Even though the glass ceiling is being broken more often now and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, tells women to “lean in”, women don’t often know what is missing in their quest to get ahead or even how or when to lean in. Feeling good and powerful in your work with the ability to influence others is possible for anyone. It takes feeling good and powerful in your own body and taking yourself and your development seriously.
It isn’t just about working harder than others or finding a mentor and hoping to get recognized. It is about having a real strategic mindset, understanding the unique “rules” of the senior leadership level in an organization, finding the people who can help with all or parts of the plan and developing oneself in critical areas of leadership not often familiar to women. Areas like executive presence and gravitas, leadership appearance, making oneself heard, being both authoritative and authentic and staying cool under pressure! Yes it is possible to develop all of these! They aren’t secret. Men do seem to develop these more often than women. I think because it is an accepted part of their business culture. It is expected of them if they want to get ahead.
I recently had an experience that brought home the power of executive presence for women. I observed a woman VP of a very large organization and a woman who was CEO of a very large organization talk at a meeting. The woman CEO had a presence that commanded the room of 250 people. She was perceived as totally authentic. The VP seemed intimidated by the room. When the program ended the CEO was remembered and VP not.
The CEO embodied her leadership and it was apparent to all. Admittedly, one does not acquire that commanding type of presence overnight but it can be developed.