Wow, what an amazing event last Thursday! An audience of 950 people, almost all women. A panel of three incredible women leaders: Tonise Paul, CEO of Energy BBDO; Anne Pramaggiore, President and COO of ComEd; and Sheli Rosenberg, Of Counsel at Skadden. I had the wonderful opportunity to moderate the panel on “The Strategic and Effective Use of Power.”
Tonise, Anne, and Sheli are three very different women, each with her unique leadership style. Together, they shared their experiences with and wisdom about being a powerful woman leader. What did they teach us?
• Power is about being able to drive change. Assess a situation and find the “fault lines” where you can make things better. Then use your power to drive the necessary changes.
• Women are wired to want to be liked, but to be powerful we must focus on being respected, even if that sometimes means people don’t like us.
• Powerful leaders need a whole toolbox of different kinds of power behaviors, plus the savvy to know which tool is needed in which situation. Use a hammer when you have a nail in front of you.
• Don’t focus on who you are, focus on where you are. That means looking outward beyond yourself.
• Make sure you let your supervisors know about your successes. They are busy – how are they going to know if you don’t tell them?
• Never settle for “good enough.” Be excellent.
• Everyone knows that sexual attraction happens in the workplace. Address it and move past it – don’t push it under the rug. Women leaders need both male and female mentors. Don’t let the fear of sexual gossip stop you from making relationships with men who can help you.
• When assessing whether to mentor a younger woman, look for resilience. How does she react to setbacks and failure – can she bounce back? This is one of the strongest predictors of leadership potential.
• One of the changes in the leadership landscape is that in most settings women no longer have to be clones of men. (Sheli was wearing bold polka-dot socks with her classic suit.)
Many of the audience members said they wished the panel could have been longer. It was a truly inspiring event.