Boss Lady

How to know you’re ready for a leadership role


I walked out of the office on a bright, sunny afternoon and my phone rang. It was my sister, she was crying down the phone. I said “What’s wrong?”. “She is going to die today, can you be there with me?” my sister replied. This was not really the call I needed 15 mins before I was about to walk to the front of a large conference room to an audience of over 80 emerging leaders. It is at times like this that  your commitment to  leadership role is really tested.

Hearing our family dog aged 16 years was about to be put down and I couldn’t be there to support my sister was very upsetting. I sobbed when I got the news, all the way until the doors of the elevator opened to that conference room. And then I got to the front of that room and gave my speech.

This experience highlighted to me the contradiction of a leadership role. Deep inside you have a desire to step up and be a leader, to take charge, rally people, stand for something. Then, at the same time, you also have lots of reasons not to be one. Putting yourself out there in a leadership role means placing yourself in a vulnerable position – you could be judged, proven wrong, cut down or ridiculed. No one wants that.

It is actually these uneasy feelings that are the clue to know when you are, in fact, ready to be a leader. It’s when the cause you are fighting for and the desire to do something about it outweighs the feeling of being scared. It’s when the courage overcomes the fear.

But how do you know if you’re ready for a leadership role?

Well unfortunately, the when of being ready for a leadership gig is often less important than whether you are willing to commit and throw yourself in. For example, we have seen the formidable force that is Grace Tame. She is not the typical age or gender which we normally see as the traditional “societal” leader. But what Grace has demonstrated so powerfully is the power of an opportunity seized with courage to communicate whole heartedly and with both barrels (and then some). Her courage and desire to fight outweighed her scarcity.

It can be a daily, and even moment by moment, question for me – asking myself “am I ready to be a leader?”. Leadership doesn’t have to be big actions like giving a speech to the nation and the Prime Minister. It is the everyday moments which count and add up to something big.

For me it’s being the only woman in a meeting and having the courage to call something out, be authentic on a phone call about what I will stand for, be truthful with a team member to empower them, press post on LinkedIn and stand for injustice and sometimes it’s getting on a stage and being ok with sharing my perspective on how we can really create diversity and inclusion in STEM.

Deal with self doubt about a leadership role

To this day I still struggle with feeling like I’m ready to lead. I still encounter self doubt on a daily basis, I still wonder if my young looks will somehow have me be viewed and dismissed as irrelevant. Being ready to lead is when you say you’re ready. Committing to being ready each day while managing everything that is going on in our lives, our uncertain world and what is important to us.

Leadership is constantly evolving and so are you

I’m a new mum to a charming 11 month old, and now have a new respect for mums around the world. I now understand why some women turn down senior roles which will demand extended hours and admire those who take it on and can juggle it all. Being ready for a leadership gig and or choosing to take the actions of a leader is an ongoing decision, not a point in time, and it’s constantly evolving. If you make the decision and commitment to step up and lead, be prepared to go on a journey of self discovery and reflection. Be willing to discover your strengths and surround yourself with a team who can fill the gaps in your weaknesses and imperfections.

Whatever shortcomings you have, lack of experience, a short temper, lack of attention to detail (definitely one of mine), they can all be overcome if you adopt an eternal learning attitude, growth mindset and embrace a team.You will be plagued by feelings of unprepared, unworthy, not good enough and scarcity. You will be constantly drawn to play it safe. All of that aside however, all you need is commitment and courage. The commitment and courage to be bigger than our normal everyday concerns.

We need you to be ready to lead

Countless studies show we have a lack of diversity in leadership and you are the one who can change that. If you are in a minority group, we need you to have the courage to step up. If you are in a senior leadership position we need your help to sponsor different voices at the leadership table and support them to step up.

It’s time to be bold and take the lead. To throw ourselves in even when our head is filled with self doubt. Life is like baseball. You don’t have to hit every ball or opportunity to win. But you do have to be willing to keep swinging even when you think you’re going to lose. It is only that action alone which can deliver the outcome you want.

About Felicity Furey

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