03/09/2015 12:57 pm ET Updated May 09, 2015

8 Ways to Emulate Female Trailblazers

Rekha Garton via Getty Images

It's Women's History Month! For me, it's an opportunity to step back and celebrate female leaders, influencers and activists. There are so many I admire -- from the late Margaret Thatcher, whose tough leadership style earned her the nickname "Iron Lady," to business leaders like Angela Arhendts, who transformed Burberry from a stodgy retailer to a digital-savvy company with a rocketing stock price. Why do I admire these women? Simple answer: they're trailblazers.

Like them, I've worked to blaze my own trail in high-tech and telco over the last 20+ years. I've done it by developing expertise in customer service and strategy, leading a team today that's responsible for deploying digital channels for a large workforce. Many of the things I do every day didn't exist 15, 10 or even five years ago. In fact, something new comes along almost daily to challenge me. It's the kind of work that requires you to blaze new trails. It's the kind of work that I love.

In honor of this month -- and all women and girls who strive to make their mark at school, at work or on an even bigger stage -- I want to share some inspiration and guidance I've gleaned from the women I admire. They all have a lot in common. And here are eight ways you can emulate their success.

  1. Be passionate. Call it what you want, but there's no substitute for a self-driven, positive attitude about life and work.
  2. Set high standards for yourself and others. Expect the best from yourself and others. Remember to focus on honoring commitments and being careful about what you commit to.
  3. Think a step ahead. Always keep the big picture in mind and think about how your actions will drive reactions. Good leaders think about the downstream effects that could be both positive and negative.
  4. Constantly expose yourself to new things. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Use competition to help motivate you to reach new heights, and go head-to-head against the best version of yourself every day.
  5. Be a good listener. Adopt the behaviors of a great listener, such as maintaining eye contact, not interrupting, being attentive and ignoring distractions -- like your cellphone.
  6. Don't let fear hold you back. Fear is healthy if it makes you more thoughtful and careful, but don't let it stop you from trying. Always remember that failure is often the pathway to eventual success.
  7. Learn from your mistakes. Reframe your thinking so that you look at mistakes as opportunities for valuable learning. Congratulate yourself for whatever growth you've gained from dealing with each difficult situation you've overcome.
  8. Tell your story. You must be a great communicator to be a great leader. Tell your story in a way that appeals to your audience’s goals, emotions and aspirations. That’s how you’ll get others to champion your cause and drive a larger impact.

It’s also important to have a support network. During my first week at AT&T, a senior officer in the company pulled me in his office and gave me the best advice I’ve ever received. He said that I was hired to drive change, but strategies are easily debated. His advice was to take action and show positive business results. With a great track record, my co-workers would seek out my strategies.

That sums up how trails are blazed and history is made -- drive positive, measurable impacts through well thought-out actions. With that approach, you’ll create your own legacy.