Leading Yourself Before Becoming a Leader at Work

Leading Yourself Before Becoming a Leader at Work
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By: Roula Clerc-Nassar

As I kicked-off the work to establish my consulting & coaching practice, focused on women empowerment & gender diversity, I spent the better part of 5 months researching & reading about women. The outcome is a 5 steps life leadership model for women, that is at the base of my program.

Why life leadership?

An argument I often get is that leadership is about leading other people, vs. one's own self or life, to which I respectfully disagree.

While numerous leadership definitions exist, what they have in common is the existence of a vision or objective, and the need to inspire and motivate people to pursue. Setting an inspiring vision for one's life is at the heart of my life leadership model, and engaging one's self and others to get there, a key component.

The difference is that the vision pertains to one’s own life, vs. a professional endeavor, and the bulk of the work to get there is done by the person, vs. by co-workers. And while the end outcome of strong classical leadership is more successful businesses and careers, the outcome of life leadership is happier individuals, more fulfilled lives, and a better impact. The latter, I would argue, enhances a leader’s ability to inspire & motivate others in the more classical business sense.

Here are some examples of the key steps to enhanced life leadership.

1. Inspirational life direction

As a little moroccan girl, Mona knew that she did not want to embrace the traditional model. Instead she wanted to pursue her dream of having a successful international career. She got a scholarship in a prestigious school, studied abroad, joined a multinational, climbed the ladder up to vice-president level, and is still enjoying the ride and aiming for new heights, while honoring her key values of achievement, independence, and growth.

Many of us unfortunately lose touch with our dreams and values. Inspirational direction is about setting an inspirational vision and/or objectives for our life, based on deep a dive into our core essence: from values, to purpose, to dreams, to strengths, so that we step-up our sense of purpose, fulfillment, and impact.

2. Mindset for success

Anna, a gynecological surgeon, noted that while 50% of gynecologists in her area were women, less that 10% were also surgeons, as this branch came with risks that a number of her women colleagues shy away from. This phenomenon is widespread, as women tend to be more reluctant to take risks, which inhibits their growth.

Mindset for success is about exploring and practicing key mindset components so that we are best equipped to pursue our inspirational direction confidently: from envisioning success, to overcoming limiting beliefs & managing the inner critic, to risk taking as a means to develop & progress.

3. Skills for success

As a marketing director, Sylvie, now a president in a multinational, realized that her male counter-part had explicitly and repeatedly expressed to his boss his desire to be promoted, while she never had, assuming instead that it was obvious. When she ended-up disclosing her ambition, she added an emotional touch: the wish to celebrate her promotion at her 40th birthday. She obtained it 2 days ahead of this date.

Skills for success is about exploring and practicing key skills to help us successfully pursue our inspirational direction: from asking for what we want, to being center-stage, to adapting communication styles to the needs of our audience, to defining and building other skills that are specific to the inspirational direction we are pursuing.

4. Nurturing connections

Emma is an ambitious group manager, and a new mother. She was unaware, and therefore missed the opportunity to apply for a job that she would have loved to have. Many of her colleagues were aware, due to their network connections, but she just has no time for these type of activities.

Nurturing connections is about exploring and practicing how to leverage relationships, at all levels, to help us pursue our inspirational direction successfully: from family & friends, to networks, mentors, sponsors, role models, & experts.

5. Joyful journey

Ellen became vice-president in a major corporation at the age of 38. With 2 geographical moves in 2 years, and a continuous need to travel and leave behind her 4-year old girl, the prevalent feelings in her life are those of guilt and utter lack of energy, with very little room to enjoy her success, or the journey she is on.

Joyful journey is about exploring and practicing what is required to make the path in pursuit of our inspirational direction joyful: from resilience, to energy management, to mindfulness, to amplifying success.

What is specific to women in this model

The framework applies to men and women alike. What makes it more relevant to women is the choice of illustrative stories, as well as that of some of the themes (eg. asking for what you want, center stage…) which, if relevant to some extent to men, are even more so to women.

Do you feel passionate about what you are looking to achieve in your life? Are you purposefully developing the skills and connections that you need? Do you deeply believe in your ability to succeed? Are you utterly enjoying the journey? If in doubt on any of this, then you likely have an opportunity to enhance your life leadership. There is no greater gift you can offer yourself, to enhance your fulfillment & release your full power for yourself, your family, your work, and society at large.

“True leadership stems from an individuality that is honestly expressed” – Sheryl Sandberg


Roula Clerc-Nassar is the founder of Ellumine, a new consultancy & coaching practice, focused on women empowerment & gender diversity. Before founding Ellumine, Roula spent 24 years as a consumer insights leader in 2 leading multinationals: P&G and PepsiCo, where she succeeded in climbing Corporate ladder up to top levels. Her last position was vice- president insights at PepsiCo Europe.

Ellevate Network is a global women’s network: the essential resource for professional women who create, inspire and lead. Together, we #InvestInWomen.

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