I’d Rather Be in Charge
This phrase resonates so clearly for many of us and happens to be the title of an iconic book by Charlotte Beers. Former Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, I’ve seen Charlotte deliver several keynotes over the years to share her wisdom. Wicked smart, full of moxie and extraordinary life experiences, this queen of Madison Avenue was tapped by former Secretary of State, Colin Powell to serve as Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Her business savvy and leadership expertise took her beyond the walls of the global corporate sector to serve our nation and she candidly shared how women should be in charge of all that they offer and how it is valued.
Charlotte described being in the fourth quadrant of her life as liberating and a wonderful opportunity to share her career lessons with others. She prompts us all to ask: “What is the response you want to evoke?” And to consider that before we speak or act.
Her wisdom on becoming “leaderly” is priceless and more fully fleshed out in her book “I’d Rather Be in Charge” but some of my favorite tips include the following:
- 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 must 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Charlotte’s teachings left an indelible impression on me. I will take her advice and “keep my own score card” and “step out in front of the work” and learn how to ask for what I want. I have given myself permission to be in charge. Will you?