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10 leadership lessons for women learned from listening to DOD Secretary Jessica L Wright

10 leadership lessons for women learned from listening to DOD Secretary Jessica L Wright wright

Picture credit: http://www.defense.gov/bios/biographydetail.aspx?biographyid=267

I was really fortunate recently in having been invited to a speech of DOD Under Secretary of Defense Jessica Wright. What an amazing woman with an even more amazing life journey. She shared her life lessons with the audience about what it means to be a woman in leadership roles.

Back in the mid 1970’s she became the first female aviator in the Pennsylvania National Guard. She beat the odds there and would do so again and again throughout her 35 year tenure in the Army.

Here are 10 leadership lessons I have heard her touch on.

  • When you have common goal, gender plays no, or only a small role. This was based on what she went through when she first started out at a time when no women were allowed to serve in the Army. Also, the recent announcement that women now can fight at the front together with their male comrade soldiers. At the front they will have common goals and thus most people that have a problem with this, are typically outsiders.
  • Grab the opportunities that come in front of you as they present themselves. Many opportunities have come her way and she made sure to accept new challengers and not letting opportunities pass her by. That is an active choice that you need to willingly make. Chose a challenge, not comfort.
  • Enjoy getting your hair and nails done. Just because you are working in a man’s world does not mean that you stop being a woman.
  • Have a stiff upper lip ready (and a good return line) when the discriminatory lines come your way. Oh can those lines hurt, but remember that power is granted and therefore no one has power over you.
  • Listen to what your people are really saying. When the people say something ask yourself what they are really saying.
  • You serve your people they will help you. It’s really simple: You help them excel and they will help you accomplish mutually important goals without pulling rank.
  • Make sure to promote your people and delegate, delegate, delegate. Invite people to do the things that they ought to be doing and not you. Enrich their lives with great careers and you will be able to enjoy a great career too.
  • When it’s time to leave, leave. Even when you have fun together with the guys, always ask yourself when to leave such that you can stay a lady. This was coined towards having a great time after work. Ponder how far you really want to go.
  • Have a close friend, or family member you can confide in. You will have tough times in male dominated environments. Even though you may look, act, and look tough outwardly, your inside may want to raise the white flag. Talking things over with close friends, or family helps getting through tough times.
  • Have a mentor. Oftentimes they may be male – and that is ok. Having a person who can provide candid feedback for you and ask the right questions helping you raise your self-awareness is key to self-improvement.

It was an amazing event hearing her speak and respond to questions from the audience. The above mentioned lessons in leadership really helped address gender specific challenges. They went further though; they also addressed universally applicable leadership issues and I was thrilled to learn that leading people and organizations is not as gender related as it may have been years ago.

Ralf

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