I was fortunate to participate in a discussion at a Leading Women Executives forum just outside Chicago, visiting with high-potential executives looking to build their teams, fortify succession plans and increase advancement in top-tier organizations.
Before I arrived, participants went over personal negotiation strategies and talked through real-life challenges they’re facing or expect to confront as they take on new and better opportunities.
Their passion was tangible.
My role was to share practical approaches to conflict resolution and a bit about my own career path. How did I balance personal drive with professional risk? What motivates me most?
When assessing one’s own leadership style, or even just considering how to tackle an individual problem, we each chart a path based on our unique aspirations, circumstances and opportunities. Every choice comes with unending opportunity and potential — but it can be challenging to make conflict work for you.
Here’s what I shared with that group:
What life and leadership principles ground your decision-making?
Above all else, integrity and honesty. My team and I have real conversations about what works and where we can improve, constantly offering feedback and looking at outcomes and results. It’s a reliable check-in for personal growth, professional progress and the state of client relationships. How you prioritize your goals will help determine your approach. Can you accomplish everything at the level your work demands? Do you need to occasionally say no to an opportunity to create better outcomes elsewhere? Strong leaders are resilient, agile and fearless, but they also recognize what they have the personal bandwidth to take on, and what can wait for another day.
What are some key factors that you believe have contributed to your success?
Your team, talent and the people you surround yourself with daily will influence your enduring vision and strategy, helping you listen when appropriate and take a leap of faith when the situation demands. Beyond people-power lies data. My father was a math teacher and he likes to tell stories about how I helped him grade papers starting at age two. A love for math was a big part of our family and I still lean on this today. Figure out how to measure your data and progress, and consider that information when devising your next move.
How do you hold onto your authenticity as a leader in times of intense stress and conflict?
When conflict arises, remain calm and measured. Listen and find a win/win for the teams. Candid and direct feedback about the situation is essential. If the situation is intense or emotions are high - offer directives slowly and with care. Authentic leadership means holding fast to your principles and trusting the team you built to do the same.
What professional qualities distinguish a potentially great aspiring leader from their high achieving peers?
Great leaders try new things and fail quickly. No team is ever able to do everything all the time — your success depends on your collective ability to prioritize and your desire to help others find innovative solutions. Today’s most successful senior executives are adaptive and build relationships on multiple platforms. They believe strongly in the firm’s mission and understand how to connect with and learn from others.