Women in Leadership: Leveraging ALL of You

I’m honored that my esteemed colleague Dr. Marie Mendes Alcazar (a trusted advisor and experienced organization development consultant) serves as the first guest-writer for this blog.

For women in leadership roles, the need to differentiate self from ALL others is no pioneering feat; however, global communities of scale have upped the ante on social intelligence and placed special emphasis on the need for personal branding.  Interestingly enough, the interdependence that exists between leadership, social intelligence, and personal branding for women in leadership is astounding.  To substantiate this claim, I offer the following propositions for your consideration:

  • You WILL go unrecognized and forego opportunities for advancement unless you differentiate yourself.

In his book Leadership from the Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life, Kevin Cashman noted that differentiation refers to core talents or signature strengths that distinguish you from others.  From a leadership perspective, it is important to understand that visibility and personal branding are critical success factors when it comes to career advancement.

In fact, during a recent study exploring strategies for the advancement of women in leadership, 15 women with more than 10 years of experience in key leadership roles were asked to share their experiences with regard to differentiation.  All 15 participants (100%) affirmed that mentoring and sponsorship opportunities had a significant influence on their career ascension. They also shared that mentoring and sponsorship opportunities are highly coveted and therefore restricted to those individuals recognized as high-potential employees.

  • You WILL operate blindly unless you are socially astute.

Leadership effectiveness is largely dependent upon social intelligence or an individual’s ability to instinctively navigate and leverage complex social environments.  In the article ”What is Social Intelligence?”, Hsin-Yi Cohen effectively articulated this line of thinking by highlighting the direct correlation between relationships and leadership effectiveness. Simply put, social intelligence reflects a conscious perspective around the strategic nature of social awareness and an individual’s ability to interact with people in a positive and productive manner. Cohen wrote:

“People with high social intelligence are often said to have “nourishing behaviors” which make others around them feel valued, loved, respected and appreciated. These people are very appealing to others and are often described as having a “magnetic personality.”

Oprah Winfrey (Media mogul), Sheila Johnson (Team president of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics & america’s first black female billionaire), and Sara Blakely (Founder of Spanx & the world’s youngest self-made billionaire) are glowing examples of the degree of influence that high social intelligence can have for women in leadership roles.

  • Make the distinction

There is greater demand by top employers for individuals who possess educational and professional credentials that validate their knowledge.  With industry experience and discipline based credentials, women leaders can qualify for more key roles and become recognized experts in their field.

Consequently, the most important take away from this discussion for women in leadership is that differentiation requires action – starting with a holistic view of self.  When you understand today AND can envision tomorrow, you can begin to chart your course and make deliberate decisions that move you toward your goals.  By so doing, aspiring women leaders are empowered to not only set themselves apart from others but, cause employers to prefer her services over the services of rivals.

About the Author

Dr. Marie Mendes Alcazar is a results-driven Organizational Design Strategist with more than 25 years of progressive experience leading the deployment of enterprise level change initiatives.  Marie is a tenured change practitioner and has held a variety of program and change leadership positions working with enterprise level implementation projects across private, corporate, and government sectors. Marie holds a Doctor of Management Degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of Phoenix, School of Advanced Studies. Some of Marie’s client organizations include: ConocoPhillips, Phillips 66, NASA Johnson Space Center, Renal Research Institute, Dialysis Corporation of America, Harris County Sherriff’s Office, P&O Nedlloyd, and Johnson & Johnson Latin America.


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