Out of the shadows and into the corner office. A critical junction where preparedness, network, ambition, and
a little favor mix to create success. This is an anecdote that I have seen or heard from many leaders who sit in
the corner offices of some of the top companies in the U.S. today. Many of whom, more than likely, are or have
been the only “One” in the room. As an up-and-coming leader, in any capacity, it can be exhausting always
championing yourself or making sure you are smiling so no one thinks you are “angry”.

It takes more than just the right education or the right networks, it takes perseverance and determination and most importantly, in this writer’s opinion, it takes self-respect. It starts before you even leave your home in the morning on your way to the office. When you are taking that last look in the mirror to make sure everything is just right. Look into your eyes. Do you recognize the person looking back at you? If you do, great, tell yourself, “You’ve got this.” Smile, wink, thumbs up, and keep going. If you are starting to see someone else or you flat out don’t recognize the person staring back at you, stop and ask yourself. Where did I go? Who is looking back at me? Why did I change?

When we were growing up, many of us wanted to impress the cool kids. We changed ourselves, our outer appearance, the way we spoke, and our hair. Is that what you are doing now? Are you trying to impress the cool kids who may now have the title of leader, executive, or chairperson? These are questions that rising stars are faced with every day and more times than not, we hide inside these shells never allowing our authenticity to shine.

We are in a rare time where authenticity is being rewarded rather than silenced in many (not all) companies. Each leader whether newly promoted or someone who has moved into more of a mentoring or ally role should encourage authenticity and bring one’s full self to work. The future of creativity and shattering ceilings depends on it.

How does one person do this in a crowd? It only takes one to get started. Start talking to your fellow colleagues about more than just the current assignment. Get to know them a little better, with no agenda. Just talk to people. You would be surprised at how many times just getting to know someone has opened doors for some of the most successful people. Find out why someone chose their profession. Why they chose that company and how you can support each other. Hmmm… Sounds like networking but for more than just a leg up.

Sometimes you have to go into things not expecting an immediate return on the investment. Your investment may not return the same individual, but it has the potential to return with interest. So, stay that extra half hour and proof the memo for your colleague or format the spreadsheet. You never know when you might need the same support.

These things, believe it or not, will get you noticed. Why? Because you were genuine in your support and your name will be mentioned in spaces you didn’t even know existed. And when the group thanks you personally, your opportunity door opens.

Now, I want to be clear this will not happen every time you support a colleague. In fact, sometimes the same colleague will not ever mention your support and may take your ideas as their own. Here is where self-respect comes in. In being authentically you, express your concern to the colleague. Why? You want to be transparent with the colleague and true to yourself. Secondly, you do not need the weight of the frustration which can take you off course. Despite if this happens, please do not stop supporting others. Support versus domination wins every time, and in supporting others, you are building relationships, learning new things, and growing into a great leader before you even get the title.

Remember the beginning of this article? Out of the shadows and into the corner office. A critical junction where preparedness, network, ambition, and a little favor mix to create success? When you are taking that last look in the mirror, I want you to recognize who’s looking back at you.

This is not a story of fiction I have shared. This is the culmination of leaders I have met, and it is also my story shared with you from my corner office.

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