Women’s Leadership and Advancement

Yesterday, I heard some very insightful tips about leadership and women.  Anne Pramaggiore, President and CEO of ComEd, a leading utility company in Illinois, was the speaker and shared some of her keys to success.   She began by suggesting it’s not about “breaking the glass ceiling” but instead, borrowing from Northwestern’s Professor Alice Eagly, it’s more like “working through the labryinth”.*  In other words, career advancement is a complex journey with twists and turns throughout the road.  By using the  journey analogy, Pramaggiore encourages  women to drive change along the way instead of waiting until she reaches some magical ceiling.

Ms. Pramaggiore cited some statistics and while there is still a long road ahead to break the overall  23% salary gender gap, she gave some examples of success (more women in Congress, Saudi women driving, etc).  Then she shared her Elements of Leadership, base on the well known scholar:  the Kindergarten teacher!  Here they are:

1.  Color outside the lines  (women should take risks; don’t be compulsive about following THE PLAN: take opportunities when they arise)

2.  The teacher is not always right (the most intelligent people are not always at the top; employees who challenge the status quo are the best; take charge whenever you can; complex, highly layered  organizations can stifle innovation)

3.  Interrupt and be heard (base your statements on facts but more importantly,  HOLD YOUR GROUND; fight for what you believe)

4.  Intuition is a skill set (base your beliefs on facts but at the end of the day, it’s your judgment and values that matter)

5.  Spend time in the hallways (get out of the office; talk to people who are doing the work; reach out to the community or your customers)

6.  Failure is good for you (learn from it and use it to develop new approaches;  learn to value your potential;  use the experience to learn what does NOT work)

7.  Big girls do cry (let people know who you are as a person;  show that you care).  NOTE:  Pramaggiore often dons a hard hat and steel toed shoes to visit storm sites after power shortages and talks with customers as well as employee linemen who are fixing the problem!

At the end of the day, while trying to get ahead, always remember the value of connecting with people–your superiors, your underlings, your customers.

* Dr. Eagly is a professor of Psychology, Northwestern U. and author of  Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About How Women Become Leaders with co-author Linda L. Carli.