B Y M A E M A Ñ AC A P - J O H N S O N
visible to others.” They see where the team or organization is
going and they help others see that too. I think that’s what distinguishes leadership from management. Leaders help people get to
a new place. You can be a leader at every level, helping to
mobilize people to get better. As former U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleeza Rice once said: “Management and leadership are two
sides of the same walnut, but being aware of the difference and
aware of what you are doing helps.”
P: Based on your research for the book, what are some of
the challenges women in leadership face today?
SJ: One thing that we saw a lot in the women we interviewed for
the book is that women tend to hold on to detail a lot more than
men. We are wired that way. It is harder for women to let go. The
shift from management to leadership can be very challenging, and
so can delegating.
make the invisible
visible to others.”
Perfectionism is also an issue we get caught up in. I was
talking with Clare Shipman (author of The Confidence Code),
and she said that perfectionism can be a result of a lack of
confidence, which I thought was very interesting. So, our
tendency to get into perfectionism, to hold on to details and to
try to do so much ourselves can make it hard to let others step
in and dedicate ourselves to leadership.
P: What’s your best piece of advice to women leaders?
SJ: There are also a lot of challenges in the system that we work
in. We still have to navigate a fine line between being strong
enough to lead without being labeled difficult! I would say two
things to women in leadership: A woman needs to find a culture
in which she can thrive, where her values and authenticity are
supported. If you’re trying to fit in with a culture that goes against
your nature, you will be exhausted and won’t do your best work.
Secondly, find sponsors as well as mentors. A sponsor is
someone who is really advocating for you to get to the next level,
to carve out a career path that will maximize your potential.
DAILY HABITS OF
1. Prioritize prioritizing. “This was an advice given to me by
neuroscientist David Rock. It’s one of the hardest things for
our brain to do. It involves seeing the future and making
decisions based on that. Great leaders have to set aside time
to prioritize well, usually early in the morning, a time when
you are not interrupted.”
2. Wake up your spirit every day. “Ken Blanchard, co-author
of The One Minute Manager, gave me this advice. Our ‘spirit
self’ wakes up more slowly than our ‘task mind.’ He recommends a low time in the morning to wake up your spirit. You
are more likely to keep your cool, more likely to be angry
when you are supposed to be angry. When you’re too busy,
not fully awake, we get these things wrong. For him, it means
getting up at 5 am and playing with his dogs. For some
people, it could be exercise, but for others, that can be a chore.
It’s really important for leaders to have that internal compass
functioning every day.
3. Have a touchstone for your purpose. “When now
Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell was in
leadership at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she said it
is so easy to get caught up in red tape, minutiae and politics.
One thing she did at the Gates Foundation to not lose sight of
what matters was to hang a picture of a young African girl in
the conference room. She told her team that the African girl
was the boss. So in projects that may involve tens of millions
of dollars, they would turn to the wall and ask: What would
the boss think of that? It helped create a touchstone. So
whatever your mission is, do you have a way to pull yourself
back to your core purpose at a moment’s notice?”
P: Your famous words—immortalized on Starbucks cups
as part of the company’s “The Way I See It” campaign in
2006—were: “I learned that people fall down, winners
get up, and gold medal winners just get up faster.” Why
is it often more important to get up faster than have the
better skill sets in order to succeed?
SJ: [Harvard Business School professor] Rosabeth Moss Cantor
says that resilience is the new skill. Given the level of change and
volatility, leaders and the rest of us all need to be more adaptable
and flexible than we have been in the past. Even if you have the
best tools and skill sets, you will still get knocked down in this
turbulent world. So being able to get up faster is a real skill to
reassess and move forward quickly. n
WHO AMONG THE top women featured
in St. John’s book best exemplified
exceptional leadership qualities? Click here
to read more of her expert insights.