fear & Risk-taking: A leader in the 21st century needs to be comfortable taking risks and is not persuaded by fear. Fear has no place in your success equation. F.E.A.R is really False Evidence of things Appearing Real. Never fear failure as failure always gives you a gift – the gift of experience.
- Perception is the co-pilot to reality: Even if you have the requisite skills, if people don’t perceive you as competent, you’ll never get to the seat that you aspire to sit in. But, you have the power to train others to think about you in the way you’d like them to. Harris’s proven 90-day plan is to start with three adjectives that you’d like people to use to describe you when you are not in the room. (She reminds that most important decisions about you and your career are made when you are not in the room). Deliberately use those adjectives in your conversations and display behavior that consistently endorses those characteristics. Soon enough, you’ll succeed in persuading others to perceive you as having those qualities that you identified.
We are held back by things within ourselves
Sandberg made a powerful point that a lack of self confidence is a major reason why women don’t envision themselves at the highest levels of leadership. “We are held back by things within ourselves”. She skillfully dissected the three main reasons why:
- Our uncertainty about our own competence to do the job: Systematically, we underestimate our own value. Men ascribe their success to their skills. Women on the other hand, tend to attribute their success to a combination of help from others, working hard and luck. If we wait for feeling self confident, we will never take our seat at the table. Persuade yourself to take the seat! Over time, you’ll know that you belong there.
- Society conditions us to resent being overly ambitious: We ascribe leadership as male, and from an early age, we place negative labels on the little girl on the playground who tries to assume a leadership position – bossy, pushy aggressive. “She’s not bossy. She has executive leadership skills.”
- We have kids and we want to be a good parent and so we think that we cannot be both: Another societal norm is that women cannot effectively manage both a family and a high-level leadership position. But the truth is, we have already been successfully doing both without realizing it. Studies show that even in cases where the woman earns more money in the family, she is more likely to also share a higher percentage of the responsibility for the household and child care than her partner.
The advice from these phenomenal ladies persuaded me that I have everything I need to lead successfully. I’m making a commitment:
- to decide on your own terms.
- to not let fear hold me back.
- to reach high, believe in myself, take the lead.
I hope that you too, regardless of being man or woman will be persuaded to make a commitment to do something that you were afraid to do. For information about Take The Lead go to www.taketheleadwomen.com. Stay tuned for the link to the recording of the launch event.