When I decided to move into a leadership role in the school district where I worked, I seemed to be on my own. Most of the administrators were former coaches. A couple of men seemed genuinely uncomfortable that a woman wanted to be a high school administrator. They never openly challenged me, but as I prepared for a leadership position, administrators at my school did not see mentoring or coaching as an important part of their jobs.
I believed I could make a difference for students and teachers, and I thought my focus on building relationships and being collaborative would have a positive impact on the system. I moved forward in spite of the lack of encouragement I perceived.
I obtained the required certification and took on projects that would distinguish me as a leader. I was accepted into the administrative pool and I waited for an opening.
During that time, the support I received came from other women in the district, particularly a female school board member, a dean of students and a curriculum coordinator. We met a number of times to discuss how more women could break into upper the echelon of that district, and we encouraged one another.
When a wonderful middle school principal hired me, I finally received the sponsorship and counsel I needed. Judy showed me how to move groups of people from simple ideas to complex action. She showed me how to run efficient and effective meetings. She demonstrated the value of silence when appropriate, and I saw her commitment to continued professional and leadership development. Judy was the mentor I needed.
Watching this principal and learning from her made all the difference for me when I returned to the 2000+ student high school as an assistant principal and then as principal. After my time as principal, I received training and certification to coach leaders and aspiring leaders because I saw how important coaching and quality leadership are to an organization.
The executive coaching I now do brings me great satisfaction. However, there is always a warm place in my heart for the women who are in situations similar to what I experienced. I see women who want to make a difference and who want to move into more responsible positions—women who want and need assistance to achieve their goals. Often, they do not know where to turn. Sometimes, they don't know what they don't know.
It is for this reason that I believe experienced leaders must take a serious and active interest in helping young women learn and achieve their goals to become successful leaders. They must seek out individuals with high potential and mentor or sponsor them, not only to benefit them as aspiring leaders but for the benefit of the organization.
For more information on how to find and make the most of mentors, click here
For my part, I will continue to work with as many aspiring leaders as possible. I am committed to offering career coaching to a limited number of aspiring women at no charge. If you are an aspiring leader who would like to take advantage of my career coaching offer, please click to learn more.