Becoming Leaderly

Part of the IYF Guest Bloggers series. Deborah Stephens details five leadership lessons from Charlotte Beers. Cross-posted from Deborah’s blog.

Charlotte Beers broke the glass ceiling before we knew there was one. As former Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy and Mather and appointed by Colin Powell as Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, Charlotte is one of the most successful women in the world. Admitting that her biggest failure in life has been retirement, Charlotte now spends her time helping women break through barriers, many of which Charlotte believes are self-imposed.  It’s a process she describes as “becoming leaderly.”  Here are five lessons from Charlotte Beers that can help any woman unleash the leader within:

5 Ways To Become ‘Leaderly’:


  1. Relationships Often Matter More Than The Work: It’s not fair but it’s reality.  The quality of your work may be trumped by the relationships you build or break.  Charlotte says “You have to recognize that there will be a moment in time when you will not be able to be represented by the quality of your work but rather by the relationships you have. Remember… “What goes around comes around— a point men learned long ago. “Make as few enemies as possible, it’s really just good form,” says Charlotte. “Men can compete ferociously with each other and then turn around and lend a hand to their opponent.”  It’s a small world and work is a circle.  Your boss today may be your customer in five years.  The woman you meet at a conference might be the door opener or barrier for your next big career move. Every person counts in our connected world.  And as Charlotte says” “Here’s the bottom line: the person who is very good at relationships is the one who gets to be in charge.”
  2. Do Consumer Research On Yourself:  Leadership and your own personal brand are tightly woven together to form a package and that package gets labeled and branded as you. Don’t you think it would be a good idea to know how the package is viewed?  Charlotte suggests that you take a tip from the ad world and do consumer research on yourself.  How are you viewed? How do you come across?  What do people truly think of you?  What makes you tick and inspires your passion?  This personal excavation is what Charlotte refers to as your “self-portrait.” Once you’ve uncovered your self-portrait, you can more effectively lead with authenticity.
  3. Get Uncomfortable Fast: A very important management tool is understanding that a certain amount of discomfort leads to innovation.  “It is an art form,” says Charlotte “but you have to understand that the more diverse people are, and the more uncomfortable they make you, the more likely you are to create something new together.”  Diverse thoughts and people can be game changers and leaders who learn early and often to invite discomfort to the table often win big.
  4. Develop World Class ‘Asking Techniques’. There is one skill that all great leaders master:“the art of the ask.” Particularly for women leaders, often we stumble when it comes to asking for the promotion, the raise, the new business. “What we are willing to ask for is a mirror of our self-esteem and the expectations we hold for ourselves,” says Charlotte.  In her own career, Charlotte realized the turning point of her success was when she learned to ask for the right thing in the right way.
  5. Know How To Handle Power: Power is always seductive and many leaders can fail due to their mismanagement of power. Way too many of us have witnessed the unfavorable change in the colleague who is promoted or the CEO who forgets about the team effort in achieving success.  Charlotte knows firsthand a thing or two about power as a former CEO and a diplomat on the world stage.  She says that power often causes one to lose their sense of how they are behaving.  “It’s very addictive to be given power. One of the things I watch in other people is how they use the power they are given.” Develop a strategy for utilizing power so that power does not own you.

Want more wisdom from Charlotte Beers?  Attend the Midwest Invent Your Future Conference June 19 and buy her new book:  I’d Rather Be In Charge.

About the author: Deborah Collins Stephens is an expert on the human side of business. A best selling author of five books that have been translated into 8 different languages, with one (Maslow on Management) named among the top ten books of the decade by The Financial Times. Deborah is passionate about helping leader’s build inspired teams.

Known for sharing stories that move the hearts and minds, Deborah helps leaders build cultures that create extraordinary levels of employee engagement and customer satisfaction. Grounded in research and real world experience, she has held senior level positions in both the public and private sectors.

Deborah co-founded The Center For Innovative Leadership, a firm that has worked with many Fortune 100 companies and venture backed early stage firms, for over 20 years. She created one of the first e-learning and web cast programs, Leadership Lessons From The Fastlane in conjunction with She has been a guest lecturer in the Stanford University Entrepreneurial Thought Leader’s Forum, a faculty member in the Stanford Professional and Executive Development Program and a judge in the Stanford Entrepreneurs Business Challenge Competition. She has also lectured at the University of California San Francisco, California State University, and University of California Haas School of Business.

Deborah’s work and commentary has been covered by National Public Radio, ABC News (San Francisco and Chicago affiliates), United Press International, Inc. Magazine, Fortune Magazine, Selling Power Magazine, Family Circle Magazine, Connections Magazine, Gentry Magazine, The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Dallas Morning News, Contra Costa Times, Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Epoch International Times, CBS Radio Boston and Wisconsin Public Radio.

Her client list includes Medtronic, Merrill Lynch, Kaiser Permanente, Intuit, Hewlett Packard, Accenture, Safelife Biotechnology, Storage Tech, Professional and Business Women’s Conference of California, NAWBO, State of California, National Organization of Women in Business, Commonwealth Clubs of California and Silicon Valley, Denver Women’s Forum, San Mateo County Government, and many others.

Deborah serves on the Advisory Board of Women Impacting Public Policy, and Invent Your Future Inc.

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