In today's featured Big Think interview, executive Amanda Mesler recounts the coaching traits — both good and bad — that impacted her own climb up the corporate ladder. She first recalls the struggles of working under a high-profile CEO whose approach to managing did more to hurt morale — and the bottom line — than to help it. But just as you learn as much from failure as you do from success, Mesler took away lessons for how not to lead that impacted her management style.
Mesler then offers tips for both women professionals, as well as their managers, on how to successfully navigate gender dynamics in the workplace with an emphasis on how best to leverage both internal and external support networks even in the face of challenging bosses and office environments.
"Over the years, especially as I coach other women coming into the workforce, there’s absolutely differences in how you are treated. You know it’s true when they say you’re a good leader, a man is tough, and a woman is a name that we won’t mention."
Initially, Mesler felt there would be no difference between the way she and her male colleagues would be treated by others and evaluated by superiors. Yet when entrenched interpretations of gender roles began dictating others' opinion of her, Mesler says she simply had to stick to her guns. Leadership, she explains, is about being a visionary, executing when the time calls for execution, and having backbone:
"I am a very tough, demanding individual, demanding, no different than my colleagues that are successful that are men. But I’ve heard the names; I’ve heard, you know how you're supposed to be quiet in this way or that. Absolutely, labels come with a very strong, successful female that you don’t get in a man’s world. So, all you have to do, do your job, you know. Affect your shareholders, employees, clients positively and that’s all that you can do."
This can be easier said than done for women due to the lack of mentors in high-profile positions. Finding those beacons is vital for success:
"There are very few role models at the CEO level, and even internationally, even less role models. So you just have to, you have to get good mentors; you have to really plug in to the networks. I myself, never plug in to the women’s networks or anything. I’m now quite involved with that because I do believe in it and I think it’s one way to help individuals get mentored and be able to grasp all the way to the top if that’s what they want."
Mesler participates in several organizations that provide mentorship to the young women leaders of tomorrow. She's a coach and Chapter Leader for Lean In, which is an organization built around the values in Sheryl Sandberg's book, and the Chair of Women Can Ltd., a social enterprise devoted to helping women succeed. It's through organizations and actions like these, says Mesler, that established women should give of themselves to those who will follow in their footsteps. This is because, as important as it is to be tough and gritty and the possessor of a rigid backbone, every successful figure needs a robust support structure. Professional women who give their time and energy can be that and so much more for the next generation.
This video is the third in a series brought to you in partnership with PwC. On February 27th, PwC will host a live webcast on developing great women leaders with ABC News's Claire Shipman and her "The Confidence Code" co-author Katty Kay. Register here for the webcast, and follow the conversation on Twitter: #PwCAspire. Big Think will be featuring more related videos and other content throughout the month.