If Hillary Clinton asked you if she should run for President in 2016, what would you say? This may seem like a straightforward question based on her many years of experience in public service and the variety of roles she has played. In fact, her vast experience has set her up to be a strong Presidential candidate. But it has also opened up other choices for her that could be just as personally fulfilling. I think the magic here is that whether or not Hillary decides to run, she has created a situation in her career where she is in a position of strength and she also has a choice. And that's a winning formula for all of us!
Let me explain. In SHAMBAUGH's coaching practice, we see a number of talented women who have worked hard for years and have a lot of good experience under their belt, which makes them excellent candidates for partnership roles or positions in the C-Suite. Yet these same women often have an internal narrative that defeats their ability to reach their full potential. These internal dialogues sound like, "I'm not sure that I'm qualified," or "If I take this position, I will lose my family life," or "I won't fit in with the male-dominated leadership team," or "It would be awkward having my current peers working for me," and so on. This kind of dilemma can be, not only frustrating for women, but can impact their confidence and professional growth. It can also lead to a potential loss for the leadership of the organization.
We all start off in our career with certain aspirations and goals and, if we are successful (and a little lucky), we get an opportunity that calls for us to make this kind of a critical choice. When we come to this intersection, it's important that we look within ourselves and examine our beliefs, values, life goals and priorities to determine what's most important to us. And it's equally important that we check our assumptions about the specific opportunity to be sure we are basing our decision on realistic expectations.
One of the things I learned as a result of writing my second book, Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton, is that she was open to opportunities, had the courage to take them on, had a strong passion for what she was doing and worked hard. As a result, she expanded her depth and breadth of knowledge and increased her credentials for executive leadership. Hillary wanted to leave a legacy that would make a difference in the world and be remembered. I'm not sure all of the roles she's taken on were planned out or that she had always wanted to sign up for grueling 18-hour days with lots of travel and guaranteed criticism! However, she has always been achievement-focused, gone for bigger and better roles, had the courage to get out of her comfort zone and had this extraordinary capacity for being resilient, which helped her to successfully get through some of the most challenging times in her life.
Who knows what Hillary's internal narrative is right now, but it seems like she is in a good position to potentially become the next President of the United States. She may see this as her "dream job" but may also be thinking, "Can I be president and still have a life of my own? Will I still have time to spend with my husband and daughter to do the things that are important to us as a family? What are my goals for the next 10 years and how would being President fit into achieving them?" Whatever she decides, running for this office is clearly her choice.
My advice to talented women is to put yourself in the position to also have this kind of career choice. Here are a few ways to make this happen:
- Have a Plan. Create a plan that aligns with your passions, strengths and interests. Know what direction you want to go in your career and communicate that to others. Share your vision and goals with key stakeholders who can open doors and create pathways for you.
- Build a Strong and Diverse Network. Build strategic relationships that you can depend on with individuals who will become your advocates and sponsors. Advancing in your career means continually taking on more responsibility; you need the help of others to gain those opportunities. Engage with and learn from a broad spectrum of people, whether they are customers, colleagues, direct reports, market experts or community leaders.
- Establish a Strong Brand. Create a personal brand that communicates your value and differentiates you from others. And, of course, be sure your brand aligns with your current and future goals. Be intentional about integrating your brand wherever and whenever you show up. Remember that you can influence the conversations that people have about you!
- Take Risks. Great leadership is about learning and growing, which calls for getting out of your comfort zone and taking on new roles with greater responsibility. Take on work that has more impact and be open to new experiences that will expand your horizons. Continue to look at ways to reinvent yourself and your team. Take prudent risks - remember that the bigger the opportunity, the bigger the possible reward. Ask yourself, What's the worst thing that can happen? and have a contingency plan if the answer concerns you.
- Be True to Yourself. Know your beliefs, assumptions, values and core strengths and let them serve as a compass as you progress through your career. Identify your purpose in life. Be intentional about moving your purpose forward by blending your ambitions with your aspirations and actions. Have a life that speaks to what you really want to do, so that you leave something behind that makes a difference.
And when you reach that intersection in your life where you need to make a major career choice, trust your heart, which is what I would tell Hillary to do...if she asked.