I used to think that leadership was something special. I thought it was hard, and that there were certain people who were born to be leaders and I wasn’t one of them.
I was more a do-er – someone who followed instructions, but not the person leading the way.
I remember being at school when they were selecting who was going to be head girl, and deciding that there was no way I’d want to do that job. There was too much responsibility, too many meetings, I wasn’t organised enough… I had all sorts of stories about it, including the story that I wasn’t leadership material.
At university, I felt similar until I stood for Ladies’ Boat Club Captain. I only put myself forwards because no one else had. But when someone else went up against me, I realised I really wanted it. By then I’d started to think about what I could do in the role. I realised there were things I could do that would make a difference, and I was keen to get stuck in and see what happened.
At work, I moved into a leadership role much more quickly than I expected. I loved programming and solving problems, so I assumed my career path would be along the consultancy route – but I was wrong. The senior managers noticed that I was good at connecting with people, and saw my potential as a manager, and so I was offered the role.
It wasn’t just a management role, I needed to lead. My team were doing amazing things, but nobody was noticing. I spent time listening and understanding what we could do, and turned it into a strategy for us to raise our profile within the organisation. I stepped up as a leader.
Looking back I can see that my leadership style has always been collaborative. I start by spending time with the team, understanding their skills and the things they’re passionate about, and giving them the chance to tell me what they think we should do. That forms the basis of my strategy, and it means I have the team behind me all the way.
As I’ve grown I’ve learned how to think bigger and be more visionary. I’ve got braver at reaching out to get buy-in from influential stakeholders. I’m less scared of failing and have developed more confidence in myself.
I’ve realised that you’re not born to be a leader. Leadership is a set of skills you can learn and piece together as you go along.
It all starts with noticing something you care about and seeing that you can make a difference. Before you know it you’re stepping up, and taking action. Leadership follows.
In my new role, I’m not a leader, I’m a manager. There are elements of leadership – initiatives to take on where I can make a difference, but I’m not employed to be a visionary leader with influence over the organisation.
But that doesn’t mean I won’t be stepping up and taking the lead and making a difference.
I have a mission, and that mission is to help women in tech show up more authentically, so that’s where I expect something will emerge.
Right now, I’m in listening mode – getting an understanding of the business, the domain, the tech, and the people. I’m building relationships and creating a foundation.
I don’t know what will emerge as I connect with others across the organisation, but I’m excited to see what does.
Because I know that you don’t need to be in a leadership role to be a leader.
Anyone can lead, you just need to connect with the things that matter to you.
Take a moment and reflect back through your career (and life):
- What initiatives have you been involved in that you cared passionately about?
- When have you stepped up and spoken out?
- When have you influenced the way other people approached things?
- What do you notice about these different scenarios and what do they tell you about your personal leadership style?
What sort of leader are you?
If you’re ready to grow your leadership skills and find your own unique style of leadership alongside a community of other women in tech, then my Authentic Tech Leaders Mentorship Programme is for you.
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