“Ladies your time has come.” These words rang across a conference room in midtown New York last week during the Conference Board’s Women’s Leadership Conference. The speaker was Cynthia Trudell—Executive Vice President, Human Resources and Chief Personnel Officer at PepsiCo, Inc.—who knows a thing or two about being a woman leader. According to Trudell, successful leadership begins with two critical building blocks: trust and “authentic and timely feedback.”
To Trudell, trust is a “function of character and competence,” meaning “you have courage and conviction for those things that matter” but also that you fully understand your business and can “hone judgment.” Effective leaders build trust and confidence through feedback, which “is about providing informal recognition.” Leaders should actively listen and make feedback a “two way street.”
According to Trudell, once leaders establish a foundation through trust and feedback, they find success through these five qualities:
1. Creative Insight: Leaders must brainstorm future goals and “determine what is possible with their people,” says Trudell. They should map out how they will reach their objectives.
2. Sensitivity: It’s essential that leaders have the “ability to listen, sense and respond,” says Trudell. “We must have women in higher levels within corporate America because we need a healthy dose of that intuition,” she says.
3. Focus: Leaders need direction. According to Trudell, “Focus is the difference between playing and playing to win.”
4. Patience-Persistence: Trudell defines patience-persistence as “patience 2.0.” Patience is an important aspect of leadership—“anything worth having is worth waiting for,” says Trudell. And “it takes a lot of patience to be patient.”
5. Flexibility and Adaptability: Leaders can’t be rigid—“inflexible leaders build inflexible organizations,” says Trudell.
The best leaders won’t be satisfied with these five behaviors alone, though. What good is excellent leadership if it stops with one person? True leaders will go one step further to mentor and sponsor others. This might be our time, ladies, but as Trudell points out, it is “also time for women to help women.” So don’t forget to share your experience and influence to help other women launch into leadership roles.
Mary Kate Sheridan is the law editor at Vault.com, and writes Vault's Law Blog She covers legal news, trends and career advice. Prior to working at Vault, Mary Kate worked as a litigation associate at a large New York law firm. She holds a JD from Columbia Law School and a BA in English from Mary Washington College.
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