The following is adapted from responses to a panel discussion about “Women in Leadership” hosted by the Maryland Medical Group Management Association.
Mary Knotts is the Chief Operating Officer of PEAKE Technology Partners. Mary brings her experience as a tech executive and cybersecurity expert to help healthcare organizations manage technology to secure and scale effectively. As a business leader, it has been a priority and passion to encourage a culture of practical excellence that translates to efficient operations and confident customers.
Q: What insight or advice would you give to women who have recently graduated from college and are looking to start their career?
My advice to women who have recently graduated from college and are looking to start their career would be to focus on building a strong foundation for their career by developing a few essential skills. Assuming the goal is to advance into a leadership role, there are a few things that could help.
Network and Build Connections
Networking and building connections within the industry is crucial for women who have recently graduated from college and are looking to start their career. Joining associations, volunteering, and seeking out mentorship can all be effective ways to build connections and expand your professional network. By identifying potential mentors, learning and growing in your career, and expanding your network, you can gain valuable insights and opportunities for advancement.
Demonstrate Competency and Build References
Delivering excellent results in your current role is essential for building references and demonstrating your competency. Going above and beyond in challenging circumstances can help you stand out and open up new opportunities for advancement. By demonstrating your ability to deliver results, you can build a strong foundation for your career and position yourself for success.
Think Critically and Strategically
Thinking critically and strategically about your work is also essential for advancing in your career. By understanding the objectives of your team and company, brainstorming new ideas and solutions, and demonstrating your value as a strategic thinker, you can position yourself for advancement and success. By focusing on the big picture and identifying opportunities for growth and improvement, you can make valuable contributions to your organization and build a strong reputation as a skilled and strategic thinker.
Invest in Personal Development
Investing in personal development is crucial for becoming a more effective leader. Skills such as communication, conflict management, and team building are essential for advancing in your career and becoming a successful leader. By seeking out opportunities for professional development, attending training or workshops, and seeking out feedback and mentorship, you can develop the skills and competencies necessary for advancing in your career.
In addition to these skills, it’s important to embrace failure as a natural part of the learning process, advocate for yourself, and stay focused on your values and career aspirations. By taking these steps, you can position yourself for success and build fulfilling and meaningful careers.
Q: What has been your greatest challenge, as a woman, in a leadership role?
Having held leadership roles in various industries throughout my career, the two major challenges I consistently faced were surrounding communication and confidence. Focusing on developing competencies around these areas has provided significant impact to my professional and personal development.
Being a woman in a leadership role can be challenging, especially when it comes to adapting and recognizing the appropriate response in a given situation. A major challenge faced by women in leadership is having tough conversations. One of the most important skills for women in leadership roles is learning how to navigate these conversations effectively. This means being able to communicate with clarity and assertiveness, while also being empathetic and receptive to feedback. It also means being able to manage one’s own emotions and reactions, even in high-pressure situations.
By developing these skills, we can build trust and credibility with our colleagues and subordinates, which can ultimately lead to more successful outcomes for our organizations. Additionally, by modeling effective communication and conflict resolution skills, we can help to shift workplace culture towards one that values collaboration and open dialogue.
Another common challenge faced by women in leadership roles is a lack of confidence. A lack of confidence can manifest in a variety of ways, such as second-guessing decisions, hesitating to speak up in meetings, or avoiding taking on challenging projects or initiatives. These behaviors can limit your ability to fully leverage our skills and experience, and can ultimately hold you back from reaching our full potential as a leader.
To overcome this challenge, women in leadership roles can take proactive steps to build their confidence and self-assurance. This might include seeking out mentorship or coaching from other successful leaders, engaging in professional development activities, or actively seeking out opportunities to take on new challenges and responsibilities.
By acknowledging these challenges around communication and confidence and working to overcome them, women can develop a more resilient and confident leadership style that enables them to succeed in any environment. Building these skills as a leader is an ongoing process that requires self-awareness, perseverance, and a willingness to take risks and learn from failure. By focusing on personal growth and development, women in leadership roles can overcome the challenges of poor communication and lack of confidence and achieve their goals as effective, respected leaders.
Q: What is your best advice, for a woman, in a leadership role?
Stay True to Yourself in a Leadership Role
My best advice for women in a leadership role is to always be authentic and true to themselves. Authenticity means being genuine and honest in all your interactions, and not compromising your values or beliefs to fit in or appease others.
When leaders are authentic, it helps build trust and respect with their team and colleagues. Authenticity allows leaders to communicate more effectively, and to relate to others on a more personal level, which can lead to better relationships and more productive teams. Being authentic allows us to inspire and motivate others because it builds trust and establishes a sense of connection and rapport with team members. When we are authentic, we are able to communicate with greater clarity and conviction, which can help team members understand and embrace the goal. When team members feel that their contributions are valued and that they are working with a leader who is genuine and trustworthy, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated in their work.
In addition to building trust and respect with others, authenticity also ensures that women in leadership roles find a position that best suits them and is fulfilling. Not being authentic can lead to unhappiness and a lack of fulfillment in one’s work.
Ultimately, authenticity can be a powerful tool for building influence, inspiring others, and achieving success as a leader. By staying true to yourself and cultivating a growth mindset, women in leadership roles can build thriving teams and make a positive impact in their organizations and communities.