Last week I gave you the first five pieces of advice from my list of 30 recommendations. They are all distilled from my own experiences as well as from the suggestions received from the women that I have interviewed for my books. These are successful women in leadership positions in different fields of activity from Luxembourg and the Greater Region.

This week we will continue with 5 more and I trust they are worthy of your attention if you wish to enhance your visibility and be appointed to leadership positions. As mentioned already, some advice will resonate more with you and some less. It is however important to note that while writing these pieces of advice I thought specifically about our challenges as women, our needs and leadership experiences, all the time taking into account the stories that I had heard during these last fifteen years. In addition, I believe that most (if not all) of this advice applies to men, too.

  1. 6.       Positive attitude.
One thing that seems to make the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is attitude. Accumulating significant knowledge does not seem to be enough in order to succeed - lots of people have great credentials and skills and yet they still don’t seem to be able to move their lives forward in any real direction. No matter whom you are, your attitude is essential – it’s the difference that makes the difference.

We always need to improve our emotional well-being and cultivate our best state of mind. Peter James Meyers is a great American trainer who created the company “Stand and Deliver” and who is a teacher of High Performance Communication at different universities and organisations. I had the privilege to attend one of his inspiring workshops in 2009, where he advised us to believe in our best state of mind because “Beliefs control emotions and behaviours. In other words, the way you act depends on how you feel; how you feel depends on what you believe”. He stressed the fact that events have no meaning except what you decide to give them. Our attitude is a reflection of the thoughts we have. As individuals, we can choose how we think about and respond to the things that happen in our lives. The power of our thoughts is significant. Our thoughts create our emotions, our inner state, and our attitude.  When you feel down, he advises closing your eyes and visualising the happiest moments you’ve ever experienced. Suck all that joy up and say to yourself “I know I can do it”. Then focus on remembering times when you have faced a challenge and managed to find the appropriate solution, and were proud of yourself for finding this solution. Connecting with these thoughts and feelings should improve your state of mind and encourage you to overcome the obstacles in front of you.

He also shared another tip that helps to positively influence your inner well-being. Every day, make a point of finding some quiet time where you can be by yourself and ask yourself these three questions:

1. What are the things in my life that I am grateful for? (e.g. being healthy, living in a free country)
2. What are the achievements in my life that I am proud of? (e.g. having a university degree, having family or friends you can count on and who love you etc)
3. What lies ahead that I am excited about?

Focus fully on one question at a time and say the answers out loud to ensure that you remain focused and to stop your mind from wandering. Be exhaustive – include big and small things. Reminding ourselves regularly of all the reasons we have to feel happy and envisioning our future helps us feel good about ourselves, and directs our thoughts into positive and constructive thinking patterns which in turn are reflected in our attitude. It does work!

  1. 7.       Self confidence.
 It matters not what a person is born with but who they choose to be. (J. K. Rowling).

Once you have identified that you wish to develop your professional career and are ready to assume a leadership position, and understand more about the potential target roles within your organisation, the next step is to believe in yourself and believe that it’s possible to get there. “The power of the mind is incredible and once you start believing, your mind will naturally find solutions to get you where you want to be.”[1]

As one of the rock group Metallica’s hit songs says “Trust yourself, no matter what they say!” Develop your confidence along with your skills. All great leaders say it in different ways: Believe in yourself, Have faith in yourself. Of course, it is important to be realistically self-confident as this contributes to positive behaviours such as assertiveness, confidence, and creativity, as opposed to being unrealistically self-confident, which can encourage people to be bombastic, self-centred, grandiose and exaggeratedly predisposed to narcissism. However, any of the dominating attributes just mentioned are likely to be more readily accepted from men than from women. Indeed, research has shown that self-promotion is more hazardous for women than for men, as women are generally expected to be modest, even when highly accomplished.

  1. 8.       Passion for work and for people
Make sure you like what you do. If you wish to become a leader in your field, you must be passionate about your work because most of your day will be spent doing it. “The biggest mistake we could ever make in our lives is to believe that we work for anybody but ourselves” (Brian Tracy).  Work in an area in which you are genuinely interested and passionate about. In order to do a good job you need to be motivated and committed and spend most of your day immersed in it. Therefore it needs to be something you like and are good at. Look for creative challenges, learn new skills, have the energy to do things better and take pride in a job well done. Show your superior that you are capable and reliable, build trust, and then have the courage to ask him or her for more work and responsibilities. Dedicate a lot of time to your work – you cannot obtain anything without sacrifices.

  1. 9.       Perseverance
 A quitter never wins and a winner never quits. (Napoleon Hill)

Persevere, because success is due to a combination of numerous factors. It is not enough to be talented; you have to work on your talent every day.

As a woman, it is necessary to be even more patient than a man to attain your goal. Remember that in the past, it was impossible to access entry-level leadership positions. It is shocking to consider that the US President Richard Nixon was against appointing a woman to the US Supreme Court, and even more shocking his reasoning: “I don’t think a woman should be in any government job whatsoever…mainly because they are erratic. And emotional. Men are erratic and emotional, too, but the point is a woman is more likely to be.” In order to advance in your career and be appointed to a leadership position you need to have a wide range of skills and experience (which come with time and practice), and you also need to convince your professional peers of your capabilities. Build relationships with your colleagues and clients, and most importantly, keep doing so even when circumstances are not optimal or when you encounter obstacles.

On Hillary Clinton’s desk at the State Department is a plaque inscribed with Winston Churchill’s famous admonition: NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP. The US Secretary of State didn’t give up the competition with President Obama until the end.  One press source said that “It’s that very attribute of not getting out, that resiliency, that doggedness that he saw — that’s what led President Obama to pick her. If she had left the race any earlier, she would probably not be Secretary of State.”

If you wish to succeed you really need to persist: persistence is the number one reason for our success. Persevere, especially when you come across difficult times. Remember, “Tough times never last, but tough people do.”  Business literature says much in recent times about the need for failure in the pursuit of excellence. Therefore, get used to the idea that success also includes failure and self-doubt, and there is nothing wrong with this. You have to keep trying. Don’t limit yourself due to a fear of disappointment and believe in an infinite number of possibilities.

  1. 10.   Resilience to stress
You need to develop a high tolerance for stress (short deadlines, pressure, frustration, deadlines etc). This is something not everybody reacts well to. Those who lose their tempers have less chance of being appointed to leadership positions. Some points to be aware of are: accept responsibility for mistakes rather than always finding excuses or blaming someone else. Give support to team members but also say no when under pressure. Stay calm and never lose your temper. Stand up for what you believe in rather than focusing on what you think your superiors want to hear. Celebrate success with your team members instead of taking all the credit for yourself.

I will end this part with Robert Kaplan’s advice from his interesting HBR article “What to ask the person in the mirror”: “Part of the process of maturing as a leader is learning to step back and think about what creates pressure for you, being self-aware in these situations, and disciplining your behaviour to ensure that you act in a manner consistent with your core values.”

About the author:

Daniela Clara Moraru is a serial entrepreneur, founder of and of the mobile app to learn Luxembourgish "365 Days Luxembourgish", among others.

In addition, she has been highly involved in the promotion of entrepreneurship and leadership, especially among women. She was a founding member of FFCEL (Women Entrepreneurs Association), Femmes Leaders du Luxembourg, as well as Inspiring Wo-Men, an initiative aimed at inspiring people to inspire others, which included the "Inspiring Woman of the Year", "Inspiring Man of the Year" and "Top Company for Gender Equality" Awards.

In 2013, Daniela Clara Moraru has been recognized as "Woman inspiring Europe" by the European Institute for Gender Equality of the European Commission.

[1] Jack Canfield – Getting from where you are to where you want to be