How to Become Your Own Leading Lady

November 12, 2010

I was privileged to moderate a panel with three leading business women earlier this week, entitled ‘Ladies Who Lead’ at the Seattle Ladies Who Launch Global Conference. These women were Sunny Kobe Cook, Founder of Sleep Country, USA (the first mattress chain); Cathi Hatch, Founder and CEO of Zino Society and Cindy Tortorici, Founder and CEO of The Link For Women.

The three spheres of influence that result in becoming a Leading Lady (or man of course) are: formulating your vision, cultivating your influential voice, and developing your own community of peers, experts and mentors.

I designed this panel with the assistance of my own mentor, Cindy Tortorici.  We both provide coaching services to aspiring entrepreneurs and executive women and these three areas represent the consistent learning needs of our clients.  Oftentimes, aspiring leaders are bombarded with a focus on their technical skills and the ‘here and now’ of their job, and are not given the opportunity to take a step back from their operations to consider long term growth strategies and personal leadership development.

Here are some tips for doing so:

1) When working on formulating your vision it is critical that you are able to state what your vision  is in one sentence and without any industry jargon or vocabulary that is not well known (think K.I.S.S.). Think BIG—perhaps the sky may not be your limit.  Take risks—and dare yourself to take yourself out your industry box.  Be a FUTURIST-make sure you survey future trends for your industry so to be sure your area thought leader.

2) When cultivating your influential voice you are going to need to uncover a place where you can receive objective feedback on how you are received as a speaker and how effective and compelling you are at delivering ideas.  Toastmasters is the best place for this kind of practice. Join a chapter today if you have not already done so—it is absolutely priceless. Then, seek out as many opportunities where you can address audiences as this is the only way that you will continue to hone your speaking skills.  If you cannot passionately and persuasively deliver your vision to you colleagues and customers—your vision may never come to fruition.

3)  It is imperative that you develop your own community of peers, experts and mentors. Often times, professionals think that by just fraternizing with like minded colleagues they are receiving all the support and resource sharing that they need. This is not true-we all need our own villages. We need to seek out experts who enlighten us to their areas of overlapping expertise to challenge our thinking and refresh and update our outlooks. Finally, we all need a mentor, someone who has accomplished what you yourself are also setting out to do.  The speakers noted that there were many men and women whom they had looked to as mentors but that relationship had never been explicitly defined with the word ‘mentor’.  This is a critical lesson, as many people feel sheepish about asking their role model to take on that role.   I encourage you to not feel as though you cannot ask as long as you are conscientious of their limited time and energy that they can devote to your development.  Once you have identified these people in your life, you will have the full spectrum of community that you need to help in hoisting you towards your vision.

What else do you need to becoming your own Leading Lady or Man?