What it takes to become an agency leader

Iris New York's managing director gives three tips for climbing to the top

Gender doesn’t really matter when it comes to leadership ability. There are some people who have the business acumen, skills and vision that inspires greatness in others, regardless if they’re a man or a woman.

As a leader, who happens to be a woman, I can say that we do not lack the ambition to move up. We want more. We want to lead big and new initiatives and lead the business to a successful future. And we believe that we can be happy doing exactly that.

Professionally and personally, women and men should not be told what they want and what makes them happy. We create our own narratives. We have our own stories to tell.

For the aspiring leaders out there who want more, I have a few tips to share:

Work on your game. First, get clear on your own definition of success. There is absolutely nothing wrong with working hard to hone your craft and focusing on creating great work. And there is also nothing wrong with wanting to take on more and saying as much.

It’s key to remember, if you want to get ahead, you’re not going to climb the ladder by yourself. As women, we need to work on playing the currently male-dominated game. To do so, it’s important to build influential relationships with key stakeholders, share your ambitions, and build a solid foundation with your partner at home.

You also must act like a leader, to be a leader. As a leader, I focus on attributes such as confidence, decisiveness, and setting clear expectations. Spend time looking at how you express yourself and be sure not to send mixed messages.

Look fear in the face. As I’ve looked up the ladder, my family has always joked, "You’re one step closer to CEO of the world," and I laugh awkwardly. But what’s wrong with this type of ambition? Oftentimes women are scared to say something as audacious as "I will be CEO," because what if something prevents it from happening? What if we don’t know how to play the game and we’re stymied by the system? What if family gets in the way? Quell the self-doubt, and if you see the potential in yourself, go for it.

Be bold and push past your fears. Find a friend who will push you past your jitters. And be that friend right back. Create a space you can own, and ask for what you want. Dive right in and do it just because they say you can’t. That exact competitive spirit motivated me to do things I thought impossible and to lead amazingly talented teams to achieve things they didn’t think possible.

Create future leaders. Being a leader is not about taking all the credit. You’re guiding, you’re the way, you’re the visionary…and if you can’t inspire and motivate others, you’re lost. Each of us needs to teach future leaders to ignore the naysayers and try something just outside of their reach. Each of us needs to promote based on potential versus precept. Each of us need to recognize future leaders with hidden diamond-like talents and help them shine.

There is endless opportunity in this world. For women, for men, and for anyone who demonstrates leadership values. Believe in yourself. You’re a combination of everything that has touched your life. You’re a thinker, an influencer, a creator. And you are what the world is waiting for—a leader.

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