Ladies—Stop Leaning!

Can you believe the amount of attention given to Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In?” I think it is great. It has every expert of every type chiming-in with his or her two cents. I cannot pass on this opportunity either. I am not a psychologist. I am a leader. I work with leaders. Ladies stop leaning start reading. This will be short and to the point.

I coach and mentor a few female executives and have had the privilege of working for and with some of the most incredible women in the world. Here is what I know—young ladies if you want to succeed do three things—1. Be professional, 2. Improve one percent a day, this is not as easy as it sounds; 3. Get a mentor, have multiple mentors, and they need to be varied in gender and race. The sky is the limit. Believe you are limited for any reason.And you are. Simple? No, most will not do what I just pointed out. It is easier to make excuses.

Be professional

Whether you like it or not, you are modeling success or failure. Carry yourself well. You are well heeled, calm, confident, humble and in control of you. You never let anyone see you sweat. You are technically proficient at your job. You have a deep understanding of the processes required to accomplish tasks. You are comfortable with crisis action planning. You keep the best interest of the organization always in the forefront and know the people who work with you and for you. You understand the power of thanking those who work for you giving credit for successes publicly and correcting privately. You never side step being responsible and accountable for what happens or does not happen within your span of control.

Improve one percent a day

Having served in leadership positions most of my adult life; I can tell you the first principle of leadership is to know yourself. Then improve. The Myers-Briggs test, the Enneagram assessment, and horoscope readings are all methods of learning more about who you are (OK, just kidding about the horoscope). My favorite and I find most accurate is quiet time looking in a mirror. We all know who we are. We, as normal human beings, have our own frailties. We have our own biases. We have own tendencies of action in good times and not so good times. What are they for you? Be honest with yourself. You know your strengths; you know your weaknesses. Now—improve! As a mentor of mine, Dr. Alan Weiss, insistently reminds us, improve one percent a day for 70 days and you will be twice as good. This is not an easy task. It is a necessary task. Read something daily about your profession or dare to learn something from someone who works for you. You will be amazed at what you learn, and more importantly the good will and loyalty you will engender will carry you through on very dark days.

Get a mentor

The very best athletes, actors, business leaders have a mentor, a coach, someone that has been where they want to go. The advice and guidance are priceless for those who seek it and use it. I have worked with many a professional, particularly women and African American, who has sought my advice after a disaster, has occurred. This is a kin to performing surgery on the dead. Having a mentor or a coach is the single most important action an aspiring leader and those in leadership positions can do for themselves.

I am certain there will be far more written on whether to “Lean In,” stand-up, or sit down. Amazingly, every viewpoint will be supported by tons of data. I love data; it can make 12 honest people believe midday is midnight. Ladies, you want to be a successful leader—be professional, improve one percent a day, get a mentor.