Leadership is a never-ending journey that begins with knowing ourselves and what we need to not just survive but thrive. Having the time to evaluate and reflect on our lives and careers was one of the good things to come out of the pandemic. Remote work d showed us the benefits of having potentially more time and control over our lives. While women still want to foster their own ambition and rise up the corporate ranks, today hopefully they’ll do it in a more mindful manner and with a leadership support team – Mentors, Sponsors, Allies, and a Personal Board of Directors.
As the Founder and CEO of The Quorum Initiative, a global group of executive women devoted to creating more opportunities for women in business, I’ve seen this change happen firsthand. Women are increasingly rising up and demanding change for themselves and within their organizations. My hope is that women will continue to recognize their power, practice courage, and use their influence to question company policies and benefits, especially as it relates to those who are family caregivers and organizers. Women are so involved in taking care of others that it’s easy for them to forget about self-care and self-empowerment.
One of the best gifts we can give ourselves is to identify people and support systems to nurture us and help move us forward. Having a strong support system in place is imperative to advancing and flourishing in leadership roles, as well as protecting our mental health. The key is to surround yourself with people who can lend support and guidance in varying ways.
A mentor is a seasoned individual – of any gender- who acts as a role model and guide. They have access to resources that the mentee may not, such as important professional contacts and networks, specialized technology, or educational tools. This person may also provide coaching, support, and emotional support as needed. A mentor’s value is their experience and fresh perspectives.
Having a sponsor can elevate your status within your current company. Such an individual is a senior leader who has first-hand knowledge of your competency and work ethic and has seen you in action. Sponsorship often occurs naturally but can result from achieving company recognition and being considered for job promotions. A sponsor should promote you whenever you are not in the room.
For women, and especially women of color, having a workplace ally can be a vital resource. They are empathetic leaders who demonstrate compassion by willingly leveraging their status and privilege to elevate other women. They also genuinely care about creating a more inclusive company culture. Typically, allies are people who want to support others who don’t have the same advantages as they do.
Personal Board of Directors
One of the most powerful support systems I’ve observed is a Personal Board of Directors. This is a self-selected, diverse group of people who know you well and have a range of competencies. They have significant experience in the workplace and potentially in your industry. They understand internal politics and have navigated complex work environments themselves. They will give you honest feedback and share actionable tips – tried and true things for navigating one’s work life – for moving up in your career.
Highly-skilled top performers and value contributors, women are making an impact because their emotional intelligence, resilience, optimism, and vision are propelling businesses forward. For those women who are looking to forge their own paths to the top, I urge them to establish a thoughtfully culled network of Mentors, Sponsors, and Allies, along with a Personal Board of Directors, to help navigate today’s complex business environments and successfully reach new heights.