Congratulations to the 2022 class of the United Way of Cass-Clay’s 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program.
As a speaker, leader and mentor for the United Way 35 Under 35 program, I’ve seen first-hand how the participants consistently bring high energy, passion for the community, and an appetite for growth. Their desire to make connections and empower others is an asset to the entire region and they always inspire me.
It is exciting to see how this United Way program has evolved over the past 14 years. It continues to bring tremendous value to our community by teaching emerging leaders to invest in themselves while supporting businesses that believe in lifting up the next generation and building a network of diverse leaders with different goals but who are united in their commitment to personal, professional and community growth.
All Leaders Face Challenges
At Allegro Group, we work with businesses to build and develop their teams, and with leaders to navigate career advancement. We invest heavily in studying leadership and understanding the competencies, attributes and behaviors needed to successfully grow high-performance teams and culture.
One thing that we’ve found to be universal is that all leaders face hurdles in their journey. As part of the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program, I’m honored to share insights into three of the most common hurdles: clarity, inner critic and expanding your network.
Hurdle #1: Lack of Clarity
At some point in their leadership journey, most people eventually come to a crossroads where they are looking for something more but aren’t clear on what their next step should be.
Clarity, or a lack thereof, is one of the most common hurdles leaders face within their careers.
If you find yourself in this spot, introspection is the key. By asking clarifying questions of yourself, you start the process of better understanding where you are today and where you want to be. Then, you can determine who you need to be in order to bridge that gap.
Here are five questions you can ask yourself to help gain clarity:
- How do I feel today?
- What is my current mindset?
- How do I perceive myself?
- How do others perceive me?
- What would you like to change about those answers?
Hurdle #2: Inner Critic
We all have a voice inside our head that is critical of ourselves and others. This inner critic tends to crop up whenever we perceive something to be imperfect. It often sounds like, “I’m not good enough,” or “You could never do that.” Left unregulated, our inner critic can cause us to play small, avoid a worthwhile challenge or even miss out on a great opportunity.
Some techniques for managing your inner critic include:
- Practice becoming more aware of when your inner critic creeps into your thoughts.
- Recognize your inner critic for what it is: a biased perception of the current situation.
- Observe your inner critic as if you were a third party observing the story you’re telling yourself. For example, you might say to yourself, “My inner critic wants me to feel like I’m not talented enough to tackle this job. That’s interesting. I wonder where that feeling comes from?”
Hurdle #3: Expanding Your Network
Leadership is not a solo pursuit. Yet, too often, even high-performing leaders find themselves without peers or mentors from whom they can learn from or relate to. That’s why it is vital to carve out time to meet new people and intentionally cultivate new relationships.
If you’re ready to expand your network, here are three great ways to start:
- Ask someone in your current network to introduce you to someone they think you should meet.
- Join a new industry or professional organization based on your goals.
- Participate in community programs or volunteer opportunities that fuel your passion.
Leaving a Legacy
This year we also are celebrating the legacy of a long-time champion of the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program, Pam McGee.
Pam was a legacy speaker of this program and someone I deeply admired. She was an accomplished leader who passed away on January 19 after a valiant battle with cancer.
Pam had many wonderful attributes as a leader and mentor, but what I remember most were her authenticity and courageous vulnerability. Most of us have a perception of what “success” looks like. What Pam showed us is that success is different for everyone. She demonstrated to me that achieving true success means choosing your path with confidence and supporting others as they choose theirs.
It is a lesson I hope everyone— inside the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program and beyond—takes to heart.