The Hero's Leadership Journey

05/22/2013 04:09 pm ET Updated Jul 22, 2013

I recently had the opportunity to speak at TEDxRockCreekPark, an independently organized TED event. It was a phenomenal experience to share the podium with incredibly diverse thought leaders, including neuroscientists, film makers and even a 13-year-old entrepreneur. The theme of the event was The Hero's Journey, based on the idea by Joseph Campbell that each of us is on a hero's journey. At times in life we find ourselves in a challenging situation, experience a revelation, and are transformed by the experience.

At first glance, the hero's challenges appear to be external. Yet in actuality, the challenges heroes face are most often internal -- it is their self-limiting beliefs and behaviors that prevent them from achieving their goals. Once they address and overcome these internal challenges, they are positively transformed and find the success they seek.

I am fascinated by this topic because I see the hero's journey as the same journey many of us face in our ascent up the leadership ladder. This is true for men and women, but particularly so for women. I've spoken to and worked with thousands of women over the last 20 years, and I've seen this play out time and time again. I've experienced it in my own leadership journey. The times I didn't get promotions or special projects, I rationalized hundreds of reasons why I was passed over, and few of those reasons had anything to do with me.

But then I found a great mentor who was candid with me and pointed out that while there might be legitimate external reasons why I wasn't advancing, I really needed to look at what I was doing -- or not doing -- that might be holding me back. Suddenly I realized that even more important than the glass ceiling is what I now call the Sticky Floors.

Sticky Floors refer to the self-limiting beliefs, assumptions, and behaviors that prevent us from advancing on our leadership journey. We tend to think it is the external issues that hold us back -- other people, the company, "the glass ceiling." However, the truth is that just like the hero, it is most often our internal issues that keep us from advancing to higher levels of leadership. We must overcome our Sticky Floors if we want to continually grow and develop as leaders. There are a handful of Sticky Floors, which I have personally been and have observed many talented and smart people get stuck on. One Sticky Floor could be perfectionism versus embracing good enough, or not speaking up when we have something important to say. Others could be failure to build strategic relationships with people who can be helpful mentors or sponsors and give you important advice and feedback or confidently asking for what you want and need.

If you find yourself stuck on your leadership journey, remember that you have a choice. You can look outward and blame others, or you can look inward at what might be your Sticky Floors. And, if you think you might have some beliefs, assumptions or behaviors that are getting in your way, be encouraged, because you have a far greater ability to affect internal issues than external ones. The resources exist to help you get unstuck and advance to the next level.

When you look back on your life and your career how are you going to measure your success? What will be your legacy? Whether it's rising to greater levels of leadership, being the best parent you can be or reaching out and helping others along the way, know you are a hero on a leadership journey, and you have complete control over your destiny. When you face and overcome your internal challenges, more doors will open for you and you'll have many more opportunities. And then...anything is possible!

Have you ever felt "stuck" in your career, thought you'd hit the "glass ceiling?" Becky Shambaugh illustrates what really stops us - "the sticky floors." Hear how to transform the beliefs, assumptions, and behaviors that aren't working for you achieve your wildest dreams! View Becky's talk at TEDxRockCreekPark

What Sticky Floors might be keeping you from advancing on your leadership journey?

Learn more about SHAMBAUGH's upcoming Leadership Programs, Becky Shambaugh's Keynote Offerings, Sponsorship Consulting and Professional Development, Integrated Leadership -- Leveraging the Gender Differences, Coaching and our signature Women In Leadership and Learning Program (WILL) by visiting