Since I entered the workforce, I’ve read plenty of business books and articles about leadership and, in particular, women in leadership. Ever the cliche, eager career-minded woman, I pre-ordered Sheryl Sandberg’s (now bestseller) Lean In the moment I saw her on 60 Minutes last year. I even set up a book club so that my mostly female colleagues and I could devour and discuss it together.
We shared stories about times we took a back seat at the table without realizing it and what we would do if we were not afraid.
The truth is, in the months after the book club, several of us, myself included, moved up in our careers in some small part to raising our hands in a way we perhaps may not have had the courage to before reading the book together. Regardless of whatever medium-tension debate that may have swirled around aspects of the book, there is no doubt that many of my friends and colleagues benefited in some way or another from the insights it shared on how to empower ourselves and our colleagues.
This morning I discovered a TED talk by Susan Colantuono from November 2013 titled, “The Career Advice You Probably Didn’t Get.” She really nails a topic about a women in leadership that’s too often overlooked in popular books and articles. I found it to be a nice complement to, or extension of, the points made in Lean In. Susan points out:
“Women represent 50 percent of middle management and professional positions, but the percentages of women at the top of organizations represent not even a third of that number. Why are there so many women mired in the middle and what has to happen to take them to the top?”
I’ll defer to the fourteen minute TED talk video for the supporting details, but the conclusion states that we need to “begin to focus more on developing and demonstrating the skills we have that show that we’re people who understand our businesses, where they’re headed, and our role in taking it there.”
Not to say that the more “typical” advice to women on how to bring out the best in ourselves and in those around us is not important, it most certainly is, but I’ve found in my own career that it must be complemented by the ability to tell the financial story of the company and what actions to take to achieve certain financial goals. Furthermore, it’s critical to seek out mentors who can help you with this area of your personal development.
Those of us in marketing need to demonstrate our understanding of the greater business and ecosystem that we are in, so we’re all working toward the same goal. Marketing has quickly evolved from a mix of branding and events and advertising and PR, to a complex engine that drives lasting revenue while measuring and improving the digital identity of a company. Leadership in marketing must make and retain that connection to the strategic financial goals of the company.
I found Susan Colantuono’s talk to be a helpful and simple leadership framework – one that’s especially relevant for women to reexamine as they work to grow their careers and businesses. I hope you do too!