Lyndsey McGonnell from Salesforce shares some tips for women keen to progress their career in tech leadership.
Succeeding in technology consulting obviously takes a lot of hard work, but I would like to offer a few top tips from my two decades in the sector as a woman with an atypical personality type. In summary, these are:
- Tackle imposter syndrome by surrounding yourself with the right team
- Lead authentically
- Ensure you're comfortable with the core competencies of your role
- Adapt your personal style when necessary
I have occasionally succumbed to imposter syndrome. This isn't entirely bad as it tends to drive you to do your best and demonstrate your value. However, as the scope of your role expands, it will inevitably encompass too many topics for any single person to claim to be a subject matter expert in all of them. No one is expecting you to be amazing at everything. Great leadership involves being honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses and building a team around you that compensates for your weak points whilst amplifying your strengths. It took me years to grow comfortable with letting go and fully delegating some aspects of my roles but, once I did so, this epiphany led to a step-change in my performance.
I always make it a priority to surround myself with the team I need to succeed. Particularly in the earlier stages of my career, I often felt imposter syndrome when I was aware of the vast breadth and depth of some other experts in the room. Whilst it's always important to have a solid grasp of the fundamentals, I am comfortable knowing that I will build a team that covers the details allowing me to focus on the big picture in terms of overall strategy, methodology, commercial framework, management, and relationships.
Now that you have the right team in place, have faith in your own authentic leadership style. I find leadership stereotypes unhelpful. More than ever, we now understand the vast benefits of diverse and inclusive practices; this applies to leadership too. Concepts, such as being an alpha, beta, etc., grossly over-simplify and ignore the fact that a diversity of approaches is best. My Myers-Briggs profile sets me apart from the majority of my colleagues. Again, this was disconcerting in my early career, but I have increasingly found my approach is a huge benefit as it sets me apart from my peers and enables me to see approaches that others couldn't (or wouldn't).
That said, when it comes to skills and personality, it is also important to have some tools in your kit if you need them. To progress, you need to be highly competent with the fundamentals. For example, a core competency you must develop is a thorough understanding of, and conversational comfort with, the financial KPIs that are the drivers of your business. You cannot delegate this.
When it comes to personal styles, I'm known for my diplomatic approach, but that doesn't mean I don't have the ability to play the "bad cop" when the situation requires it. Similarly, even if you're more of an introvert, that doesn't mean you can stay silent and off-camera during important meetings. Develop an instinct for those special cases where you need to adapt to the circumstances.
Lyndsey McGonnell is a Regional Vice President for UK & Ireland Professional Services at Salesforce.