For today’s women, success is more than breaking barriers and achieving their professional goals – success is about how they get there, too.

But It’s also easy to get caught up in the busy pace of life and forget about what’s truly important. The current crisis we’re in has likely added complexity and stress to your already full plate, but don’t forget to think about who you want to show up as every day.

We have choices. We can live and lead with purpose. We can ask, and we can decide. But all too often, we just default to the status quo.

Living with purpose is important for both work and home life. As we all know, our personal and professional lives often overlap — and that’s true now more than ever before.

Research conducted by the “Center of Creative Leadership” shows that as high-achieving women approach their careers and their lives, they’re factoring in 5 key themes – agency, authenticity, connection, self-clarity, and wholeness, and these 5 themes offer insight for women who are just beginning or resetting the button of navigating their leadership journey.  Here’s a closer look at the 5 themes.

Purpose

It’s about taking control and being responsible for our career and life decisions because we are all active players in our lives. Instead of standing back and letting life “happen” to us, we can practice living with purpose by choosing how to spend our time and invest our energy.

It begins with identifying a desired goal and then actively pursuing the experience, behaviours, skills, or relationships that will put you in a position to achieve that goal.

That leads onto identify the actions and behaviours you must take to show up as that ideal version of yourself. Make a commitment to small shifts that add up to big changes. You’ll see that as you repeat these shifts, they’ll quickly become habits, which then turn into your daily reality.

Living with purpose is also important for your personal leadership brand as it illustrates not only what you deliver but also how you deliver it and should be an authentic representation of what you aspire to and value.

Whether you aspire to a higher-level position or want different challenges than you currently have, you need a leadership brand that signals your capabilities and interests. As you become more respected and appreciated for your leadership contributions, you gain more opportunity and experience, which then reinforces the brand that supports your aspirations.

Action – Create your goals and set yourself no more than 3 SMART objectives for each goal to kick start your Purpose.

Authenticity

Authenticity is being genuine and being yourself. The importance of authentic leadership to women is also featured in a resounding way in #Mary Portas’ book “Work Like a Woman” it’s a great easy read.

Authenticity comes from finding your style, your way of leading. By developing self-awareness, you gain clarity about your values, preferences, and skills. You can then determine the gap between “fitting in” and “being yourself”.

But it’s difficult to develop your capabilities when you’re suppressing your true values and style or are distracted by inner conflict.

But living a life strongly connected to your belief system promotes growth, learning, and psychological well-being. That makes authenticity an important factor in leadership development.

Individual authenticity is important for organisations as well. People who are authentic bring their whole selves to their jobs and participate fully and honestly in the workplace. Organisations that place a premium on conformity at the expense of authenticity may be incurring hidden costs. Managers who put on a false front or who struggle with feelings of inauthenticity exhaust so much of their energy that they often find themselves depleted and losing interest in their work. In addition, inauthenticity can often be recognised by others and become a disruptive, negative force adding to uncertainty and distrust. Organisations that foster authentic behaviour are more likely to have engaged, enthusiastic employees and workplaces that are open and promote trust.

Authenticity — which can be described as a healthy alignment between your values and behaviours is a powerful factor in the lives of women.

Action – Choose the kind of work, roles, and organisations that are compatible with who you are while being mindful of the choices and trade-offs you’re willing to make.

Connection

Connection involves a focus on relationships with people inside and outside of your organisation – it’s more than counting the numbers of contacts you have on social media.

It’s about developing and using your networks in a way that strengthens alliances, extends your skills and learning from others.  This can be achieved by embedding networking into daily work, such as volunteering for a new project, scheduling one-on-one meetings, asking connections for introductions, or acting as a mentor. Invite others into your space, even if just making time for a brief conversation before or after a meeting. Socialising outside of work, having lunch with people not in your “inner circle,” and referring a person to someone else – being a connector – are all good options and you can begin to provide others value before you need resources.

To strengthen your professional connections, slow down and take time for people; build relationships. 

Many women struggle with networking, believing it’s insincere, manipulative, or political – or simply not a natural part of who they are. But the networks that come easily are not necessarily the most beneficial but planning and having the right network is a real differentiator.

High-quality networks are open and varied, with people who don’t all know each other. They are diverse, crossing critical boundaries. And core relationships are deep, trusting, and mutually beneficial. 

A McKinsey study found that 50% of a company’s intellectual capital is a “relational asset” and 75% of individual capital is their relationships. And leaders with the right kinds of networks are likely to be high performers.

Action – Through your connections find a mentor or establish your personal “connections” to serve as a support system and sounding board. Also look at the makeup of your network and identify gaps and seek to expand where you have professional and personal gaps.

Self-clarity

Self-clarity comes from understanding your values, motivations, and behaviours. It’s the desire to have a greater sense of self.

To increase your self-clarity, take some time to reflect on your goals and how they align with your values. Life can be much easier when you acknowledge your values – and when you make plans and decisions that align with them. Some example values include honesty, wellness, teamwork, adventure, innovation, happiness, etc.

When you know your own values, you can use them to make decisions about how to live your life.  

We recommend writing down your list of values and keeping it somewhere you can see and be reminded of regularly. It’s also a good idea to share your values with people in your life you interact with the most – your manager, co-workers, your family, friends etc and consider the type of support you might reach out to them for – eg as a sounding board, mentor, friend, or advisor to help you.  Some might be helpful when you’re trying to figure out what isn’t working and how to change it. Others may have great ideas about specific actions or tips to try, or they can help hold you accountable for making progress.

Remember, we tend to judge ourselves by our purpose, while others judge us by our behaviours. Living with purpose is about doing our best to make sure our behaviours are in line with what we value. Completing this exercise is a good way to achieve that goal – both at work and at home.

Make learning, reflection, and increasing your self-awareness priorities.

Action – If you identified wellness as a value or example, the active pursuit of health would become a priority in your life.

Here are some day-to-day examples of how your short-term actions would line up with this personal value and secondly should link back to purpose, so write out some actions for yourself:

  • Fuel your body with nutritious foods.
  • Stay active through regular exercise.
  • Take care of your mental health by taking breaks, getting enough rest, spending time with loved ones, and asking for help when needed.

Flexible Work-Life

Flexible Work-Life represents the desire to seek roles beyond work or to unite different life roles into an integrated whole.

To help you gain a sense of Flexible Work-Life, let go of the idea that it’s about “balance” or equitable division of time between work and other roles.

Flexible Work-Life is about setting priorities and valuing all your commitments. It’s about saying no to roles or obligations that no longer serve you.

Action – Identify your priorities and boundaries ie decide when, where, and how to be accessible for work and non-work activities – where you need support or flexibility talk to your manager, family, friends or network.  A few other tips:

  • Remind people that we are all human and have physical limitations.
  • At work seek to have a more supportive culture.
  • Demystify your own limiting beliefs and assumptions.

Final thoughts

This article has been written to reflect the key themes of “what it means to be successful” for women, and for me it means.. growing, embracing, and enjoying.

Growing is about learning and improving things personally, and professionally – while making a positive difference for my family, friends, and clients.

Embracing my compassion, my strengths, your cleverness, my femininity. What once was perceived as characteristics that ‘aren’t meant for business’ can now be seen as incredible assets; and finally

Enjoying being able to do what I love. To have fun (most of the time) and the feeling to wake up every morning knowing I am working in alignment with my ‘why’ is a huge privilege and is a big part of what success is for me.