Head of Marketing has been my first *real* venture into a leadership role, and it’s one that’s been full of recognisable growth, new experiences and constant moments of doubting myself. Now that I’ve settled into the groove, I decided to think back to what I was doing in the earlier days.
As I had no one to learn from (this was a brand new role for Team Signable, and an act of natural progression) I looked at the cultural references I had that were my intro into seeing women getting it done, and in my opinion, getting it done right. As a big supporter of women, when they are portrayed strongly, I find it difficult not to take notice. Here are four of my favourites…
“I am big enough to admit I am often inspired by myself”
You have the same amount of hours in the day as Leslie Knope.
You can’t talk about TV’s strong women without thinking of Pawnee’s greatest overachiever, Leslie Barbara Knope. Leslie is a ray of golden positivity who normalises awkwardness to a charming degree. All the while demonstrating the true value of working your ass off. And whilst Leslie has many, many, inspirational quotes you can choose from, I think this is one that rings truest for myself.
Maybe it’s because of personal insecurities, but, I find owning my successes or being my own hype woman a very difficult thing to do. However, when it comes to leadership, acknowledging when you’re doing well is not something to shy away from. Your team want to feel inspired by you. They want to feel reassured that your ideas are the right ones to get behind. Nobody ever willingly followed someone into battle who was unsure about their cause. I mean, if Menelaus can lead Greek soldiers into battle for 10 years because his wife left him, you can bet it wasn’t because he was a bit annoyed but didn’t know what to do about it.
I digress. My point is; sing your freaking praises, admit when you are awesome and show your team that there’s a reason why you are their leader. But also remember it’s important to do the same for others, too. As when props are regularly and publicly given, we can start to normalise it and begin feeling comfortable with complimenting ourselves.
Brienne of Tarth
“Threatening my lady is an act of treason”
Come an’ have a go if you think you’re Tarth enough
Brienne puts the grit in integrity. The Maid of Tarth is a straight-up soldier who, whilst is kind at her core, doesn’t take kindly to anyone dissing her leaders.
Brienne stood by Renly Baratheon relentlessly and never stopped seeking revenge for his death, long after his unfortunate demise (Ahem, Brienne 1 – Stannis 0). And once committing to serve Lady Stark, our Tarth never gave up on her vow to find and protect Lady Sansa, long after we had lost our beloved Catelyn.
Like I said, the grit in integrity.
This quality, of course, isn’t beneficial just for leaders, but for all team members. In business, tacky behaviour is something that sticks with your reputation like sand after a day at the beach. If you are someone that repeatedly only has negative things to say about individuals or lashes out only after they receive negative feedback, it’s something that says more about yourself, than the people you are slating. Their quality of work, how others see them or how they carry themselves in the workplace is what speaks for them, and will continue to after your words have been forgotten. Your actions are what are speaking for your character. Remember that. Because others certainly will.
“I want to date and shop and hang out. And save the world from unspeakable evil. You know, girly stuff”
Buffy is a fantastic example to anyone that you don’t have to conform to generic roles. Portrayed as a pretty blonde high school student, does Buffy live up to the unfortunate qualities that go with that stereotype? Nuh-uh.
Get it, girl..
I never did ballet as a kid, I did karate. I didn’t listen to boybands and had a Scalextric, But I didn’t fully subscribe to a “tomboy” attitude, either. I had Barbie’s and I liked makeup and dresses. Which, to a lot of kids my age, meant I was “weird” or even, to some, disingenuous.
But when Buffy graced our screens, I saw a normal girl who just happened to kick serious ass. She slayed day dresses and then slayed vampires. My first insight into seeing how you didn’t have to be one or the other to be taken seriously. You could be whatever you wanted.
As a leader, this is important to remember. You don’t have to act how you think a “leader” should act. Today. you have the opportunity to make the role whatever you think is best for the company and, more importantly, for your team.
For me, this has meant keeping the qualities that have stood the test of time. Being reliable, owning responsibility for all marketing activity, not being afraid of awkward conversations and being available to support my team as needed.
It’s also meant completely ditching corporate jargon, owning any mistakes publicly and not being afraid to admit that I don’t know how to do something whilst always staying keen to learn. Once your team see you as an approachable, relatable person, you’ll be able to communicate on a level outside of forced office conversation. Ya know, real talk.
“You will sit. And you will listen.”
Fun fact: this is actual footage of me from the future
I freaking love this woman. Fiona Goode is relatable to that part of everyone who wants absolute power. It does help that she is The Supreme, meaning that absolute power is something that is already hers, but, Fiona is also shameless about it.
Whilst Fiona does go to extreme lengths to keep it (murder, being the most common measure) her motivation is something that we can relate to. We want to be heard. We want respect. We want recognition. And Fiona can command attention without ever having to raise her voice. If Ms. Goode is telling you to do something, you can be damn sure you’re already doing it before she finishes her sentence.
I can feel your look, Fiona.
So, just remove the murder and what do you have? You have a strong-minded, determined woman who knows her worth and makes sure you know it, too. When you’re not fighting to have your comments heard, when you give instructions and they’re actually followed or when your team members regularly approach you for advice; that’s when you know you’re on to a good thing.
And if that’s not happening? Then take the time to speak with your team, find out what it is they are struggling with, how they like to tackle problems and how they like to voice opinions. What’s good for one doesn’t mean it’s good for another. Once your team feel they can communicate this type of information in a safe space, a more honest dialogue can start to develop. And once “real talk” starts happening, then real listening and the real lessons start, too.