Busy leaning in? Don’t forget to think about what you are leaning in to, why you are doing it, and who you are going to be along the way.

“Women have choices. We can lead with intention, we can ask, we can decide,” says CCL’s Laura Santana. “Too often, we default to the status quo.”

Making intentional choices about our careers is important for everyone. For women, it includes understanding the organizational and cultural roadblocks and realities that are unique to women in the workplace.

It’s also about understanding the barriers each woman places on herself — often needlessly and even without realizing it. For example:

  • She will take the job or assignment because it is offered — not because it fits into a plan or helps achieve a goal.
  • She doesn’t put herself in the running for a promotion — because “oh, I’m not quite ready.”
  • She waits for her good work and leadership potential to be noticed.
  • She accepts “the way things are” — without considering if asking or pushing back is the right move.
  • She shoulders work and family overload — neglecting her own goals, development, or well-being.

“Each woman needs to make time to think about her identity as leader, choose what she wants, and work intentionally to make it happen,” says Santana.

CCL’s Women’s Leadership Experience (WLE) is an opportunity for experienced managers to choose how to take the next step as a leader — in ways that get the results for them and for the organization.

Santana, along with Katherine Pappa and other CCL colleagues, developed the program content and design. It is based around 3 themes, or levers, that can have a powerful impact on women’s effectiveness:

Gaining Self-Clarity

Women’s leadership development is, in large part, about identity. It’s about getting clear on values, motivations and behaviors, as well as the characteristics and roles that are part of who you are.

With self-clarity, you begin to see ways your identity is playing out positively or negatively in terms of leadership effectiveness.

For example, traditional images of leadership align with traditional male qualities — leaving many women trying to match their sense of who they are with what it takes to be effective in leadership roles.

“In one activity we do with men and women, I’ve noticed women rarely include the term leader as part of their identity,” says Santana. “What are the implications of this for women and for organizations?”

Living Agentically

Agency is about taking control of your career, knowing you are shaping your job, your leadership style and your life. It begins with identifying a desired goal and then actively pursuing the experience, behaviors, skills or relationships that will put you in a position to achieve that goal.

Living agentically is equally important for establishing your desired leadership brand.

“Leadership brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room,” explains Pappa. “What do you want that to be? What do you need to do to create it?”

Partnering

The right relationships and ties are known to be an asset in getting access to information, earning promotions and gaining opportunities. Effective leaders rely on key networks and trusted partners to get results.

Yet, many women resist the process of networking.

“The right network is a differentiator — and it’s not about the number of contacts or connections you have,” explains Santana. “High-quality networks are open and varied, with people who don’t all know each other. They are diverse, crossing critical boundaries. And core relationships are deep, trusting, and mutually beneficial.

“Ultimately, it’s is about developing leadership capability in service of a chosen goal rather than one that just happens to be there — and in ways that will have the most impact,” says Pappa.

“There is great power in the choosing,” adds Santana.

The Women’s Leadership Experience (WLE) is a multi-phase learning and networking opportunity for experienced managers. It begins and ends with short, face-to-face sessions with peers and specialized facilitators and coaches. In between, women work on challenges and goals, engage with coaches, and refine their personal leadership strategy.

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