Even if your work title doesn’t include “manager” you can still be a leader. Great leaders are leaders everywhere.
Recently my daughter created and led a group of girls which made me think of Abby Wambach’s speech where she challenged recent graduates to understand that being a leader means leading from whatever position you hold – whether that’s on the field or on the bench.
“You are either a leader everywhere or nowhere,” Wambach says in her commencement address at Barnard. Abby Wambach is a retired soccer player who has amassed countless awards: two Olympic gold medals, the world record for the number of international goals scored, champion of FIFA Women’s
World Cup, U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year, not once but six times, among many others.
That is an important message for women in business to hear and devour. We can’t wait to be seen as a leader until we reach the heights of a company, but rather we need to demonstrate leadership qualities every step of our journey to greatness.
We need to be a leader everywhere.
- A leader as a mentor
- A leader in our current position
- A leader student
- A leader in our community
- A leader when we volunteer our time
Leaders don’t take a break just because someone else has the position title of president, board member or starting athlete.
Abby Wambach’s Message on Leadership
In a recap of her commencement address we hear this message of being a leader everywhere, loud and clear:
If you took a tour of American businesses, you might incorrectly interpret position and power to be the same thing. But a game looks very different depending on where you’re standing. The point of view of an active player is very different from the point of view of a benched player. Both have value, any unique perspective brings with it value. It’s a little like information asymmetry. If you’re benched or passed up for a promotion, it’s easy to conflate that with self-worth. Consequently, you forget and forego the power you have.
Our societal model conditions us to incorrectly associate position with power. We need to dissociate power from the position or status. “If you’re not a leader on the bench, don’t call yourself a leader on the field. You’re either a leader everywhere or nowhere,” Wambach says.
This concept, of understanding that you need to be a leader even when sitting on the bench, also brings up the idea of taking a risk. What is keeping you on the bench? What do you need to do to get off the bench and out into the field? Or in business terms – get out of your current position into a promotion or board seat or new business venture. What is holding you back?
Are You Ready to Lead?
I address this idea of leaping before you feel ready for an upcoming Thrive Global article. Basically, I had dreamed of leading a business women’s retreat for years but for a variety of reasons just hadn’t pulled the trigger. That is until I received some inspiring advice from another businesswoman who just reminded me that I already possessed the tools, I just needed to do it!
As you become a leader everywhere, that may mean leading from the middle of your company, your department, or your team. In the article 6 Must-Have Skills to Lead from the Middle, being resilient is a critical skill:
“Resiliency is about handling stress, uncertainty and setbacks well — learning to maintain equilibrium under pressure,” Global Portfolio Management Director Michelle Malloy says.
Leaders Take Action
I just finished a great book by Gary John Bishop that stresses the importance of action! Your actions should align with where you want to create an impact and not necessarily how you feel right now. Sometimes we talk yourself out of action because we do not feel ready and we wait until we are summons to lead. John and I suggest you should find ways to show your ability to be a leader even if your title or age suggests otherwise!
I am a proud parent and founder of Tech Savvy Women
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JJ DiGeronimo — the president of Tech Savvy Women — is a speaker, author, and thought leader for women in tech and girls and STEM. Through her work, JJ empowers professional women and consults with senior executives on strategies to retain and attract women in technology to increase thought and leadership diversity within organizations.
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