For someone new to management, I have three pieces of advice: develop your management style, listen, and lead
First, develop your own management style. Early on, I tried to mirror the leadership style of others, whether they were overseeing a neighborhood clothing drive, guiding a board of trustees of a nonprofit organization, or running a publicly traded company.
For me, developing a leadership style that was a mosaic of what I saw around me was not a winning strategy for a few reasons. It was not cohesive, clear, or intuitive. I too often stopped to weigh which approach to take in a particular situation, which made me appear indecisive and disengaged. Additionally, I questioned my own instincts, asking myself what a certain leader would do, rather than being comfortable with my own judgment. Over time, I developed a leadership style that was built on my own strengths and not someone else’s strengths.
Developing a leadership style is not a single act or decision. I’m still working on mine. Start by developing a style that feels right to you and reflects who you are. As your confidence increases, try new strategies, particularly outside your comfort zone.
Secondly, listen and listen to many. We have a moto at our law firm: “Great work. Hard work. Team work. A place where everyone counts and they know it.” By listening, people feel both valued and invested in the success of an organization and, as a leader, you learn much from listening to colleagues with different perspectives.
Thirdly, whatever your style, lead. I’ve had a number of mentors in my career, but one, a truly gifted leader, has never given me advice on leadership style. He has never urged me to be louder or quicker to judgment or, conversely, more tempered or analytic. He has, though, offered what I consider the best advice: In a leadership position, you need to lead. Although we all make mistakes, and despite our best efforts not to, second guess some decisions, he reminds me not to wait for others to make the decisions, formulate strategies, or suggest solutions. He reminds me to lead.
What advice would you give young women building/preparing for a career?
Always remain open minded. This is important in a few ways. First, be open to different opportunities that arise as you pursue your career. Seize the chance to develop different skills, meet different people, and learn. Identify and maintain goals but remember that there is not just one path to achieving your goals. Secondly, people won’t always agree on all issues and many of us understand ideas and concepts at different magnitudes. Appreciate those differences. I have counseled a wide range of clients in many different situations and have managed different groups of people. Having the ability to look at a situation from another viewpoint is not only important, it is key to succeeding at times. Open mindedness helps to develop trust in clients and colleagues and can lead to new ideas and outcomes that wouldn’t be possible on your own.