02/07/2014 05:41 pm ET Updated Apr 09, 2014

Leadership Ascension Embodies Ridding Negative Learned Behavior

As women in pursuit of leadership ascension it is necessary to inventory your learned behavior to ensure proper momentum and trajectory towards your goals.

Simply put, learned behavior can be defined as traits that have been embodied through cultural, social, and personal experiences honed by conditioning, rewarding, or punishment.

In the workplace, positive learned behavior is easily identified in our ability to communicate and listen effectively; cooperate and collaborate when working on team assignments; and effectively utilizing time and resources to complete tasks. Thus the continual application of what works results in the ascension we seek.

Respectively, negative learned behavior has quite the opposite effect. According to Appelbaum, Iaconi, and Matousek (2007), negative workplace behavior is deemed deviant behavior which ultimately impacts organizational and professional success. These behaviors prevail with excessive absenteeism or breaks, blaming and/or gossiping about colleagues especially when working on team projects or even lying about hours worked.

In the study, Benchmarking Women's Leadership in the United States (2013) it was found that although women earn the majority of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees; we do not earn salaries or obtain titles that reflect our high performance. Specifically, women are underrepresented in senior leadership roles in male dominant fields. The study revealed in the technology sector, in 2012 women comprise only 20 percent of all leadership roles with only 9 percent as CIO's. In academia, women represent only 24.53 percent of leadership titles. In the Armed services, only 12 percent of women occupy leadership roles and even within our U.S. Congress, only 18 percent women hold seats.

It is evident that women are experiencing success in obtaining senior leadership roles but continual vigilance is still needed to steadily decrease the gender disparity between men and women. While external influences such as the proverbial glass ceiling, second generation bias and gender stereotyping exist, internal factors need not add to the list of obstacles. Therefore, we must invest time to understand internal factors such as negative learned behaviors to pursue leadership ascension.

Assessing my own behaviors were essential to growth and once identified, strategically assessing their value followed because the ultimate goal is to maintain a continuous and successful escalation.

First, it was necessary to trash the "I can do it all" motto. Leaders lead effectively when they inspire and involve others to strive toward a common goal. One person cannot do everything as I soon came to realize during the launch of a new project. I quickly found myself overwhelmed because I was trying to do it all; but not getting it all done. I found the need to communicate, cooperate, and collaborate with others to ensure the project was back on track toward completion.

Often we find comfort and success in rote objectives because we do the things we are good at. And, there is nothing wrong with succeeding where our talents lie; and, completing the same tasks or assignments for this is essential for daily organizational operations. However, I realized leadership ascension comes with taking risks. Upon this realization, I took a positive risk in asserting myself in requesting different projects. Additionally, I requested to be paired with other departments to work on special projects to allow my unknown skills and talents to prevail within the organization.

So, I say all this to say, women continue to make strides toward leadership ascension. However, studies reflect an under-representation of women in senior leadership roles across industries. As we know, external factors have the ability to impede one from obtaining leadership goals. As a result we must stand firm in instituting policies to ensure women are afforded equitable opportunity to eliminate external factors. Additionally, it is also imperative that as professional women we diminish our own crippling negative learned behaviors to climb the ladder of success. Therefore, inventory your positive and negative learned behaviors to ensure you are meeting your leadership goals.

Appelbaum, S.H., Iaconi, G.D., & Matousek, A. (2007). Positive and negative deviant workplace behaviors: causes, impacts, and solutions. Corporate Governance. 7(5) 586-595.

Benchmarking Women's Leadership in the United States