It was an exciting day at work. My entire team was focused on how we could become an innovative company and we were looking forward to a series of workshops that would help us understand what our future roadmap should be. We sat in the makeshift conference room at a resort in Sri Lanka and tried to come up with a list of things that we were really good at. I was one of the 2 women in the room—the rest were men.
I thought I was a cog in the wheel of the system. I kept a low profile. Naturally, during the workshops, I did the same: I stayed away from saying anything radical. I did have clear thoughts about how we should change our approach to pursue a more innovative path, but I did not voice it.
At one point during the workshop, the managing director turned toward me and asked me pointedly, what I thought the company should do. For me, this was a learning moment. Usually, I would have found a way to walk away from making any bold statements that would draw attention. This time, I decided to articulate my exact thoughts about what the next year could mean not just for my team, but also for the company as a whole and how I thought we could get there.
It really was an inflection point; a sure-shot sign that I was ready for the next level of challenges that were presented in the organization. I began to see incremental growth in my career.
For many women leaders, this inflection point comes with conflict, trauma or pushing, unfairly. Take the example of Liz Altman, Vice President at Motorola:
She talks about her experience in Japan as a time when she built the strength to navigate sexism at the workplace. And perhaps this was the inflection point that empowered her to become a leader, to overcome herself and feel confident to set the agenda for herself, her team and her company.
There is no secret formula to overcome one’s own doubts and uncertainties. The prize of being a confident leader is hopefully motivating enough to pursue career success. In my experience, the shortest path to transforming oneself from being a passive team member facing challenges to a path-setting leader involves:
Finding a compelling and distinctive voice
Adapting to adverse environments using analysis and innovation
Persistence and consistency in performance
Empathy towards colleagues
These attributes can be developed over time. So, I strongly encourage women to stop following the agenda and start taking the reins!
Priya Krishnan is Vice President of Sales, International Markets at Harappa. She graduated from Yale University and is passionate about animal welfare and enjoys all things art.
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