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Elevate and Empower: Leadership Insights from 13 Women Leaders at ֱ

Elevate and Empower: Leadership Insights from 13 Women Leaders at ֱ

By ֱ

Leaders are seen at every career level here at ֱ. In honor of Women’s History Month, we asked women leaders from across ֱ to share their advice for those who aspire to leadership roles like theirs.

Discover inspirational insights on how to increase your leadership potential from 13 women who are leading innovation, growth, and meaningful change for our clients, company, and staff.

Show Up and Speak Up

The advice I would give to women who aspire to a senior leadership role is to be authentic, listen, show up, and speak up. Be authentic and stay true to yourself and your values to foster trust and respect. Listen to learn, acknowledge, and gain new perspectives. Show up by doing your homework, being prepared, and staying engaged. Speak up by using your voice to effectively communicate your ideas, provide constructive feedback, and elevate others.

Knowing what I know now, the advice I would give to my younger self is to not compare yourself to others, acknowledge that it’s okay to fail as that’s how you learn, and surround yourself with a great network of mentors and friends to push you and build you up.

—Colleen Bagnasco, Vice President of Strategic Event Management and Professional Relations and Development

Make Your Voice Heard

For women aiming for leadership positions, my advice is simple: discover your voice. In my role, leadership necessitates building trust among peers and the courage to drive innovative operational changes. I urge women to trust that inner voice and let it shine. Initially, I harbored thoughts unspoken, lacking the confidence to voice them. It took hearing someone else articulate my unspoken thoughts for me to realize the importance of speaking up. Now, I live by the belief that there is immense power in silence and strive to give voice to the unspoken.

Accept that failure is not just inevitable but is also immensely valuable. Failures have been my greatest teacher, showing me how to recalibrate strategies and approach complex issues with innovative solutions. They taught me the importance of strengthening my communication, sharing not just triumphs but also setbacks.

It's easy to attribute my current position to my successes alone, but the reality is I've been sculpted by every obstacle I've faced. Each challenge has fortified my resilience and honed my leadership skills, shaping me into the leader I am today.

—Yumeka Brown, Senior Director of Governance and Operations for AAHPM

Commit to Lifelong Learning

Commit to always be learning. You don’t have to have all the answers; respecting the knowledge and skills of those around you will make you a better leader. Care about people and be kind, even when the message you are delivering is difficult.

To grow in your career, develop formal mentoring relationships. I had several people I looked up to and conferred with occasionally. Seek out structured mentor relationships that incorporate routine check-ins and goal setting to maximize your time together.

—Julie Bruno, Chief Learning Officer for AAHPM

Develop Your Leadership Style

Take time to learn about yourself and develop your personal leadership style. The better you know yourself, the better leader you will be. Along the way, take time to learn from others. Those around you can offer invaluable insights. I’ve learned so much from various leaders throughout my career, both from what they’ve taught me and by watching how they lead, motivate, and respond to challenges.

—Gina Parisi, Operations Manager for HMDCB and co-lead of ֱ’s Working Women Employee Resource Group

Be Your Authentic Self and Take Up Space

For women looking to lead as DEI practitioners, it’s important to be open and willing to constantly learn. DEI is important work, but it can be challenging as there are no easy fixes. Be patient with yourself and with others, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Focus on collaborating with your colleagues and association volunteers to develop clear and achievable goals to help the organization become an environment in which everyone is heard and belongs. Encourage and equip others to lead inclusively; DEI is not one person’s responsibility. And don’t forget to celebrate every win!

Most importantly—in all the things that you do—be your authentic self and take up space. Make yourself proud first but be humble enough to learn from your mistakes.

—Linda Sterling, Manager of DEI and Membership Engagement for AAHPM and co-lead of ֱ’s BIPOC Employee Resource Group

Build Your Personal Brand

Build a reputation as someone who is approachable, reliable, and responsible so your name is top of mind when new projects and opportunities arise. The easier you are to work with, the more people will want to work with you.

It is also important to take advantage of learning opportunities, follow through on your commitments, offer solutions when challenges, and demonstrate commitment to your own growth and professional development. Along the way, be sure to own your accomplishments as well as your mistakes.

—Summar Jonas, Senior Talent Acquisition Manager for ֱ and co-lead of ֱ’s Working Women Employee Resource Group

Stay Curious and Avoid the Busyness Trap

Stay curious and continue learning. When you have a question, follow it, do the research, read the book, attend the webinar, and network with the experts. Over the years, acting on my curiosity has helped me feel competent in my work and grow in my profession. This level of inquiry helped me walk into new situations and build confidence. Most importantly, it has provided me with a tremendous amount of satisfaction in continually refreshing my skills and knowledge.

Understanding the difference between being productive and being busy has also been invaluable. I remember when “multi-tasking” was the skill employers wanted, and we seemed to be measured by our “busy-ness” over the quality of our outputs. I’ve learned to be judicious about where I focus my time and to prioritize a few tasks for the day or week over trying—and failing—to focus on everything at once. The result is I’m more productive, better focused, and producing higher quality work.

—Sue Vogel, Director of Development for ֱ

Your Identity is Your Strength

Looking back to the start of my career, one thing I would tell myself is to not shy away from my identity. There is no reason to try to ‘fit in’ with everyone else. Having a different upbringing and background than others is a significant strength. It’s enabled me to bring new perspectives and ideas. What makes each of us different is a huge benefit—leverage that!

—Zinat Ali, Operations Manager for MCA and co-lead of ֱ’s DEI Advisory Group

Don’t Let Fear Limit You

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, offer suggestions, or volunteer for new experiences. You are your own best advocate. The worst that can happen is someone will tell you no.

Say yes to new opportunities that come your way, especially the ones that challenge you. You’re likely more ready and capable than you think you are.

—Lauren Winters, Education and Operations Manager for ASBH and co-lead of ֱ’s LGBTQ+ and Working Women Employee Resource Groups

Lean into Your Strengths

Managing direct reports can be one of the more challenging and rewarding aspects of leadership midcareer. Women who were raised to consider others’ feelings before their own and to always be warm and kind above all else may find it difficult to approach conversations with employees who need to improve their performance. My advice is to approach difficult conversations by leaning into your strengths. Think about the outcome you hope to achieve with the conversation and reframe the action you’re taking as one that is intended to benefit the person.

One of the great things to look forward to as you move into a people-management position is that their successes buoy you. You’re not taking credit for their accomplishments, but there is absolutely a sense of pride in seeing a direct report advance toward achieving their potential.

—Julie Rogers, Senior Content Marketing and Editorial Manager for ֱ

Take the Plunge

My most important piece of advice would be to ‘take the plunge!’ Don’t worry too much about stepping into the unknown and trying something new. Leaders are learning on the job with each new hurdle that comes their way.

Last year I co-planned a company-wide event for ֱ’s DEI Week, and that was such a turning point for me. I wanted the event to go well and was anxious about the outcome, but my colleagues were truly supportive. It was refreshing to see how committed the organization was in seeing that we hosted a beautiful event.

I also encourage women early in their careers to dig deep into what gives your life purpose and disregard the negativity of others. So often, we rely on the validation of others.

—Sable Woods, Member Services Representative for ACAAM, ABAM, ARN, RNCB, and CESSE, and co-lead of ֱ’s BIPOC Employee Resource Group

Challenge Yourself

Challenge yourself and be a lifelong learner. Focus on becoming your best at whatever you’re doing right now.

I find that when I’m comfortable, it means I’m ready for a new challenge, despite how scary change might be. That could mean taking on a new role or more responsibility, piloting a project, or being intentional about professional or personal development. Continuous learning keeps you engaged and fulfilled in your career.

—Stephanie Adams, Senior Education Manager for NANN

Build a Career from Your Strengths

Think about what you really enjoy doing and what makes you feel comfortable, competent, and successful—it’s possible to make a career out of those things! If you don’t know what those things are, then seek out ways to discover them, such as through Clifton Strengths.

It’s no surprise that my strengths—Harmony, Input, Intellection, Developer, Empathy—align with my job responsibilities. My work requires cultivation of relationships with other organizations, collaboration for the good of the medical field, advocacy for patients and families, research, and highlighting of best practices.

—Katherine Ast, Director of Quality and Research for AAHPM and co-lead of ֱ’s DEI Advisory Group

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