Amid the hustle and bustle of Advertising Week in New York City, there were several panels about gender equality and creating space for women at the top. The collective consensus? Women are using the movement-inducing hashtags and talking about the strides we’ve made, but the ultimate outcomes we’ve been requesting seem to not be appearing as fast as we’d like. Events like IAB’s Women Visionaries Town Halls are on a mission to change just that.
Instead of waiting for the male-dominated industry to answer the call, IAB’s Women Visionaries Town Halls are offering lessons in leadership and real-world advice to help woman advance their careers and empower the next generation of leaders.
I was lucky enough to attend the latest IAB Women Visionaries Town Hall: “Becoming an Authentic Leader.” The fireside chat featured Kathy Kayse, Chief Media Outreach and Strategic Partnerships Officer for the Ad Council, and Michelle Klein, Vice President of Global Business and Customer Marketing at Facebook, discussing what it takes to practice authentic leadership and why women should embrace it in today’s business world.
Here are my main takeaways from their conversation:
Make your own mark
Both Kathy and Michelle discussed the importance of leading with empathy and said women should make a point to earn their colleagues’ respect, while also bringing their full selves to work. They also emphasized that you’ll be surprised by who will follow your lead, once one person takes the leap to being authentic, more folks join in.
“Rid yourself of the company bureaucracy and politics. Be your true self. You can carry your suitcase filled with pearls of wisdom from others, but it’s ultimately about finding your own style and being the authentic leader that makes sense for you. Bring your way of being to your work,” Kathy stated.
Michelle also stressed the importance of seeing the possibilities and knowing the power you have as a woman that others in the room may not.
“Don’t let hierarchy put you in a box. There’s no ceiling, just the sky. Have the courage to keep trying and asking questions, and you will get to where you want to go,” Michelle said.
Transparency leads to authenticity
Throughout the discussion, there was a theme of creating a workplace culture of equality and openness. It’s this transparency that’s the key to authentic leadership. Both speakers encouraged the women in the room to be grounded in their point of view and to offer up their perspective whenever possible. As women, we often like to nurture and show care. But the tough conversations do need to happen, and there‘s a balance where you can be liked and be authoritative.
Michelle offered a couple tips for women leaders looking to give feedback and establish stronger teams.
“Instead of asking why, start asking how – it invites people into the conversation instead of talking at them. Also, any time you’re giving feedback, calling out the positive is just as important as the development, and do that throughout the lifecycle of a project, not just at the end.”
Kathy chimed in with her own advice, “Create an environment for people to reach deep within themselves to do their best work, and they’ll thank you for it.”
Know your values, but also know your team members’ values
Every individual has different values they practice and live by when it comes to their work. Be clear in knowing what your values are (whether that’s loyalty, timeliness, accuracy, etc.), and you’ll be able to understand why you respond negatively or positively to certain situations. And in turn, invest your energy in understanding others’ needs and motivations – it will make you a more intuitive and effective leader in the long run.
Michelle went on to say that everything you do should be rooted in your values, and if you’re not seeing your values being practiced, create that change within the company.
“Don’t put your values to the side, show people how things could be. Be that changemaker in the room,” she said.
Kathy finished the talk by pointing to the assertion that the organization you work for should not only be a place where you can grow but one that also fits your values.
“Practice your values and find a culture that fits your authentic self.”
Overall, the common thread throughout the “Becoming an Authentic Leader” discussion was to be true to who you are and bring that to your work every day. I think we all can agree it’s time to drop the “fake it until you make it” mentality – it’s much easier just being our selves.