Discovering Your Path to Effective Leadership

February 5th, 2014

A lot of people define effective leadership as making things happen.

It’s also easy to think of leadership like a set of characteristics, a style of speaking or a style of interacting, but it actually isn’t.  It’s so much deeper than all of these things.

Leadership is a commitment to other people being different or doing something different or having something different.  It’s a commitment to creating a future that wouldn’t have happened without you.

But I didn’t always know this. I used to think of leadership in banal terms, just like most people.

Until I learned. There was a breakthrough in my life that magnetized me towards the path of leadership….

path to effective leadership


My Own Path to Effective Leadership

I was in my early 20’s with a biochemistry background, and was working for a biotech.  I think many women will relate to the idea that, in a technology field, they feel like they have to be more masculine.

I wanted to be taken seriously, being a woman in a very male dominated field.  But I overshot the mark when I first started working for this biotech.  I was known as being the bull in the china shop; that I got done more by accident than most people got done on purpose.

I had a very humbling day that, to me, marks my start of being a long-time student of leadership.

I was working with a team on a project and a lot of people on the team had apparently complained that I was being too rough and too hard. So I got brought into the senior VP’s office at the time and

He looked at me that day and said, “Look, most of leadership isn’t just making things happen and getting things done.  There’s the people side of the element where you’re actually bringing out everybody’s best.  Learn the craft of leadership, Jennifer, because you’re great at making things happen, but people would rather respect you than like you.  So you leave a destructive wake behind you.”

That was one of those ton-of-bricks moments in my life.  I was really proud of being the kind of person that made so much happen, but I was creating too many casualties.

After that, I became a fervent student of leadership—taking on what it is that brings out everybody’s best in every moment.  I wanted to learn leadership as its own craft and learn to inspire; not stop at just did they get it done or not get it done?

Developing Your Leadership Style

I want to throw something out there that might sound controversial—Don’t focus on developing your style.

What’s more important is to ask yourself, “Are the people you’re committed to leading being different in the specific ways that you have in mind?”  Just focus there.  Not on your style, but on that.

If you commit to the outcome, then your leadership style will naturally emerge and then develop with all of the strengths and weaknesses and quirks and personas and femininity.  It’ll all coalesce around a leadership style that really works for you, if your focus is out there and not in here and on creating this new vision that you’re trying to create.

I want to leave with that idea because I know a lot of women out there ask me about their style, how they should lead, and what are the characteristics of a leader?

I always ask them the question, “Who are you committed to?  What result are you committed to creating?”  Change yourself to become the embodiment of that, so everyone who interacts with you also becomes that.

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